The Post-Cold War International System

I. Introduction

A. As you know, the 20th century was, by far, the bloodiest century ever: you know the catalogue--WWI, WWII, the Cold War and Post Cold War eras have all produced their share of tension, bloodshed, and violence.

B. We have now entered the Post-Cold War era…The question is: where is world politics heading now that the Cold War is over?

C. There are many competing scholarly visions. Today we look at some of the most fascinating among them:

II. Visions of the Post-Cold War Era: Fukayama v Huntington v Kaplan

v Friedman v Barber

A. Francis Fukayama: "The End of History and the Last Man" (1989 & 1992): Summarizing the Argument

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      1. In essence, Fukayama is arguing that “the end of history” had arrived in the form of triumphant liberal democracy
      2. Fukuyama did not mean that the world would henceforth be free from tumult, political contention, or intractable social problems
      3. He was careful to note that “the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world.”
      4. What he is maintaining, is that liberal democracy is the best conceivable social-political system for fostering freedom; and therefore he also claimed that liberal democracy would not be superseded by a better or “higher” form of government.
      5. According to Fukuyama, other forms of government, from monarchy to communism to fascism, had failed because they were imperfect vehicles for freedom.
      6. He did, prophetically, note the threat of "Islamic Fundamentalism" as the only --he saw it as minor in 1988/1989-- threat to this ultimate, Liberal democratic victory.
      7. **Others at the time, like Bernard Lewis and Sam Huntington (see below), noted the challenge from Islamic "civilization" (Huntington) or society (Lewis) as being somewhat more pressing/critical than does Fukayama**

B. Samuel Huntington: "The Clash of Civilizations" (1993 and 1995): Summarizing the Argument

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      1. The principle political cleavages of the post-Cold War world will center along the fault lines dividing civilizations from one another.
      2. Although states will remain the central actors in world politics, the alliance behavior of states will be largely dictated by civilization politics.
      3. Unity among countries sharing the same overarching cultural values and commitments will rise while conflict across civilization boundaries will grow.
      4. Although the clash of civilizations will be multifaceted, according to Huntington, the most important dividing line will separate Western societies (led by the USA) from the other civilizations:
        • the civilization built upon the Orthodox Church (Russia and Eastern Europe)
        • the Islamic civilization
        • the Hindu civilization
        • the Chinese civilization
        • and the Japanese civilization
        • Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa exist as "candidates for civilization," with the implication that they have the potential to become distinct civilizations of their own
      5. Five of these have their respective core state or states: for Western civilization it is the European Union (EU) and the United States; for the Orthodox civilization it is Russia; for the Hindu civilization, India; for the Chinese civilization, China; and for the Japanese civilization, Japan.
        • There is no such core state for the Islamic civilization, nor for Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Huntington regards the Chinese and the Islamic civilizations as presenting the most dangerous challenges to Western civilization.
      6. "The central axis of world politics in the future is likely to be, in Kishore Mahbubani's phrase, the conflict between "the West and the Rest" and the responses of non-Western civilizations to Western power and values."
      7. According to Huntington, in response to these circumstances, Western societies should strive to strengthen and unify their own civilization against possible internal or external challenges to core values and interests--in essence, this is a call to arms and a call to vigorously defend Western values in a world where, increasingly, such values are held in contempt and/or fear

C. Robert Kaplan: "The Coming Anarchy"--Summarizing the Argument

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 D. Tom Friedman: "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" (1997) AND "The World is Flat" (2005)--Summarizing the Arguments

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The Lexus and the Olive Tree

  1. His argument can be boiled down pretty easily: To Friedman, globalization is not just a phenomenon and not just a passing trend. It IS the international system that replaced the Cold War system.
  2. He defines "Globalization" as the integration of capital, technology, and information across national borders. He argues that it works in a way that is creating a single global market and, to some degree, a global village.
  3. Friedman suggests that one cannot understand the morning news or know where to invest your money or think about where the world is going unless you understand this new system, which is influencing the domestic policies and international relations of virtually every country in the world today.
  4. Friedman argues that the conflict at the heart of this "globalization" system is the fight b/n "the Lexus and the olive tree" worlds

    a. That is, the tension between the globalization system and ancient forces of culture, geography, tradition, and community.

    b. He also details the powerful backlash that globalization produces among those who feel brutalized by it

    c. Remember that he wrote this book before the 9-11-01 attacks...he often describes the attacks as a backlash of sorts against "globalization" from those who reject it in the Arab, Muslim world...why they reject it is an obvious source of debate

  5. According to Friedman, finding the proper balance between the Lexus and the olive tree is the great drama of the globalization era, and the ultimate theme of the book

