Fragmentation is the current leitmotif of international geopolitics.
In his masterpiece Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger describes, probably too idyllically, the international balance-of-power system that, following the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15, produced what came to be called the ‘Concert of Europe’. As Kissinger describes it, after the Napoleonic Wars, “There was not only a physical equilibrium, but a moral one. Power and justice were in substantial harmony.” Of course, the concert ended in cacophony with the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914.
Today, after the brutality of the first half of the 20th century, the temporary bipolarity of the Cold War, and the United States’ brief post-1989 hyper-power status, the world is once again searching for a new international order. Can something like the Concert of Europe be globalised? Unfortunately, global cacophony seems more probable. One obvious reason is the absence of a recognised and accepted international referee. The United States, which best embodies ultimate power, is less willing - and less able - to exercise it. And the United Nations, which best embodies the principles of international order, is as divided and impotent as ever.
But, beyond the absence of a referee, another issue looms: the wave of globalisation that followed the end of the Cold War has, paradoxically, accelerated fragmentation, affecting democratic and non-democratic countries alike. From the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia’s violent self-destruction, and Czechoslovakia’s peaceful divorce to today’s centrifugal pressures in Europe, the West, and the major emerging countries, fragmentation has been fundamental to international relations in recent decades.
The information revolution has created a more global, interdependent, and transparent world than ever. But this has led, in turn, to an anxious, Balkan-ising quest for identity. This effort to recover uniqueness is largely the cause of the international system’s growing fragmentation.
In the Concert of Europe, the number of actors was limited, and they were mostly states, whether national or imperial. Essential values were widely shared, and most actors favoured protecting the existing order. In today’s world, by contrast, the nature of the actors involved is no longer so clear. Trans-national forces, states, and non-state actors are all involved, and their goals are complex and sometimes contradictory, with no universal commitment to preserving the status quo.
At ground level there is nothing out of the ordinary about the former Atlas E missile base in Dover, Kansas.
But delve below the surface and beyond the military detritus and you will soon discover a subterranean wonderland.
Ambitious Edward Peden spent 12 years converting the bunker into the place he now calls home.
Where once there was a cutting-edge missile ready to be deployed at the height of the Cold War, there are now homely rugs, sofas and even a few bongos.
The former schoolteacher purchased the 37 acre site in 1983 for $48,000, converting one third of the 18,000 square feet silo into a living space for his family.
When he initially drove out to investigate the area, near his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, most of the concrete tunnel labyrinth was flooded with rainwater.
Comment: Everyone needs a hobby!
Read more: dailymail.co.uk
I was twelve when it first dawned on me that humanity might have no future. It was 1980. The Soviets were in Afghanistan and hourly expected in Poland; Ronald Reagan was on his way to the White House, and Checkpoint Charlie was still in Berlin. As for me, I was at school in Salisbury, a pleasant and sleepy market town in the south of England. Nothing much had happened there since the Middle Ages, when the local citizenry had built a cathedral that still, seven centuries on from its original construction, proudly sported Britain’s tallest spire. A place less on the frontline of the Cold War it might have seemed hard to imagine. It came as quite a shock, then, when a friend of mine, looking to make my flesh creep, solemnly informed me that a secondhand bookshop just beyond the cathedral close was third on the Soviet hit list of UK targets to be nuked.
Quite how he had come by this startling information he neglected to reveal. Today, of course, I do have the odd, faint doubt as to its veracity. At the time, however, I instinctively believed it. Something had dawned on me. My school was positively heaving with children whose parents were in the military. Why? I already knew the answer to that. Salisbury, in addition to its cathedral and the nearby prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, boasted something altogether more twentieth century nearby: the headquarters of Britain’s land forces. Clearly, then, in the event of any nuclear war, it was indeed likely to take a hit. The sudden realization of this, and the seeming imminence of apocalypse with it, lurched and thickened in my stomach. That afternoon, as I sat in the back of my mother’s car, I looked out at the silhouette of the cathedral, as slimline and sublime as it had been ever since the early thirteenth century, and wondered if it would still be there in the year 2000. Would I be there, and my family, and my friends, and humanity—and indeed the planet? Would any of us make it to the twenty-first century?
I had not, of course, picked the date 2000 at random. It had a sonorous finality about it. The idea that I might actually be alive in such a year appeared so implausible as to be fantastical. And even if I did it make it, the world around me seemed all too likely to be irradiated, or filled with murderous robots, or ruled by Big Brother—or perhaps all three. Yet if my imaginings of the year 2000 were colored by dread, then so also were they touched by hope. Only make it into the twenty-first century, I used to imagine, only breast that particular tape, and everything would somehow be alright. A paradoxical response, it might be thought, to feel both nervousness and anticipation at the approach of a date; and yet not, I think, a wholly unusual one. The year 2000, when it did finally dawn, was greeted both by hysteria about the possible effects of the Millennium Bug, and by frenzied partying. And then it had come and gone—and nothing much seemed to have changed. The world had not ended, but neither had it entered a golden age. Time just went on—and not for a thousand years would there be another millennium.
