Rethinking the New World Order

The debate about the latest “new world order”-the third in this century alone–turns primarily on claims about the obsolescence of war and war-like behavior following the end of the cold war. Three claims in particular dominate recent discussions of the role the United States should play in the post-cold war world.

The first such assumption is that threats are disappearing: “Americans now face no menace from any foreign military power or any hostile ideology.“ A second is that Americans are therefore justified in expecting a peace dividend “as the rationale for defense spending collapses under the collective influence of glasnost, declining support for NATO, and diminished international tensions.“ A third is that, as military capabilities shrink in importance, “economic and social strengths will in many ways become the primary determinants of world influence.“ But the events of the past three years should convince even the most pollyanna-ish observers that none of their assumptions are supportable–at least, not yet.

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