کور / سياسي / The end of the Cold War, marked a major change in…

The end of the Cold War, marked a major change in…

This piece requires an analysis of the responses of three theories to post cold war world politics, namely realism, liberalism and constructivism. In order to do this firstly I will show why the realist theory of conflict is still the most applicable following the end of the cold war. Secondly, an examination of the polarity of the world system in relation to Russia and China largely, will also show the credence of this argument. This will be followed by an outlining of the liberal position, and its limitations in explaining the post cold war world. Finally, the ability of the constructivist theory to add to the debate within the small constraints in which it chooses to operate will be critiqued.
 Pre dominant in the tensions and anxiety of the cold war world was the idea of conflict and nuclear power. Kenneth N. Waltz has examined this with regards to a realist perspective and posited the theoretical challenge that this atmosphere still remains. The world post Cold War is still a nuclear one and this lends itself to the theory of realism which sees countries as self interested agents always acting to ensure their own security. Waltz states, ‘Yet in the nuclear era, international politics remains a self help arena.’1 Indeed it is hard to disagree with his understanding of modern international relations as being anarchic and self interested, ‘Competition in multi polar systems is much more complicated than competition in bipolar ones because uncertainties about the comparative capabilities of states multiply as numbers grow.’2 Realists challenge the view that the post cold war era is one of liberal democracies restrained through vast international institutions into acting reasonably. Waltz persuasively argues that self interest is still the pre dominant factor because in a uni polar world it is up to the major power to decide if its enemy is the right kind of democracy or not, he sarcastically posits that, ‘Democracies of the right kind are peaceful in relation to one another.’3 This theory is substantiated by world events in the post war period, such as the US Government funding ‘democratic groups’ in Venezuela in order to challenge the democratically elected Presidency of Hugo Chavez.4 The realist theory states that certain democracies may live at peace with certain other democracies, but that even if all states were democratic there would still be the source of conflict present in the cold war. Several years before the invasion of Iraq Waltz proposed that the problems of a uni polar world involve the main power, in this case the US, adopting an interventionist spirit feeling it has to bring peace about by force. The realist strength in analysing the continuity of conflict still recurrent in a post war world is shown by the prescience of Waltz’s pre Iraq prediction, ‘One may notice that intervention even for worthy ends, often brings more harm than good. The vice to which great powers easily succumb in a multi polar world is inattention, in a bi polar world, overreaction; in a uni polar world, overextension.’5 The post cold war era of peace is meant to be prefixed to an idea that peace is maintained by balance between powers, a balance not possible in a uni polar world. The slight weakness in this argument is that in the post war period it saw another conflict between the supposedly liberal Japan, and the sole superpower, the United States. Waltz argues that the rise of new powers to challenge America will make Japan uneasy and will result in a rush from Japan, and maybe others, to catch up, re enacting the cold war arms race, ‘Uncomfortable dependencies and perceived vulnerabilities have led Japan to acquire greater military capabilities, even though many Japanese prefer not to.’6 This view of international relations, even amongst fellow Western powers, degenerating into a wild west all against all battle seems highly improbable. However, the other realist theory of a regression, not to the nineteenth century, but to the Twentieth century where Eastern powers seek to re assert their role as America’s counter weight, carries great credence.
 The theory that in a uni polar world the sole super power over stretches itself is prescient in the current post Iraq war climate. In fact so sparse were America’s global commitments that its strategic Middle Eastern ally, Israel, faced a £250 million pound shortfall in its expected 2007 budget as America reneged on aid promises in order to re direct further funds to the Iraqi conflict.7 Of course, during the Cold War, the clamor for allies meant that the globe was split relatively evenly between the rival powers. One of the most important realist conclusions on the post cold war world is that one day the balances that were disrupted when it ended will be restored. Waltz argues, ‘Now the US is alone in the world, as nature abhors a vacuum, so international politics abhors unbalanced power.’ Faced with unbalanced power some states try to increase their own strength or they ally with other agents to bring the international distribution of power into balance.’8 The continuity suggested by the realist perspective has appeared to come to fruition in recent Russian history. Rather than, as the liberal view would see it, liberal economics opening up Russia to the world, and fostering Western style democracy the opposite has occurred. The rushed economic liberalization of the old Soviet economies led a great hardship in Russia and some surrounding countries, an effect so great that in Moldova the old Communist Party was re-elected with seventy per cent of the vote.9 This has not happened to the same extent in Russia, but there has been increasing continuity with the cold war era. Firstly, there has been a willingness of the Russian government to seek to regain the first step towards maintaining a balance of power with the United States, by attempting to exert control over its surrounding nations, nations that once made up the Soviet Union. Conflict with the Ukraine over the election of a pro European Government led to more difficult relations and a threat in 2005 that Russia would cut off its supply of gas to the region unless the Ukraine increased payments four fold. At the same time this was a statement to wider Europe, 80 per cent of whose gas comes through Ukrainian pipelines.10 Equally, the argument that old powers will reassert themselves gains further credence in light of the tug of arms over Ukraine and Poland. America sought to place arms in these countries, in defence against Iran, to which Russia replied that missiles would be in turn targeted on these nations themselves if they joined in coalition with America. President Putin stated, ‘The goal is to neutralize our nuclear capabilities. This would prompt Russia to take retaliatory action.’11 Aside from threats of any specific nature, the end of the cold war does not suggest a new unified form of mutual dependency in international relations, rather uncertainty and dangerous confusion. Realists argue that the uni polar power has no mirror, or counter weight and therefore has little idea of when it would be best to act or not. The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell admitted as much, ‘I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of enemies. I’m down to Castro and Kim IL Sung.’12 Realists have persuasively argued that in this position, rather than Russia alone countering America, everyone starts to feel uneasy and seeks to counter the perceived threat. This has been seen in Latin America where Venezuela has agreed oil deals throughout the region, with the aim of making these countries less dependant on the US.13 Equally, unease over the current uni polar system has seen India join yearly talks with China and Russia over the last two years, discussing ways to build a ‘multi polar world.’14 It must also be remembered that alongside economic growth China has retained its military independence; maintaining seven intercontinental missiles able to hit any US target, and a dozen targeted at the West Coast of America.15 Ultimately, the resurgence of Russia and emerging Chinese power suggests that the realist view that state interests and a bid to counter US dominance marks continuity with the Cold War period are fundamentally correct.
