The Changing World Order

Excerpted from
Joshua S. Goldstein's International Relations, 5th edition (Longman, 2003).
         To the Textbook Website:

1. A New Era
2. The Bush Doctrine
Hegemony and Stability
Authoritarian Governments: Hindrance or Help?
Religion and World Order
The Revolution in Military Affairs
The Place of International Law
Trade versus Security?
The IMF—Playing Favorites?
Big Brother Is Watching
The Return of Smallpox
Engaging the South
Foreign Aid

A New Era?

"World order" refers to the rules that govern—albeit in a messy and ambiguous way—the most important relationships of the interstate system in general and the world's great powers in particular. Aspects include balance of power, spheres of influence, shared beliefs, key treaties and institutions, principles like sovereignty, practices like free trade, and so forth. Historically, transformations of the world order and the rise of new guiding principles have occurred after terrible great-power wars. However, the end of the Cold War (1945–90) brought a more peaceful transition in world order.

In the 1990s, world order lacked a strong direction or guiding principle—notwithstanding the attempt by President Bush (senior) to codify a "new world order." State and nonstate actors adapted incrementally to changing relationships and technologies. The world seemed to pick its way through the world-order challenges of the 1990s, from the Gulf to former Yugoslavia, a falling Russia and a rising China, learning by trial and error what worked. Overall, the reduced warfare and more stable great-power relations of the 1990s—along with the stable cheap oil prices that resulted partly from the Gulf War—underwrote a period of unprecedented prosperity in North America, Europe, and China. Although Yugoslavia descended into hellish war, Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe hung on through a long depression without imploding. Western military interventions, following a painful learning curve, suppressed ultranationalism in Yugoslavia before it spread as a model. Indeed, democracy was the growing model in the 1990s. Unprecedented world trade and technical integration fueled prosperity in the United States and other Western economies.

Yet in 2001 the United States suffered the worst foreign attack on U.S. territory in history. The destruction of the World Trade Center—prominent symbol of American wealth and power, and defining feature of New York's skyline—caused direct and indirect damage estimated on the order of magnitude of $100 billion. The attack came as a U.S. recession was already underway after the collapse of a speculative bubble in internet stocks. More alarmingly, had the attacks of September 11 succeeded as planned, the U.S. Capitol and the White House might have been destroyed and many government officials killed. Worst of all, terrorists had begun trying seriously to obtain weapons of mass destruction to use against American cities.

The terrorist attacks immediately altered international relationships. Tensions between the great powers eased, and unprecedented cooperation began. Borders became tighter—a security asset but an economic liability. The U.S. military became more active in more countries, and began operating from Central Asian military bases. In Afghanistan, the might of a technologically advanced superpower turned the tide of a low-tech war, sweeping out terrorists and their collaborators. Yet the outcome of the long-term war on terrorism remained uncertain.

Do these changes mean a new world order? Were the 1990s just an unstable interim that ended as abruptly as it began? Or were the 2001 attacks a temporary aberration in the world order as it had evolved over the prior decade? Is a new order taking shape only slowly as various episodes take us along a long learning curve—September 11 being only one in a series of good and bad experiences? As the new world order does take form, what are its salient features? Its winners and losers? The prospects for war and peace? These "New World Order" boxes throughout the book will take up these questions.

The Bush Doctrine

In December 2001, Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor to President Bush, described an emerging "Bush Doctrine" to guide U.S. overseas interventions in the new era of warring on terrorism.* The doctrine "emphasizes that states are responsible for what goes on inside their borders." Those harboring terrorists would be targeted themselves. In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime controlling most of the country was not internationally recognized as the government, but because it held territory, it could provide safe haven to the al Qaeda terrorist organization. The main U.S. response to the 2001 attack was to use military force to regain control of Afghanistan's territory under a (recognized) government that would deny Afghan territory to the terrorists.

