The month of August in the year of 1991 marked the beginning of a new era in world politics

The month of August in the year of 1991 marked the beginning of a new era in world politics. The failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev served as the catalyst for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Soviet superpower status in the world. Within the timespan of about a week, the Cold War had ended and the conflict created by the existence of two superpowers had been replaced by a hegemonic order led by the United States. In the six years since, the future of the world has remained unclear, marred by numerous ethnic, economic, and political conflicts. During the cold war, communist and anti-Communist conflict dominated the world order as the United States and the Soviet Union sought to counteract each other’s influence throughout the world. Civil wars in Vietnam and Cambodia were turned into battles between the forces of communism and capitalism (Goodman 15). Foreign policy revolved around limiting the spread of the opposing ideology with every world event scrutinized in terms of its Marxist/capitalist implications.The Cold War was an era that consisted of two superpowers, each of which had their own sphere of influence. They both desired to expand and limit the other’s expansion, spreading their respective ideologies and increasing their influence. Each always had to have the advantage over the other, to the point where they would meddle in the affairs of other nations in order to ensure that the given government would be favorable to their ideology. Everything changed following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Soviet influence disappeared and American influence was no longer focused on the rise and spread of communism. The United States and the remnants of the Soviet Union began to pull back from their ideological empires to tend to more limited problems within their own spheres of self-interest. As a result, regimes that had been propped up by the opposing superpowers lost their support and crumbled as nations collapsed into civil war.Economic and political problems that had plagued these nations intensified, further increasing the rate at which they descended into anarchy. Above all, nationalism and ethnocentrism emerged from the oppression of the cold war ripping apart the fabric of many nations. These situations have been key in shaping the events of the past six years and will certainly be the guiding force by which the world is led into the next century. The United States, being the sole superpower in the world is having trouble trying to decide exactly how to define its foreign policy (Grammy 50-52). From direct military interventions in Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia to diplomatic maneuverings in Zaire, Iran, Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi to virtual ignorance in Taijikistan, Afghanistan, and Georgia, the United States has not established itself in the new world order (Grammy 5). Instead it has created an inconsistent foreign policy that has not set a precedent for its actions in the future.The future is uncertain as the world is teetering on the brink of stability and chaos. There are many theories speculating about the future, most revolving around both the growing nationalism and culturalism in the world, or the increasing disparity between the developed and underdeveloped nations of the world. Samuel Huntington, in his book The Clash of the Civilizations, sees the world dividing and centering around seven or eight different cultures/civilizations, among them Western, Islamic, African, Confucian, Hindu, Latin American, and Russian/Orthodox (25-29). Each “civilization” will be united by common ancestry, language, and ethnicity (23). Countries such as the United States and Canada that have no unifying culture will be unable to exist, fracturing among their various cultures (26).Conflicts will cease to be internal and instead will manifest themselves in terms of regional and inter-cultural confrontation (27). Some disagree with this theory, rejecting Huntington’s notions, arguing that common culture will not be a cohesive tie. They state that many cultures have too many differences and hatreds amongst each other that they would never come together, at least in the near future (Cromartie 41). Other theories suggest that the world will divide along economic rather than ethnic lines, with the developed Western nations in one group and the majority of the Third World in another or other groups (Furedi 8). Other theorists see the world as being unable to exist with one superpower, and another country or other country will rise to challenge the hegemony. China, Russia, or a united Europe is seen as possible contenders (Djurdjevic B5).If the last ten years are a precedent than the future, is sure to be highly unstable. With so many variables and so much potential for instability and violence, the two major problems of the next several decades are likely to be nationalism and economic development/underdevelopment. Both have the means to rip the world apart and irrevocably alter its makeup.The growing economic disparity between the developed nations and the underdeveloped nations has been escalating since the end of the cold war. While such countries as the United States and western Europe have become wealthier, a great majority of countries particularly in Asia, Africa, and South America are stuck in economic stagnation. A great extent of their populations is impoverished and unable to adequately provide for them. This situation is not only leading to a feeling of resentment of the more developed nations, it is also creating a very unstable climate in these countries (Keller 20)).Not so long ago, this condition has swallowed the small Balkan republic of Albania. The circumstances surrounding Albania’s collapse could serve as a model of what could happen in other similar nations. The poorest country in Europe, Albania’s transition from socialism to capitalism has not been as successful