 The liberal theory of changes in world politics since the cold war disregards the views expressed above. Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno argue that realism fails in its attempts to explain the post war world, ‘It has been less than a decade since the end of the Cold War…However, it is striking that the majority trends have so far been quite inconsistent with realist expectations and quite consistent with structural liberalism.’16 Jack Snyder argues that in the post cold war world as more countries become liberal democratic economies, this democracy itself restricts the ability for conflict, ‘Democracy has a moderating effect on a state’s foreign policy because citizen’s who bear the costs of foreign adventures have power over policy.’17 Francis Fukuyama, in his essay The End of History, most clearly put forward the liberal case. Citing Hegel he looked at the pre Marxian idea of mankind progressing through stages of consciousness, corresponding to certain forms of social organization. However, Fukuyama posited, ‘the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.’18 Fukuyama goes on to state that the argument that another system can replace the liberal one is over, and that liberalism has won, ‘At the end of history it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies, merely that they end their ideological pretensions of representing different and higher forms of human society.’19 Unlike the realist model which shows the limits to post war change, where many predictions were proved correct, Fukuyama’s predictions have largely been discredited. Writing in 1989, just prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, Fukuyama saw the reforms in Russia and limited rebellion in China and whilst he was correct in seeing a coming liberal economic system, he was wrong to see them adopting Western style democratic practices. Fukuyama predicted, ‘There are currently over 20,000 Chinese students studying in the US and other Western countries…It is hard to believe that when they return home to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend.’20 However, the post cold war period has seen little change on this front. The economic reform already in progress has continued, but largely as a way of maintaining Chinese progress and power, a policy of self interest and pragmatism along realist lines. However, in order to be balanced it must be admitted that as the Chinese economy has become more liberal it has been more accepted in international diplomatic circles as some liberal writers predicted. This has seen diplomatic moves, such as China engaging in talks with North Korea to stop a nuclear programme, and hosting both the Koreans and the Americans for talks in Beijing.21 Fukuyama also looked at potential conflict, and saw in an increasingly liberal world less potential for conflict, dismissing the potential for personal belief to affect conflict, ‘In the contemporary world only Islam has affected a theocratic state as a political alternative to both liberalism and communism. But, the doctrine has little appeal for non Muslims, and it is hard to believe that the movement will take on any universal significance.’ In addition to this he argued that he saw little possibility of Russia heading back to a nationalist Tsar like leadership, as realists premised.22 In the current climate it is difficult to see this as anything but totally incorrect, a mistake largely caused by the total reliance on a materialist theory that sees pragmatic co existence rising out of increased democracy.
 The Constructivist theory does tell us something about the post cold war world. Constructivism looks at culture, systems of beliefs and places a high importance on the effect of norms on relations between disparate agents.23 Jeffrey Checkel said that constructivism was not broad enough to explain changes on its own, yet it had use in adding to the realist perspective, ‘The critique of neorealist and neoliberal concerns, not what these scholars do and say, but what they ignore.’24 The impressiveness of this theory is that it explains the continuity in conflict, in the circumstances in which materialism or self interest does not. Kowert rightly says, ‘Since democratic states are not markedly less conflict prone in general, the democratic institutions themselves appear to have less to do with this phenomenon than the image of the other.’25 In the cold war period Western policy was markedly inconsistent, with the US backing Islamic extremists in Afghanistan in conflict with the Soviet Union, yet condemning the theocratic Islamic government of Iran. This is easily explained by realist self interest in a bi polar system; however, in the modern world constructivist image and norms can play an important role. Checkel argues that the importance of identity and commonality goes some way to explaining why America is happy for white western nations to hold nuclear arms, yet Iran or North Korea can not.26 However, despite the strengths of this is an age of religious extremism, the realist theory still best shows the continuity. For example, America has dealt with China, and with North Korea recently and identity explains this less than practical self interest, security and trade needs.
 The realist theory explains to a large degree the continuity that exists between now and the cold war period. Focusing on states self interest, the realist school most persuasively explains modern international relations. By looking at the modern uni-polar world and the problems that entails the realists correctly see continuity in global conflict. Equally, the realist expectation that bi polarity will resume best explains the rise of Russia, and a return to certain elements of cold war politics. The liberal theory is too dogmatically materialist, seeing a giant change coming just from a liberal economic system However, continued good relations between the Chinese and the Western world have continued and this is down to liberal economic reasons, as much as it is self interest. Overall though, many of the predictions of Fukuyama have been false. Constructivism is useful in addition to realism, working in the areas where realist theory is deficient However, the limited scope of this theory means it can only ever been used in addition to holistic theories In the final analysis, there has been a large degree of continuity since the end of the cold war, and the realist theory best explains this.