Thus, the September 11 attack arose from nonstate actors operating across state borders worldwide, but the response focused on states (getting states to cooperate in stopping terrorism or holding them responsible if they refuse). This approach follows realist principles that have shaped successive world orders for 500 years. It constructs world order in terms of sovereign territorial states. Today, with technology allowing long-distance reach, even a remote territory like Afghanistan can breed a threat to a far-away superpower. So even a few "rogue" states or "failed" states can present major challenges. By reasserting control over the state of Afghanistan, the Bush administration left one less territory outside the rules of the interstate system. In this sense the Bush Doctrine represents not an abrupt change in world order, but a reassertion of existing world order in the face of challenges.

It has been said that everything changed on September 11. But one central aspect of world order did not change—the emphasis on sovereign, territorial states as the prime actors. Can you think of other aspects of world order that remained intact before and after September 11?

* Hoagland, Jim. Calling Audibles. The Washington Post 12/5/01: A29.

Hegemony and Stability

The distribution of power, especially military power, is a key element of world order. The post–September 11 world is dominated by U.S. power more than at any previous time, and the United States appears much more willing to use its power internationally than it has in recent years. The international system has become unipolar.

This U.S. hegemony is not a departure but an extension of the evolving world order that had evolved in the 1990s. Before September 11, U.S. military spending was already equal to the rest of the great powers combined, and U.S. forces enjoyed technological superiority over all other armies in the world. The United States won wars not only in Afghanistan (late 2001), but also Kosovo (1999) and Kuwait (1991)—forcing hostile armies off contested territory in each case—with extremely low U.S. casualties (and relatively low civilian casualties). Although allies have helped in these efforts, the U.S. played the central role and could have carried out the military operations alone had it needed to.

Hegemonic stability theory (see pp. 121–123) predicts that a strong hegemonic power will increase stability and peace in the world order. This seemed to be true after World War II when the United States was similarly dominant, and during the 19th century when Britain dominated. Of course, the prospect that a self-interested United States could impose its will on others without restraint makes other great powers nervous. But the theory is that the United States as a great trading power has a strong interest in a stable and peaceful international system where participants play by the rules. Ultimately, U.S. promotion of such a world order is also in other countries' interests. If this prediction holds true, the peaceful trends of the 1990s (see p. 47) would accelerate in the 2000s.

Thus, if you think U.S. interests coincide with those of the rest of the world, you will look forward to the pacifying effects of the new hegemony-plus emerging after September 11. If you think U.S. interests conflict seriously with other parties—that U.S. unilateralism will not guarantee the provision of collective goods in international security—then you will join France, Russia, and China in being nervous. A counter-reaction to U.S. power might lead toward greater war in the coming years. Either way, the role of the United States will play a crucial part in determining the prospects for war and peace.

Authoritarian Governments: Hindrance or Help?

World order and domestic politics affect each other. For example, the war on terrorism has reshaped U.S. domestic politics, notably in the dramatic, "rally 'round the flag" boost in President Bush's popularity. The bipartisan cohesiveness that emerged in the months after September 11 in turn affected world order by increasing U.S. willingness and ability to take military action abroad. Conversely, partisan divisions that may emerge in the 2002 and 2004 elections might make U.S. policy makers more wary of risky military actions.

Similarly, the changing world order closely connects with the issue of democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Bahrain in 2002 changed from an emirate to a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament—a modest step towards democracy. Saudi Arabia's lack of democracy has received new attention. The pace of democratization in the Middle East and South Asia may shape the potential of Islamic revolutionaries to undermine the present interstate system (see Thomas Friedman's Op Ed in the special section of this book). Authoritarian governments in many countries in these regions stifle political expression, often leaving the mosque as the prime gathering point for opposition and revolution as a main alternative given a lack of other political reform outlets. In Iran in recent years, modest democratization has strengthened moderates, and without question greater democratization would make Iran's policies less radical, not more so.

Yet, in other countries, the United States and other great powers rely on authoritarian governments to suppress religious extremists who support terrorism. (Similarly, in the Cold War, Western powers supported authoritarian governments that suppressed communists.) Can these governments loosen their grip without potentially bringing extremists to power in states like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan? When Algeria democratized a decade ago, Islamic parties were poised to win until the military seized control again. Could the people of some country vote an Osama bin Laden into power and give him the keys to the interstate club, or even the nuclear club, the way Germans voted Hitler in during the 1930s?