as in other Eastern European nations. The people have increasingly become desperate for the better life that they see around them in Europe. As a result, they were willing to invest their life savings in government investment schemes. When these investments went awry, much of the population lost most of their money and was left with nothing. The people, out of frustration and anger rose up against the government and threw Albania into a state of chaos. Protests turned into rebellion and the country spiraled towards anarchy. Within a matter of days, Albania had imploded, and all order in the country disappeared. The rest of the world watched while a country, seemingly on the long and arduous path to recovery, suddenly collapsed in an explosion of violence and pandemonium.Around the world, there are many more countries just like Albania. In particular, West African nations such as Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia; South American nations like Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia; Asian nations such as Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines, and even such places as Russia, Mexico, and Brazil are at risk. Poverty in these countries is so great that people are becoming frustrated and desperate to the point where they will resort to drastic measures. Most of these countries are also multiethnic, which could create an even greater danger if they should collapse into chaos.The number of ethnic conflicts has skyrocketed, from Armenia to Zaire, Bosnia to India, nearly half of all nations in existence today suffer from some kind of ethnic violence. The end of the cold war has subdued the threat of communism and greatly decreased the probability of outside intervention in the internal conflicts of many nations (Janke vii). Long suppressed minority groups are rising up, yearning for greater autonomy, tired of living under the repressive rule of another ethnic group. This trend is likely to continue far into the future, as there are few states with truly homogenous populations. Nearly every nation in existence is composed of different ethnic groups.The civil war in Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire is an example of this ethnic warfare that is becoming increasingly more common in today’s world. In 1993, terrorists destroyed the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, sparking a civil war in both nations that pitted the nations’ minority Tutsis against the majority Hutus. In the process, the Hutus massacred nearly a million Tutsis. However, when the Tutsis gained the advantage in the war, nearly two million Hutus fled these countries into neighboring Zaire fearing reprisals. This influx of refugees into Zaire sparked ethnic squabbling there as Zaire’s Tutsi population, known as the Banyamulenge, resented the Hutu refugees.The Zairian government, having a history of animosity with regard to the Tutsis, is threatened to revoke the citizenship of all the Banya mulenge in Zaire. A rebel leader in southern Zaire named Laurent Kabila used this disenfranchisement of the Tutsis to his advantage, organizing a rebel army and seizing portions of Zaire. This ethnic uprising soon gained momentum as they marched across the expanse of eastern Zaire, capturing town after town as the unorganized government troops fled. What began as a limited rebellion developed into a nation-wide civil war as other groups joined the movement and Kabila’s troops made tremendous military gains. In approximately seven months, the rebels had ousted Zaire’s dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, and had ended his thirty-year rule.Zaire is a nation composed of hundreds of different ethnic groups that has been ruthlessly ruled for thirty years by a self-installed dictator. Through the use of brute force and autocratic government, he has held Zaire together throughout the cold war. However, he has also abused his position by stealing from his country and making himself one of the richest men in the world while his country floundered in economic despair. The West and the United States supported him in particular because of his stance against Soviet Marxism. The United States ignored all of his abuses and atrocities, failing to look over his screen of anti-communism that concealed his dictatorial and authoritarian nature. As a result, the nation of Zaire, an area of rich mineral resources including copper, diamonds, and gold, suffered, because of failing to attain its economic potential and remaining one of the poorest nations in the world.Throughout all of the world and in Africa in particular, there are many nations similar in structure and ethnic makeup to Zaire (Keller 193-196). The era of colonialism created borders along colonial lines, not ethnic lines, separating populations of the same groups and uniting antagonistic and disparate groups. After the colonial empires vanished and their former possessions gained independence, the borders remained, creating extremely unstable and restive populations.These nations have been in unending cycles of civil wars as group after group tries to assert their authority. The United States and its allies, fearing the rise of communism in these fledgling nations, have given their support to any dictator who declares himself opposed to communism, no matter how ruthless or inhumane he is. As a result, these countries have suffered during the cold war, their economic development lagging behind the rest of the world because of their political instabilities. Now that the cold war has ended and communism has declined, the world is beginning to realize the extent to which these dictators have terrorized and victimized their respective countries. Ethnic and minority groups formerly silenced by the oppressive rule are now becoming more vocal as these dictators lose much of their support from the outside world. These combinations of circumstances are paving the way for a future of uncertainty as these countries are overhauled, either breaking up, overthrowing their governments, or succumbing