Frank Vogl has spent more than half his life exposing and fighting corruption — first as a journalist, then with the World Bank, and finally with Transparency International, which he cofounded. His book about his experiences, Waging War on Corruption, does not disappoint.
The book is a history of both those who have fought corruption — the dangers they faced and the obstacles they overcame — and of the people exposed. From Watergate to the Arab Spring, Vogl was either directly writing about or otherwise exposing the corruption involved.
Vogl explains the problem thus:
Corruption is not a single event, but a continuum, perpetrated day in and day out against citizens by crooked politicians and civil servants who enjoy positions of power. They can be heads of state who demand a payoff of millions of dollars on major government contracts. Or they can be lowly civil servants in small towns who have the power to grant building permits or allow access for children to schools or reserve hospital beds, and who use such powers to extort cash payments from poor people.
In any book where the author has so much knowledge, there is a risk that the numerous stories and examples of gross and petty corruption will become tedious, since so many of the cases follow the same lines. But before one is about to think “enough already,” each chapter concludes with some general insight on the problems and how they were overcome.
Under the broad heading of “Villains Everywhere,” Vogl traces corruption in locations such as Chicago, Cuba, China, Indonesia, and Russia. The historical explanation of the early stalling and eventual advance of anti-corruption is the most intellectually satisfying part of the book. During the Cold War, neither the Soviets nor the Americans cared at all about the corruption of the dictators they supported. With the Third World carved up, we had our dictators and they had theirs. Preventing any country from falling under the clutches of communism was enough — worrying about the actions of “our” dictators was never much of a consideration, even when monsters like Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo essentially impoverished his people.
Only the fall of the Berlin Wall led to the end of the practice and the beginning of real advances against corruption. The origin and advance of Vogl’s obviously beloved Transparency International is also a powerful story, since TI started not that long after the fall of the Wall and could never have succeeded before.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s skillful management of the Cuban missile crisis, 50 years ago this autumn, has been elevated into the central myth of the Cold War. At its core is the tale that, by virtue of U.S. military superiority and his steely will, Kennedy forced Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to capitulate and remove the nuclear missiles he had secretly deployed to Cuba. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk rhapsodized, America went “eyeball to eyeball,” and the Soviets “just blinked.” Mythologically, Khrushchev gave everything, and Kennedy gave nothing. Thus the crisis blossomed as an unabashed American triumph and unmitigated Soviet defeat.
Kennedy’s victory in the messy and inconclusive Cold War naturally came to dominate the politics of U.S. foreign policy. It deified military power and willpower and denigrated the give-and-take of diplomacy. It set a standard for toughness and risky dueling with bad guys that could not be matched — because it never happened in the first place.
Of course, Americans had a long-standing mania against compromising with devils, but compromise they did. President Harry Truman even went so far as to offer communist Moscow a place in the Marshall Plan. His secretary of state, Dean Acheson, later argued that you could deal with communists only by creating “situations of strength.” And there matters more or less rested until the Cuban missile crisis, when JFK demonstrated the strength proposition in spades, elevating pressures on his successors to resist compromise with those devils.
What people came to understand about the Cuban missile crisis — that JFK succeeded without giving an inch — implanted itself in policy deliberations and political debate, spoken or unspoken. It’s there now, all these decades later, in worries over making any concessions to Iran over nuclear weapons or to the Taliban over their role in Afghanistan. American leaders don’t like to compromise, and a lingering misunderstanding of those 13 days in October 1962 has a lot to do with it.
What is the only thing every history professor believes in common? That history doesn’t repeat itself. Which is about the biggest higher education whopper of them all—just a fraction ahead of chemistry-will-actually-be-useful-to-you-someday.
Of course history repeats itself—constantly. Only, every once in a while the players change. Then these players, the big boys of history you might say, do exactly what their antecedents (many of them old enemies) used to do, or still do, or would like to do more of.
Take, for example, the front-page story from Sunday’s Washington Post indicating that China is “using its clout within the Security Council” to sell, without retribution, lots of arms to Africa. This is basically nothing new. For years now, China has been selling arms to tyrants in Zimbabwe and the Sudan and, naturally, the US is very upset about the whole thing because (a) those happen to be the tyrants the US doesn’t support and (b) why should China have all the luck?