So is democracy a good thing or a bad thing in the Middle East and South Asia? On what does it depend?

Religion and World Order

In past centuries, religious institutions and constituencies played important roles in the world order—during the Holy Roman Empire, for example. This is no longer true, however. The fundamental principles of state sovereignty and territoriality override traditional religious institutions and boundaries in most of the world. States have armies. Churches, mosques, and synagogues do not. Stalin once retorted to a criticism from the Vatican, "How many divisions does the Pope have?"

Some Islamic revolutionaries seek to change this fundamental aspect of the interstate system by empowering religious groups and forging transnational bonds that transcend both state citizenship and geographic location. (Other Islamic political movements focus primarily on domestic politics in their own country and have a wide variety of perspectives and strategies.) Thus, radical Muslim volunteers crossed borders to fight in the anti-Soviet Afghan war, in Bosnia, in Chechnya, and in Taliban-ruled Afghan-istan. Some moved on to the global battleground of international terrorism, forming secret cells in countries around the world. Theirs is a basic challenge to a state-centric, nationalism-driven world order.

In parallel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gradually changed as the post-2000 wave of violence deepened. In the past, the state of Israel and the future state of Palestine (represented by the Palestinian Authority) had engaged in back-and-forth bargaining (using both diplomacy and violence) over issues of national identity and territory—who gets what? The rise of the Palestinian radical Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which carry out terrorist bombings of civilian targets in Israel, has somewhat shifted the conflict to more intractable issues of religion and ethnicity—us versus them. The Lebanese Islamic group Hezbollah takes credit for driving Israeli forces from Southern Lebanon. After Israel's withdrawal it won seats in Lebanon's parliament.

Al Qaeda and its supporters cast the war on terrorism as a war of the West against Islam, similar to the Christian crusades into the Middle East of centuries ago. President Bush even called the war on terrorism a "crusade" (apparently a misstatement). Al Qaeda supporters see the West as anti-Muslim, with widespread misconceptions and biases towards Muslims in European and North American public discourse. They point to massacres of Muslim civilians by non-Muslims in such locations as Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, India, Palestine, and Nigeria.

However, the United States and almost all states in the world view the struggle as between states and terrorists, not Muslims and infidels. All states benefit from membership in the interstate system, which privileges state actors. Thus all states are threatened by a challenge to world order that seeks to restore the ancient primacy of religious affiliations over state citizenship. This helps explain the extremely broad base of support by the world's states for the effort to disband and bring to justice the al Qaeda network.

Do you think the struggle is primarily one of states against actors who threaten the state system? Or is it a crusade after all, by the West, against Islam and Muslims?

The Revolution in Military Affairs

Military historians refer to a period of rapid change in the conduct of war as a "revolution in military affairs." These periods usually combine innovative applications of new technology with changes in military doctrine, organization, or operations. Such revolutions may arise from innovations in organization, as when revolutionary France first mobilized an entire nation into a war machine two centuries ago. Or they may arise from new military doctrine, as when Germany used the "blitzkrieg" to overwhelm Poland and France at the outset of World War II, or from technology alone, as with the invention of nuclear weapons.

Many military analysts consider the present period, starting with the 1991 Gulf War, to be a revolution in military affairs, especially in U.S. forces. Management of information is central to this revolution. Clausewitz's famous "fog of war" (see p. 229) refers to the confusion and uncertainty that greatly reduces the effectiveness of armies in battle. Today's U.S. forces are piercing that fog for themselves while thickening it for their enemies. As the fog of war becomes transparent, U.S. forces can also disperse light forces widely, rather than massing concentrations of heavy units as Clausewitz emphasized. The ability to conduct precision strikes and the increasing use of space in warfare are two other aspects of the present revolution.