to the pull of civil war.The Cold War is over, and the sole superpower, the United States needs to take a leading role in the creation of a new world order. No longer does it have to fear an opposing ideology and therefore it must not try to impose its own system of values on other nations. A policy similar to the Cold War style of expanding democracy and limiting other types of governments will not be tolerated by the rest of the world and will result in the resentment and eventual isolation of the United States. The world is facing serious problems as it tries to move into the twenty-first century, out of the era of the Cold War and into a new era.A solution to these problems is, in itself, very complex and difficult to achieve. A major dilemma with today’s world, as already mentioned, is that there is no cohesive leadership on the international arena. Every nation, every group of people is striving for a better life by means of their own self-interest. Compromises are few and short-lived, and it seems that the only way that conflicts can be solved today is by the total annihilation of the opposing side. In the case of the former Yugoslavia, for example, the various ethnic factions repeatedly failed to achieve any agreements on the diplomatic front and war raged on for four years until a tentative peace was imposed last year.This peace will probably not be final as there are skirmishes and killings occurring there on a daily basis. Intense resentment and hatred exists between the Croats, Serbs, and Muslims that will not disappear for many generations. This situation is common throughout the world: Armenians hold disdain for the Turks and Azeris and vice versa, Muslims and Hindus are bitter rivals in a handful of nations, the Chinese minorities in Southeast Asia are feared and resented by the natives of the country; the list goes on and on, there are so many rivalries in today’s world that it is a miracle that violent conflicts are as limited as they are.To solve this problem, nations must be willing to compromise, to allow a higher law offer the final judgment on their problems. The world needs leadership that the majority can regard as objective and fair. Since the end of the cold war, it seems as if the United States has tried to assume this role; however, they have had very little success. From their failure in Somalia in which American soldiers were killed and the region was further destabilized, to their indecision with regards to China and Burma, leaving both nations balancing on the edge of the international community, the United States has not exactly been the role model that other nations could respect and follow.United States foreign policy for the next century will definitely have a major role on the path which international relations follows. Should it continue its methods of arbitrary and discriminatory intervention, imposing its beliefs on other cultures, then the world is headed for disaster. Not only will a division between the Western nations and the rest of the globe result, but also instability will increase as dictators and tyrants will believe that they can commit atrocities without repercussions. The cold war is over and the United States must amend the mistakes that it made during this period. Ruthless warlords such as Saddam Hussein, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Hafez al-Assad of Syria, that it helped to prop up in the name of defeating communism, must be dealt with in a consistent manner. The United States must admit its mistakes and do everything in its power to discourage these leaders short of the use of force. Most importantly, the United States should serve as a role model in the new world order, not a guardian. Rather than resorting to direct intervention in cases of conflict, it should put more reliance in the United Nations and other world bodies in which all nations have a say in the matter. A strengthened United Nations with the backing of all the world powers could prove extremely effective as every nation has the opportunity to take part and nations in a conflict will be more likely to adhere to the word of an international body rather than a single state. Many nations fear the intentions of the United States and would resent its intervention in their affairs; however, a world body in which they could make their voices heard would have more legitimacy in world politics.The United States is not solely responsible for the fate of the world. Even though it is, as of right now, the sole superpower, it cannot and must not be the only nation leading the charge into the next century. Nations such as China, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, and other potential powers need to also assume responsibility for the fate of the world. Instead of string their own nation aspirations, placing their own well being among those of their neighbors, they must realize their place in the world and realize that without their cooperation, world development and security will be unstable and arduous.Overall, the next millennium is bringing an era of uncertainty on the world stage. There is no clear and definite order in the realm of international politics, the next several years could bring with them war and instability just as easily as they could bring peace and tranquility. In order to ensure at least a chance of a secure future, several things must happen. The gap between the rich and poor regions of the world needs to be alleviated, as many problems are resulting and could result from the economic situation of many countries. Ethnic tolerance and cooperation is also important in ending and preventing violent nationalistic conflict that could potentially be one of the greatest problems in the coming decades. Above all, a greater effort needs to be made by the United States and other influential nations to take a leading role in forging a future for the world. Without leadership on the world stage, there is anarchy, and in anarchy, violence and civil decay thrives.

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