The World is Flat

  1. In his latest book, The World is Flat, Friedman describes the unplanned cascade of technological and social shifts that effectively leveled the economic world, and “accidentally made Beijing, China; Bangalore, India; and Bethesda, Maryland next-door neighbors.” \
  2. Today, “individuals and small groups of every color of the rainbow will be able to plug and play.” Friedman’s list of “flatteners” includes:
    • the fall of the Berlin Wall
    • the rise of Netscape and the dotcom boom that led to a trillion dollar investment in fiber optic cable
    • the emergence of common software platforms and open source code enabling global collaboration
    • and the rise of outsourcing, offshoring, supply chaining and insourcing
  3. Friedman says these flatteners converged around the year 2000, and “created a flat world: a global, web-enabled platform for multiple forms of sharing knowledge and work, irrespective of time, distance, geography and increasingly, language.”
  4. At the very moment this platform emerged, three huge economies materialized -- those of India, China and Russia --“and three billion people who were out of the game, walked onto the playing field.” Hence, Friedman suggests the competitve economic playing field that once separated America/the West from "the rest" (esp. India, China and Russia/former USSR) has leveled or "flattened"
  5. According to Friedman, the final convergence that may determine the fate of the U.S. in this final chapter of globalization are events like:
    • the dotcom bust
    • the attacks of 9/11
    • and the Enron scandal
  6. Friedman worries MOST that just when we need to face the fact of globalization and the need to compete in a new world, “we’re looking totally elsewhere.”

E. Benjamin Barber: "Jihad v McWorld" (1992 and 1995)--Summarizing the Argument

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    1. In Jihad vs. McWorld, Barber worries that the very existence of democracy and the nation-state, on which it has primarily depended, are threatened. This threat results from what he describes as the two core tenets of our age: globalism and retribalization.
    2. These are the forces of "McWorld" and "Jihad" that he describes, in a related Atlantic Monthly March 1992 article, as "operating with equal strength in opposite directions, the one driven by parochial hatreds, the other by universalizing markets, the one recreating ancient subnational and ethnic borders from within, the other making national borders porous from without."
    3. Barber sees globalization as indifferent to democracy while the forces of retribalization are inhospitable to it.
    4. Ergo, BOTH the forces of McWorld (globalization) AND the forces of Jihad (tribalization) are inconsistent with democracy, for different reasons
    5. Barber does argue that "[n]either Jihad nor McWorld cares a fig about people."
    6. McWorld, while it often advocates harmony and affluence, only supports these attractions to the degree necessary to promote proficient economic production and consumption. Barber reminds us that tyrants who massacre their own people pose no problem for McWorld as long as they don't make war on their neighbors or disrupt the functioning of the market.
    7. According to Barber, the free market, despite the claims made by advocates of a Milton Friedman approach, is not necessarily democratic. The consumer society is not synonymous with an open society. In Barber's words, "[M]arkets are [not] surrogates for democratic sovereignty because they permit us to 'vote' with our dollars or...[Euros]...or yen." Citizens must also be free to make meaningful political choices: "There is no better refutation of the libertarian argument than the wildly successful controlled capitalist economies of Vietnam, China, Singapore, and Indonesia."
    8. Barber suggests that Jihad, while it can both promote the diversity of multiculturalism and provide solidarity and community among kinsmen and neighbors, also frequently brings parochialism, bigotry and an absolute submission of the individual to the group and its leaders.
    9. Thus, he argues that the forces of Jihad work in the opposite direction from globalization and/or one world--they work instead towards global breakdown and national dissolution. They pursue smaller territories, usually ones resistant to modernity. These forces are comprised of dissenting minorities that constantly resist integration into nation-states that too often require homogeneity (in large part, he argues, b/c Jihadists reject the colonial era borders imposed on them by imperial powers as well as the reality that they continue to be dominated by the same/similar forces)
    10. Barber's solution: Barber proposes an organizational structure that he views as holding the greatest potential for the numerous segments of a (probably inevitable) one world being able to choose how to effectively govern themselves and, at least in part, maintain their cultural uniqueness.

      a. For this endeavor, Barber proposes regional confederated forms of government, as historically existed nationally in the U.S. under The Articles of Confederation and exists today on a regional basis in the structure of the European Union.

      b. In other words, he proposes the end of the modern nation-state system as we know it to be replaced by larger, more "humane" & democratic, regional governing structures such as the EU, the USA under the Articles of Confederation and a stronger version of the OAS