The revolutionary potentials were first apparent in the lopsided 1991 victory over Iraq's army, which was very large and well-equipped but not technologically advanced. The 1999 Kosovo campaign was notable in achieving its war aims without loss of a single U.S. life to hostile fire. But the revolution was best exemplified in the 2001 Afghanistan campaign. Small groups of lightly armed U.S. special forces, inserted across the country, used lasers to illuminate targets for smart bombs dropped by high-flying aircraft that never touched Afghan soil. The integration of these diverse forces using information-rich battle management systems resulted in a stunningly effective bombing campaign that destroyed the Taliban as an effective army and handed victory to the smaller anti-Taliban armies, all with just a handful of U.S. casualties.

Critics worry, however, that the revolution has brought an unrealistic expectation of low U.S. casualties, which may make political leaders unduly cautious in applying military force. For example, at the end of the Afghanistan campaign, terrorist leaders including Osama bin Laden slipped away as the United States relied on local warlords to hunt them, when larger numbers of U.S. troops might have captured them (with U.S. casualties).

A more unsettling thought is that the revolution in military affairs may work for the terrorists as well. The September 2001 attackers used information technology, such as encrypted Internet communications, to coordinate forces while keeping U.S. authorities in the dark. They carried out precision strikes over long distances with very small, dispersed units. As a result, 19 attackers killed more than 3,000 people, and an expenditure of under $1 million caused tens of billions of dollars in damage. Will both the world's superpower and the world's outlaws harness the revolution in military affairs? Or will the superpower, which has such vastly superior information technology, illuminate its shadowy foe and destroy it?

The Place of International Law

World orders encompass not only power relationships, but the rules and norms that shape behavior on the international stage. International law provides an important and detailed guide to such behavior, which states generally—though not perfectly—follow. In particular, great powers usually follow the laws of war (though less so in counter-guerrilla warfare such as in Vietnam in the 1960s, Afghanistan in the 1980s, or Chechnya in the 1990s).

One feature of world order during the decade preceding 2001 was the increasing strength of international law. The UN convened tribunals to hear war-crimes cases from the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and many states worked to craft a new permanent International Criminal Court with powers to try such cases from anywhere in the world (though the United States did not support such a court). International law began extending into new areas, such as human rights and humanitarian intervention. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan even said after the 1999 Kosovo war that nations must not use the UN Charter as cover to commit genocide, and that human rights took "precedence over concerns of state sovereignty." However, he added, these norms were "evolving" and did not negate the continuing importance of sovereignty.

Clearly, terrorist attacks violate the laws of war, which concentrate heavily on maintaining a distinction between armed combatants and civilians. Combatants are to wear uniforms and insignia to identify themselves, and are to direct their attacks at other combatants and avoid, to the extent militarily feasible, attacking civilians. Violation of these principles earned Serbia's leader Slobodan Milosevic a trial for war crimes before a UN tribunal in 2002.

Will the war on terrorism deepen the trend towards stronger international law that characterized the evolving post–Cold War era before September 11? Or, will it reverse that trend and reassert the primacy of raw power over the niceties of conventions and norms?

An early reference point for this question was the U.S. treatment of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured in battle in Afghanistan in 2001–2002. The United States took custody of some prisoners—the others being held by Northern Alliance forces or local warlords, under very harsh conditions—and took hundreds of them to a detention center on the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Since the communist revolution in Cuba, the United States has maintained a military base on a corner of Cuba, separated from Cuban society.) By holding the prisoners outside U.S. territory, the U.S. government avoided restrictions that apply under U.S. law. The United States announced its intention to try the suspects in secret military tribunals, and at first said that the Geneva Conventions would not apply to them.

The 1949 Geneva Conventions extend special protections to prisoners of war (POWs) belonging to uniformed armies. These provisions reflect states' mutual interest in protecting their own soldiers if captured. They do not cover irregular forces who, by operating out of uniform, themselves violate the laws of war and blur the distinction between combatants and civilians. Thus, in World War II, allied soldiers were held as POWs by Germany, but French resistance fighters were often summarily executed upon capture.

