Introduction by Marilyn Young, New York University


Review by Jamie Miller, University of Cambridge



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Review by Jamie Miller, University of Cambridge

When the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall arrived in


2009, it heralded a deluge of books on the legacy of the end of the Cold
War. Most of these, culminating in Mary Elise Sarotte's outstanding 1989,
centred on its reformulative impact on the political and economic
structures of Europe.1 Artemy M. Kalinovsky, a specialist on the Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan, and Sergey Radchenko, an expert on Soviet
policy in the Far East, have instead presented a fascinating edited volume
focused squarely on the impact of the end of the Cold War on the
developing world. The End of the Cold War and the Third World, the editors
vaunt, "goes further than anything published so far in systematically
explaining, from both the perspectives of the superpowers and those of
Third World countries, what the end of bipolarity meant not only for the
underdeveloped periphery, so long enmeshed in ideological, socio-political
and military conflicts sponsored by Washington, Moscow, or Beijing, but
also for the broader patterns of international relations."2 It is a bold
claim, but one that is hard to dispute. The End of the Cold War and the
Third World provides a wealth of stimulating insights, all presented
within a conception of the subject matter that in its scope, depth, and
nuance will serve as a beacon for other scholars.

The end of the Cold War was an event of profound significance for the


Third World. Superpowers had long corrupted developing countries' desire
for modernisation in the name of military, strategic, or ideological goals
whose value derived from the Cold War paradigm.3 Much-needed development
assistance, whether in the form of funds, technical experts, arms, or
military advisors, was granted not in order to help Third World countries
develop to a state of prosperity and higher living standards on their own
terms, but usually to help them validate a given programme of
modernisation, be it capitalist or communist. Of course, seen from the
perspective of the donor superpowers, these ipso facto meant the same
thing: successful development and human progress could only come by
following the path they themselves had followed (or believed they had
followed), while any diversion could risk descent into the chaos that was
the inevitable consequence of the other camp's heretical creed.

But the reality was somewhat different. Actually finding (often)


pre-industrial Third World societies capable of being catapulted into
modernity without tearing apart at the seams was difficult. The intensity
of the superpower rivalry and the desire for short-term gains further
militated against long-term investment in Third World societies. With a
certain inevitability, therefore, superpower support was often handed to
leaders who could sing from the right ideological hymn sheet, rather than
deliver tangible social or economic progress for their peoples. The result
was a vassal system, where loyalty to the superpower was paramount and the
nature of the society a distant secondary concern.

This arrangement would have been bad enough if it were reasonably stable,


yet it was anything but. Seeking fealty over long-term progress, both
superpowers tended to forge alliances with individual leaders as much as
"states", and certainly more than "peoples" or "societies". After all, the
latter could not be trusted to follow the superpower's lead rather than
call their own tune. So both developed a preference for strong leaders who
could use a paid-for security apparatus to simply contain the explosive
by-products unleashed by the collision of nationalism, ethnic conflict,
decolonisation, and modernisation, rather than respond to them. In this
way, the system of competition, as much as the nature of any ideology
involved, inherently favoured the production of despots over democrats.
But the pressures of modernity made for an explosive cocktail that
individual vassals did well to survive. Both Washington (most notably in
Iran and Cuba) and Moscow (in Ghana, Indonesia, and Afghanistan, among
others) found themselves burned by coups that removed their allies from
power and installed a rival on the throne. At best, policymakers awoke the
next morning to find their influence negligible in country x (and often it
was seen as little more than "country x"). But more often they found that
their support for the previous regime made them persona non grata with the
new one. The fealty that they sought and bought was inherently fleeting
and shallow.