However, Africa has always been the playing field—trampling ground is actually more appropriate—for the world’s big powers. During the Cold War days, it was the US and the Soviet Union that battled for supremacy: it was a fight ignited as far back as 1955 when Nikita Khrushchev, two years after succeeding Stalin, decided that an arms transfer to Nasser’s Egypt might be considered an endearing move by the Egyptian leader. (It was.)
By 1961, representatives from Sudan, Morocco, Libya, Ghana, Mali, and Algeria were all invited to Moscow to attend the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (They all went.)
By the 1970s, Angola, Benin, and Ethiopia all had wrested their independence with the help of the Soviet Union, and they were grateful.
Of all the governing styles in the world, does one country stand out as more successful than the others? Shaken by the financial and debt crises, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaders are being forced to re-examine their ideas of “good governance.” In an introduction to a four-part series, SPIEGEL reviews their progress.
Western democracies consider themselves to be efficient, farsighted and just — in other words, prime examples of “good governance.” But in recent years, the euro and debt crises, along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have shattered faith in the reliability of Western institutions. Disconcerted Europeans are casting a worried eye at newly industrialized nations like China and Brazil. Can the West learn something from countries that for so long sought its advice? In an introduction to a four-part series, SPIEGEL looks at how the world is governed today.
If it were measured soley by the millions of refugees and migrants who leave their homes in Asia, Africa and Latin America in search of a better life each year, there would be little doubt that the West has won the battle between political systems.
Six of the world’s 10 most attractive destinations for immigrants lie in North America or Europe. Yet the four countries from which the most people emigrate to the United States — Mexico, China, the Philippines and India — are all growing dynamically. Even though many migrants never reach their intended destination — often getting stuck in places with worse conditions than those they faced back home — the politically free states of Europe and America are still so enticing that hundreds of thousands of people still try.
Twenty years ago, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared with the title of his 1992 book that we had reached “The End of History” and that Western liberal democracy had established itself as “the final form of human government.” Both the flood of immigrants and popular uprisings to unseat autocratic leaders — first in eastern Europe, then in the Balkans, in Ukraine, Georgia and now in the Arab world — seem to prove him right.
But does his claim still hold true? Two decades after the end of the Cold War, Western elites can look back on a series of mistakes and setbacks that suggest Fukuyama’s conclusion is questionable or at least premature. The erosion of the rule of law in response to the attacks of 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, financial and economic crises have raised serious doubts about the quality of Western governance.
At the same time, the economic upswing and growing political clout of authoritarian states, especially China, gnaws at the self-assurance of those who, to bowdlerize Winston Churchill, consider democracy the best of all the inadequate forms of government in existence.
Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will visit the United Kingdom and Poland at a time when the GOP’s policy toward Europe seems to be trapped in the days of the Cold War. It will be a chance for him to update his outdated views.
Mitt Romney’s first foreign tour as the Republican Party’s likely presidential candidate includes visits to two European states. While designed to send a message to potential voters at home, particularly blue-collar Reagan Democrats in the Midwest, the trip will be about photo opportunities. Romney’s visit to London is meant to echo his own successful management of the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City and play into a campaign narrative built on executive experience and sober business acumen.
His visit to Gdansk and Warsaw will highlight the triangle that broke the back of communism: the Polish people’s courage, their Catholic faith and Western resolve. Not coincidentally, Polish-American immigrants dot the landscape in important battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Romney’s visit will inevitably draw parallels to that of candidate Barack Obama, who on a visit to Germany in July 2008, resolutely declared on the steps of Berlin’s Victory Column that he is a “citizen of the world.” Now the Republican candidate has an opportunity to articulate his vision for US relations with Europe, which has so far remained underdeveloped and reliant on dated platitudes.
Recycling…the Russians and Chinese are doing it….with supersonic, long range bombers. And all to just defend their coastal areas…..not to worry, move along, nothing to see here…
There was a point, a decade or so ago (OK, maybe two decades back), when I thought some of my bete noirs, like medium- and intermediate range ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missile-armed supersonic bombers were going to go skulking off into that not-so-gentle night. Alas, it appears not so:
A move by Russia to sell its production line of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers to China for US$1.5 billion to China was confirmed by the US-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission two years ago and the bomber’s name will be changed to the Hong-10, reports the state-run China News Service … The Hong-10, whose components will all be produced in China with the exception of the engine, is expected to fly in the second half of next year, and the country will produce 36 aircraft in the first batch to be delivered to the air force. One of world’s fastest long-range bombers which can also carry atomic weapons, the plane can cover the South China Sea, East China Sea and even the western Pacific. Sources here and here.
As Will notes, our Navy has become weak in the skills necessary to plan and defend against a delivery platform that can launch a supersonic cruise missile from 200+ miles at your ships. It takes practice, practice, and practice to get it right. We haven’t been, because all we’ve been doing for over a decade is launching airstrikes and chasing pirates with RPG-7s.