In 2002, under prodding from the State Depart-ment and international opinion, President Bush agreed to deal with the Guantanamo Bay "detainees" (this term avoids the word "prisoner") according to provisions of the Conventions, but not as POWs. (While POWs must provide only name, rank, and serial number, the terrorist suspects were interrogated, and the plan for military tribunals proceeded.) The U.S. also supported the detainees' religious freedom, even backing down on a no-turban rule after the inmates staged a hunger strike to protest. These actions indicated U.S. sensitivity to remaining within the bounds of international law and norms. Similarly, the initial U.S. response to the September 11 attacks was to go first to the UN for authorization and assemble a large international coalition before going to war. Thus, the war on terrorism has not swept aside international law. The balance between power and law that evolved through the 1990s has shifted towards power, to be sure, but not overwhelmingly.

Do you think that the United States should follow international law, even when it limits U.S. actions in the war on terrorism? Or, since there is no world government to enforce these laws, does the U.S. government have a moral right and duty to do whatever it takes to destroy terrorists and protect the U.S. homeland from catastrophic attack—even if it means dispensing with international law?

Trade versus Security?

World orders encompass rules and patterns of international political economy as well as security relationships. Historically, periods of hegemony have seen increasing trade, interdependence, and prosperity. The first post–Cold War decade of the 1990s fit that pattern. Corporations operated more globally, producing components in scattered locations and bringing them together into final products at the last minute ("just-in-time" inventory). By taking redundancies out of the global production system and facilitating the flow of goods and services across borders, these technical and managerial changes helped bring about a decade of unparalleled prosperity for the United States, much of the industrialized West, and parts of the global South.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, with U.S. hegemony stronger than ever, one might expect accelerated globalization and even more trade. But the attacks exposed the "soft underbelly of globalization"—the vulnerability of a world without borders.* In the aftermath of September 11, tighter security at U.S. borders caused miles-long backups, slowing production lines that depended on materials coming from outside the country. Air traffic and business travel became more difficult. Corporations began to realize that a global production line without redundancies can be shut down by disruptions at any number of places. Government officials began to worry that a terrorist attack on a major U.S. port could shut down large parts of the country within weeks.

Millions of shipping containers travel from port to port and disperse over road and rail networks throughout industrialized countries. Very few of the 14 million large shipping containers entering the United States annually are searched. Doing so would be prohibitively costly—a drag on trade-based prosperity. Yet the al Qaeda organization owns as many as a dozen ocean-going cargo ships. Authorities worry that weapons of mass destruction could enter the United States through ports, and that finding them would be like "finding a needle in a hay- stack." Customs agents now routinely wear radiation-detecting Geiger counters to sound the alarm if nuclear material is nearby (and not sufficiently shielded to pass undetected).

The world order before September 11 facilitated the benefits of openness and trade. Yet the terrorists used the open, interdependent society of e-mail and jet planes to attack that society. World trade itself, and not just the World Trade Center, suffered. Only in a political-economic environment of stability can production efficiency be maximized.

In a world of heightened vulnerability, is it better for countries to rely more on their own resources and abilities, at a cost of slower economic growth and lower living standards? Or should they continue the prosperity-generating openness of the 1990s, with increasing trade and interdependence, even at the cost of higher military spending and risk of devastating attacks from time to time?

* William Booth. Where Sea Meets Shore, Scenarios for Terrorists. The Washington Post, Jan. 3, 2002: A1.

The IMF—Playing Favorites?

International financial institutions play an important part in world order, regulating the complex flows of money that sustain the global economy. The main international monetary institutions—the IMF and World Bank—survived the end of the Cold War and played active and controversial parts in the 1990s boom with its winners and losers. In particular, the IMF repeatedly used its cash to rescue large middle-income countries unable to pay huge foreign debts after years of irresponsible or inept policies (including lax bank regulation, cronyism, and politically expedient quick fixes that created lasting problems). In 1997–98, the IMF provided tens of billions of dollars each to Indonesia, South Korea, and Russia (as new, long-term loans on favorable terms). The IMF demands reforms as the condition for such loans, but in these cases it was unclear how many reforms would actually materialize. It seemed these big countries would not be allowed to fail because Western powers feared that contagion and panic could bring down the world's banking system and possibly set back the whole world economy. In effect, the prosper- ous economies underwriting the IMF would carry a collective-goods burden by funding bailouts to protect the benefits they received from a stable world financial system.