F. Thomas Barnett. "The Pentagon's New Map" (Summarizing the argument)

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    1. The collapse of the Soviet Union. The role of the United States military. 9-11. American foreign policy. The global economy. The invasion of Iraq. The Madrid bombing. The London bombing. Is there anyone who can make sense of these events? Are they connected, and what can we do about them?
    2. Thomas P.M. Barnett provides some answers. He is a Harvard-educated Naval War College professor with security clearances who studies and briefs the Pentagon on strategic planning.
    3. His "The Pentagon's New War Map" provides a timely and profound analysis of the role in which the United States finds itself as the world's dominant power. Barnett's thesis is that the 20th century convinced the great nation-states that world wars and even wars between large nations were no longer viable. That lesson was learned over a century in two major world wars, regional proxy wars, a long Cold War and the interruption of global commerce begun in the late 19th century.
    4. As the 20th century ended with the fall of the Soviet Union, we were left with a world engaging in increasingly interconnected transactions with commercial, financial and Internet-based connectivity. All the major global powers were becoming players in a new globalized, connected world. This produced an integrated core which moved toward shared values as a result of interaction. Barnett emphasizes that this core is evolving from an old model featuring the United States and Europe to a new one in which India and China are increasingly important.
    5. Barnett sees the United States as the ideological parent of this new globally connected world. That ideology features a vision of a world moving toward freedom of choice, of movement, of expression, of life, of liberty, and of a chance to pursue happiness. "We are connectivity personified," he writes, but our vision is not universally shared. It has enemies that threaten connectivity and civilization.
    6. As 9-11 taught us, there is a hostile world of those who fear connectivity and the freedoms we represent. Its leaders seek to enslave their populations and prohibit their participation in globalization. Those individuals, not nations, seek to destroy lines of communication and commerce in order to ensure their hegemony through tyranny. Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe and the like fall into that category. They are in mortal conflict with the world of connectivity. They are disconnected from the rest of the world. His new Pentagon map identifies those countries as the sources where most military and humanitarian resources are being spent.
    7. Barnett's perceives a world "in which wars have become obsolete, where dictators fear for their lives more than democratically elected leaders, and where the world's great armies no longer plan great wars but instead focus on stopping bad individuals from doing bad things." To deal with those threats the military must be re-configured to provide not just a fighting machine, but also a machine that rebuilds countries, as in the case of the Marshall Plan, so that they can be reconnected to the world.

G. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita --Is BDM, the New Nostradomus? (summary of his methodology and approach to analyzing Intl. affairs)

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1. In his many books on Intl. relations, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (or BDM for short) says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate.

2. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense, though he has some detractors as well.

3. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a master of game theory, which is a fancy label for a simple idea: People compete, and they always do what they think is in their own best interest. Bueno de Mesquita uses game theory and its insights into human behavior to predict and even engineer political, financial, and personal events. His forecasts, which have been employed by everyone from the CIA to major business firms, have an amazing 90 percent accuracy rate.

4. Revealing the origins of game theory and the advances made by John Nash, the Nobel Prize—winning scientist perhaps best known from A Beautiful Mind, Bueno de Mesquita details the controversial and cold-eyed system of calculation that he has since created, one that allows individuals to think strategically about what their opponents want, how much they want it, and how they might react to every move.

5. Assuming that international leaders are rational utility maximizers (ie rational choice theory and game theory-“Game theory is math for how people behave strategically,” Bueno de Mesquita says.) therefore has allowed BDM to do what he does-predict the future course of world politics...

6. Bueno de Mesquita games such events as the North Korean disarmament talks and the Middle East peace process and recalls, among other cases, how he correctly predicted which corporate clients of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm were most likely engaged in fraudulent activity (hint: one of them started with an E). And looking as ever to the future, Bueno de Mesquita also demonstrates how game theory can provide successful strategies to combat both global warming (instead of relying on empty regulations, make nations compete in technology) and terror (figure out exactly how much U.S. aid will make Pakistan fight the Taliban).
7. Bueno de Mesquita has made a slew of uncannily accurate predictions—more than 2,000, on subjects ranging from the terrorist threat to America to the peace process in Northern Ireland—that would seem to prove him right

8.Bueno de Mesquita has big ideas, and he’s more than happy to put his career on the line for them. Back in March 2004, when al-Qaeda bombed a Madrid train station, influencing the course of Spain’s general election three days later, a lot of U.S. security folks were nervous. Worried that al-Qaeda might try something similar here in the run-up to the November, 2004, presidential elections, the Pentagon hired Bueno de Mesquita to run some data through his forecasting model to tell them what to expect. The results were unequivocal. “I said there would be no homeland attack. I also indicated that bin Laden’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, would resurface around Thanksgiving, 2004,” he says. Just after the elections in November that year, Zawahiri released a new videotape. Bueno de Mesquita was right on both counts. “One of the things government needs most is advice that’s not wishy-washy. I try to be as precise as I can.”

9. He regularly consults with the CIA and the Department of Defense—most recently on such hot-button topics as Iran and North Korea—and has a new book coming out in the fall that he cowrote with his pal Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. His curriculum vitae, which details his various Ph.Ds, academic appointments, editorial-board memberships, writings, honors, awards, and grants, runs 17 small-font pages long.