Exacerbating the instability of the system was that both superpowers


arrogated to themselves the right to undermine the other's vassal regimes.
Such was the universalist merit of their blueprint for humanity (and the
apocalyptic consequences if the other triumphed) that such actions were
readily rationalised and justified. The result was that Third World states
trying against daunting odds to build stable and prosperous societies were
forced to do so in a state of systemic and permanent insecurity. For every
Third World country, it seemed, there was its counterpoint across the
border or operating in the countryside, funded and armed by the other
superpower and trying to corrode its rule. This state of affairs created a
spiralling need for security assistance at the expense of development aid.
Guerrilla leaders and despotic Presidents alike came cap in hand to the
Kremlin or the White House, returning with promises of shipments of AK-47s
or substantial Military Assistance Programme packages. Few strings
regarding the precise nature of their political programme were attached.
Consequently, both superpowers ended up allied to Third World regimes
which not only had no hope of replicating the desired model society, but
also did a huge disservice to the values the superpower espoused. This
phenomenon reached its bizarre apex in the Horn of Africa in 1977-8.
Moscow decided to abandon its Somalian clients in favour of supporting the
sworn enemy across the border, Ethiopia, where it saw in Haile-Mariam
Mengistu's agrarian Ethiopian Revolution some semblance of communist
potential. The Carter Administration, disavowed by its old allies in Addis
Ababa, responded by throwing its support squarely behind Somalia, where
Siad Barre's ruthless and oppressive regime had nothing to commend itself
other than its opposition to the Ethiopians. (The Cold War has long lent
itself to satire and whimsy - from Dr Strangelove to Goodbye Lenin! - but
perhaps the sheer absurdity of superpower competition in the Third World
has been less attractive, save for The Quiet American, simply because the
consequences, such as Somalia and Ethiopia's futures for the next three
decades, are just too ghastly for the satire to succeed.) Sometimes
military support alone was insufficient and the superpowers launched
direct military interventions to keep Third World countries in their camp.
The results of these were often unpredictable and sometimes disastrous,
which only further strengthened the metropoles' inclination towards
outsourcing the maintenance of security to whatever unsavoury character
could do so to the further marginalisation of concerns about the type of
society they were building.

This system came to an end in the late 1980s. The Soviet Union was


declining rapidly. Its economy, sluggish since the late 1970s, had ground
to a halt. Its model for modernisation was fast losing currency both at
home and abroad. Even so, Moscow's decision to disengage from the Third
World was taken neither lightly nor unanimously; the Soviet Union's
superpower status owed much to its heft on the international stage. But
the overall effect was that as Mikhail Gorbachev began reducing Soviet
assistance to the Third World, the United States followed suit. The
effects on the Third World were dramatic. In some instances, as Artemy M.
Kalinovsky points out in his chapter on the endgame of the Soviet
withdrawal from Afghanistan, superpower disengagement left only a power
vacuum ideal for the flourishing of dangerous forces. In others, as Balázs
Szalontai writes in his analysis of the transition of Indochina away from
ideological national identities and towards the marketplace and as Victor
Figueroa Clark points out in his piece on Latin America, regimes found
their lifeblood ideologies losing credibility with alarming speed,
resulting in profound changes in national outlook and political norms. And
in regional conflict situations, the abdication of Cold War sponsors often
changed the dynamics drastically. In some instances, as Vladimir Shubin
and Chris Saunders point out in their chapters on South West
Africa/Namibia and South Africa, this resulted in the de-escalation and
resolution of long-running conflicts. But elsewhere, as in Angola,
Mozambique, Cambodia, Central America, and Ethiopia, the wars continued,
often along the same battle lines left by the Cold War but with a once
prominent ideological dimension receding into the background.

The End of the Cold War and the Third World endeavours to track the impact


of these momentous geopolitical developments on two sets of actors: the
Third World states themselves, usually through the prism of regional
conflict situations; and (to a lesser extent) the superpowers who were
forced to recalibrate their Third World policies in the light of new
geopolitical environments and changed national priorities. Edited volumes
by their very nature often feel disjointed or uneven, a risk amplified in
this instance by the geographically diverse subject matter. However,
Kalinovsky and Radchenko have done well to minimise this risk by ensuring
both that the calibre of the individual contributions (and the scholarly
pedigree of the contributors) remains high throughout and that the
contributors evince a consistent scholarly approach. In the tradition of
the LSE Ideas School associated with this Routledge series, the volume
consciously eschews more traditional US-centric or bipolar approaches to
Cold War history and focuses instead on neglected actors, including both
communist and Third World states. Chapters cover the impact of the end of
the Cold War on: Soviet Third World policies during the Gorbachev era (a
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