The Bush Administration came into office in 2001 wanting to change this policy and allow market forces to correct wrong policies in large middle-income countries. As Argentina slid toward disaster in 2001 (see p. 348), the United States discouraged an IMF bail-out. In December 2001, when Argentina's economy collapsed and it was forced to devalue its currency and default on its debt, the IMF refused to provide loans. Because Argentina's default had been widely anticipated for months, it did not produce panic or destabilize the world banking system.

Yet, within weeks in early 2002, the IMF offered Turkey a $16 billion bail-out package, added to $15 billion in loans in 1999–2001. Why did Turkey but not Argentina receive massive aid? IMF officials claimed that Turkey had faithfully adhered to its IMF conditionality agreement, whereas Argentina had not carried out the promised reforms. (Turkey's conditions included propping up banks, reducing corruption, and ending the state's tobacco monopoly.) However, this may not be the whole story. After all, Turkey's reforms had not succeeded: Turkey's economy shrank by 8 percent in 2001, with 68 percent inflation eroding both the currency and living standards. And the new Bush Administration had warned Turkey early in 2001 that it would oppose further loans if Turkey's economy did not pick up. The United States reversed this stand and supported the $16 billion IMF package only after September 11.

Apparently, Turkey could not be allowed to fail because it is an extremely important ally in the war on terrorism. Turkish air bases host U.S. planes that bomb Iraq and patrol the region. Turkey provides a model of secular government in an Islamic country. Turkey is a "pivotal state" located between Europe and Asia, between the turbulent Middle East and the unsettled, newly independent former Soviet republics, and between the Caspian Sea oil rush and energy-hungry European consumers. An economic and financial collapse in Turkey could destabilize the region and provide a giant opening for terrorist organizations to extend their reach and power.

The 1990s norm of bailing out large middle- income countries—treating them as too big to fail—clearly has changed, as Argentina demonstrates. It appears that the new pattern of IMF bail-outs will be more discriminating and more political. Traditionally, central banks and the IMF itself have been most successful in providing stability when removed a step from politics. What do you think about taking political and security considerations into account in future IMF bailout decisions? Are you comfortable with the influence of national power on international economic institutions, or do you believe in minimizing political intrusions into the management of world finance?

Big Brother Is Watching

One outcome of the Cold War was the victory of "free" countries over those whose governments tried to know about and control all aspects of their citizens' lives. In communist societies like East Germany, the ruthless secret police kept files on everyone, had informers on every block, and monitored the streets with video cameras. George Orwell's futuristic novel, 1984, published in 1948, envisioned a totalitarian state so powerful that it watched everything and everyone through two-way TVs in every room. Signs proclaimed, "Big Brother Is Watching You!" to intimidate citizens. However, the year 1984 passed, and such extreme totalitarian societies did not develop. Instead, both the Soviet Union and China (in different ways) relaxed the state's control over personal spaces. With right-wing totalitarianism having been defeated in World War II earlier, it seemed that free societies were the rule. See-all-and-know-all government was a thing of the past.

Yet, the information revolution delivered into the hands of governments tremendous new power to extend the reach of government surveillance both horizontally (to every square foot of distant countries) and vertically (peering into what had been private places in citizens' lives). The United States, which had the most advanced technology, also had the most finely developed checks and balances on government power to prevent the abuse of information technology and preserve citizens' right to privacy.

The changes in world order since September 11 have changed this balance between the state's responsibility to provide security and individuals' rights to not have the government constantly looking over their shoulders. Today's world order is one of profound vulnerability—in which a few people in a remote country can change the tenor of life in the world's superpower. In response to the threat of terrorism, U.S. law-enforcement agencies began to expand and network together surveillance systems, such as video cameras in public locations. Washington, DC, installed a control room to monitor video feeds from around the city and track suspicious persons or objects. Tampa, Florida, operated face-recognition software to identify matches between a database of suspects and faces caught on security cameras in a popular shopping district (none had been found as of early 2002).