10. How does Bueno de Mesquita do this? With mathematics. “You start with a set of assumptions, as you do with anything, but you do it in a formal, mathematical way,” he says. “You break them down as equations and work from there to see what follows logically from those assumptions.” The assumptions he’s talking about concern each actor’s motives. You configure those motives into equations that are, essentially, statements of logic based on a predictive theory of how people with those motives will behave. From there, you start building your mathematical model. You determine whether the predictive theory holds true by plugging in data, which are numbers derived from scales of preferences that you ascribe to each actor based on the various choices they face.

11. He is not an ideolgue and his rational, mathematical, analytical tools guide his view of the world. He isn't really a theorist at all...rather he's a formal modeller and a proponent of taking a more rational, formally scientific, coldly analytical approach to the study of world politics...

12. Recently, he’s applied his science to come up with some novel ideas on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “In my view, it is a mistake to look for strategies that build mutual trust because it ain’t going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason,” he says. “Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, ‘You made a good step, it’s a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can’t give you peace just for this, it’s not enough.’ Conversely, if we have peace for land—you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land—the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you’ve laid down your weapons, you have no threat.”

a. Bueno de Mesquita’s answer to this dilemma, which he discussed with the former Israeli prime minister and recently elected Labor leader Ehud Barak, is a formula that guarantees mutual incentives to cooperate.

b. “In a peaceful world, what do the Palestinians anticipate will be their main source of economic viability? Tourism. This is what their own documents say. c. And, of course, the Israelis make a lot of money from tourism, and that revenue is very easy to track. As a starting point requiring no trust, no mutual cooperation, I would suggest that all tourist revenue be [divided by] a fixed formula based on the current population of the region, which is roughly 40 percent Palestinian, 60 percent Israeli.

d. The money would go automatically to each side. Now, when there is violence, tourists don’t come. So the tourist revenue is automatically responsive to the level of violence on either side for both sides. You have an accounting firm that both sides agree to, you let the U.N. do it, whatever. It’s completely self-enforcing, it requires no cooperation except the initial agreement by the Israelis that they are going to turn this part of the revenue over, on a fixed formula based on population, to some international agency, and that’s that.”

a. 3 Predictions on Iran (April 2009)

b. Long Interview with BDM

c. Mathematical Fortune Telling?



III. Questions about these Competing Visions (**These questions are NOT to be answered as an assignment...they are simply questions about the theorists I'd like you to think about. Sorry if they seemed like assignment questions...)

A. Fukayama:

1) Is Fukayama right to suggest there are no real rivals to "liberal democracy in the realm of ideas or consciousness" as well as "in the real or material world?"

2) If he is wrong, what rival is there to a world dominated by Western, market-based democracy? Could it possibly be the Islamic state as seen in Iran? Does such a state have much appeal beyond the Muslim world?

3) Could we be witnessing a rebirth of a "leftist" challenge to Western hegemony in South America (Castro, Chavez, and many others in the region) or to a neo-fascist challenge in Russia and China?

B. Huntington:

1) Is the current global crisis over cartoon depictions of Muhammed an example of this "clash of civilizations?"

2) Did the 9-11 terror attacks set off a "clash of/between civilizations? If yes, do you buy into the notion of a uniform, completely united Muslim "civilization"? If not, how can we be in a "clash of civilizations?"

3) By the way, is there really a united, cohesive "Western civilization" to speak of?

C. Kaplan:

1) Is Kaplan right or wrong here?

2) Is it possible he is just being overly pessimisstic? Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Havin' a bad hair day? Maybe he's hungry, angry, and lonely and feels the emotional need to take it out on his readers?

3) Or, is it possible that all of the awful shi_ that he catalogues is "coming to a theater near you?" Or, has all of this "awful shi_" already come while we were out buying popcorn (i.e., 9-11; London and Spain bombings; French riots last summer; current violence over cartoons, etc)?

D. Friedman:

1) Is Friedman's argument in "The Lexus..." similar to  arguments made by Huntington and Barber?

2) Is he/are they on to something about our current world? Or not?

3) What do you think about his "the world is flat" argument?

E. Barber:

1) What do you think of Barber's argument?

2) It is somewhat similar to the arguments put forth by Friedman and Huntington, though there are real differences--what's the difference?

3) What's your take on Barber's thesis?

F. Barnett:

1) What did you think of Barnett's argument?

2) Is his argument just another justification for the war in Iraq (and perhaps Iran and other countries we don't like) as some claim?

3) His argument seems to combine elements of every thinker covered above. Which of these writers perhaps exercises the largest influence on Barnett's argument?

G. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

1) What did you think of BDM's approach to the study of IR?

2) What about the 10% of his predictions that didn't pan out? Why do you think there isn't more criticism of his predictive misses?


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Last updated: September 28, 2009
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