Privacy advocates argue that these governmental intrusions into traditionally private areas of life undermine the very values that America was founded on. We live in an age when authorities can listen to phone calls and e-mails in volume, peer behind walls with infrared detectors, examine bodily fluids by using drug tests, and scan carry-on luggage with x-rays. Since September 11, governments have used these powers more freely, and citizens have largely acquiesced.

How should privacy rights change in a time of terrorism? Do you think governments should be free to use new technologies to monitor all aspects of social life in hopes of finding terrorists who could inflict catastrophic harm on society? Or should government powers be limited? Where would you draw the line, and how would it depend on developments in both the war on terrorism and the technological information revolution?

The Return of Smallpox

The world order influences levels of analysis down the ladder—interstate relations, domestic societies, and individuals—as we have seen in previous chapters. Nor does it stop there. The quality of international political cooperation shapes global public health, reaching down to the level of analysis of microscopic viruses and up to the global level of humanity's relationship with the natural environment (e.g., global warming).

The Cold War world order did not put priority on world health. Poor countries became proxy battlegrounds for the superpowers, and political differences dampened cooperation on health issues. For example, the AIDS virus gathered force in Africa (then a zone of great power rivalry for influence) and spread globally before the international community galvanized a credible international response. Nonetheless, a limited regime of international cooperation in health matters—centered on the World Health Organization (WHO)—took form during the Cold War.

One of the greatest achievements of this health regime was wiping out smallpox, a virus that had historically killed about one billion people—in particular, decimating native American populations after its arrival from Europe. Scientists learned 200 years ago how to innoculate against smallpox (using cowpox), and during the Cold War years the WHO organized a worldwide campaign using modern vaccine. The "baby boom" generation of Americans still carry small scars on their shoulders where they were vaccinated as children. Today's college students, however, were not vaccinated because in 1980 the WHO declared smallpox eliminated globally, three years after the last case was reported in Somalia.

Since then, smallpox has existed officially in two frozen test tubes in Atlanta and Moscow. An increasing share of the world's population has no immunity to the virus since vaccinations stopped decades ago. But after the Cold War, defectors revealed that the Soviet Union had secretly developed smallpox for weapons, perhaps genetically modifying it to make vaccination ineffective. These programs have reportedly closed down, but nobody can be sure that no sample of smallpox has gotten into other hands. In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government scrambled to begin large-scale production of vaccine again, in case of a terrorist attack with smallpox, which is highly contagious, not treatable, and sometimes fatal. (The vaccine itself causes a few rare deaths, so probably it would not be used until needed.)

Any smallpox release would likely harm poor countries more than rich ones. Assuming the virus spread widely, rich countries would use vaccines to (eventually) control it, whereas the virus could run rampant in the global South for many years before coming back under control. Thus, a terrorist attacking the West would not find smallpox a very useful weapon. But someone using a biological weapon may not be making such rational calculations.

The world order that emerged in the 1990s, with its growing interdependence and quickening pace of interactions, was one that allows the rapid spread of viruses and bacteria around the world. Overuse of antibiotics (such as in livestock feed) produced drug-resistant strains of bacteria that threatened to outpace the development of new antibiotics. Meanwhile, the AIDS epidemic defied control by the international community. Now smallpox and other agents of biological warfare could do the same in the coming years, as nonstate actors gain capabilities to manipulate microorganisms. Viruses cross borders with ease, whereas doctors and vaccines can go only where host governments allow them to be.

Does the world need a stronger form of governance with the power to impose health regulations and interventions globally without regard for national sovereignty? If so, how would it work? If not, how else would you stop global epidemics from ravaging societies and economies?

Engaging the South

The last box on world order (p. 447) mentioned that a smallpox epidemic launched from the global South and aimed at the global North would most likely return to do most damage in the South. This quality of global rebound operates from North to South as well. Actions the North takes in the South, such as arming Islamic extremists to fight Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan in the 1980s, come back to haunt the North later—as when Afghan-based Islamic extremists attacked the United States. The problem of unintended consequences of distant actions has been called "blowback."*

September 2001 demonstrated the increased interdependence of the global North and South. The extreme disparities of wealth and power between North and South create conflicts and resentments that can reach out of the South to punish the privileged citizens of the North who had been oblivious to the problems of poor countries. In the world order of the 1990s, disparities sharpened and prosperity cut unevenly with both winners and losers. The continent of Africa, along with zones of festering war and poverty in countries like Afghanistan, were losers in the 1990s.

To let a continent or even a country descend into despair may no longer be practical in the era of terrorism. Their fate ultimately may be the fate of the North that ignores them. This is the century in which desperate African states will be able to press their demands with weapons of mass destruction, and in which fanatics may destroy cities with nuclear weapons. To combat terrorism may—though this is disputed—require addressing poverty, repression, and war throughout the poorest world regions. Further-more, these issues may be less amenable to unilateral U.S. actions than are military responses to terrorism. Thus, the need to address "root causes" of terrorism may draw the United States into closer cooperation with the UN and other international institutions in the years to come.

It is unclear how these relationships will play out in practice. But if in fact the new world order is moving toward closer engagement of the global North with the South, and toward seriously addressing the South's problems, this move would mark a shift from the world order that was developing in the 1990s, with its sharpened disparities. Do you think that investing in development, democracy, and peace in the world's poorest countries is an important principle that should govern world order in the era of terrorist attacks? If you think this is a good idea, should it extend globally or just to countries currently "breeding" terrorists? Can Argentina or Democratic Congo fall apart without upsetting the rest of the world? Could all of Latin America or all of Africa? Will the emerging world order bring together the North and South in new ways?

* Johnson, Chalmers. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. NY: Metropolitan Books, 2000.

Foreign Aid

The last world order box (p. 487) discussed the possibility that the North would be forced to engage problems of the South more seriously because of increasing interdependence. How would this affect the foreign aid regime specifically?

In late 2001, Britain urged the United States to double global foreign aid from the North to the South, by spending $50 billion more per year. The increase would almost equal, in inflation-adjusted terms, the Marshall Plan by which the United States helped rebuild Western Europe after World War II. The idea of a massive increase in foreign aid globally has some support from Canada and the United Nations. It would mark a shift in the North–South dimension of world order, in which the North would more seriously engage the task of progressively reducing poverty and despair in the South. This shift would also depart from the trend of the 1990s, which saw foreign aid fall sharply even as Western countries got richer.

Britain's finance minister argued that the terrorist attacks demonstrated that the safety of people in the North depends in part on the well-being of people in the South. "Today what happens to the poorest person in the poorest country can affect the richest per-son in the richest country."

The United States resisted the British proposal, however. U.S. critics of foreign aid say that programs are wasteful and even counterproductive. Bush Administration officials say that market forces and foreign investment should drive development, not handouts. U.S. citizens are free to help poor countries, but why should the U.S. government give away citizens' money to another country?

The U.S. share of GDP spent on foreign aid, one-tenth of one percent, is the lowest of industrialized countries. (Denmark gives a full one percent.) Just as UN peacekeeping dropped sharply in the 1990s and grew again in recent years, so foreign aid dropped in the mid-1990s and had begun to increase again before September 2001. Despite the recent partial recovery in funding and longstanding criticisms of U.S. stinginess in foreign aid (from Britain and other close U.S. allies), major increases were not expected even after the terrorist attacks. The U.S. government hardly seemed inclined to radically increase foreign aid, especially to countries that did not pose a terrorist-related threat, at a time of sharp increases in military spending and other kinds of new expenditures in the war on terrorism.

In March, 2002, however, President Bush proposed a 50 percent increase in U.S. foreign aid, $10 billion spread over three years. Although it would still leave the United States near the bottom of the list in foreign aid as a share of GDP, this initiative seems to signal that U.S. foreign aid will grow, not shrink, despite earlier criticisms about its ineffectiveness.

What do you think? Should the United States and other rich countries dramatically increase foreign aid? Or would such expenditures be an inefficient way to address the new problems of the world since September 2001?

* Kahn, Joseph. Britain Urges U.S. to Expand Global Antipoverty Programs. The New York Times, Dec. 18, 2001: A10.

To top of page