Introduction by Marilyn Young, New York University


Review by Heonik Kwon, Trinity College, Cambridge University



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Review by Heonik Kwon, Trinity College, Cambridge University

The term "Third World" was much used during the forty-odd year period of


the Cold War. Indeed, the aspirations and frustrations of the nations and
communities that made up this "World" were very much part of the way in
which the bipolar global political order took shape and evolved at that
time. Conventional Cold War historiography, however, tends to treat these
voices as a relatively marginal element in the constitution of its dyadic
structure, concentrating instead on the power struggles between the
dominating state entities in the First and the Second Worlds. This was
hardly surprising given that the very reference of the Third World was as
child to the Cold War's organization of a worldwide political duality, as
was that of the other two worlds from whose chronic relationship it was
created. In recent years, however, students of Cold War history have begun
to pay more focused attention to the voices and agencies of the
decolonizing world in the making of the Cold War's political
structure-although these voices are still less than authentic. Much of the
existing Cold War history literature discusses the Third World in terms of
what this world meant for the power politics in and between the First and
the Second Worlds. Little space exists in these premises for efforts to
unravel what the Cold War meant for the Third World, or how decolonization
helped to shape the process of political bipolarization. Those who claim
to represent an authentic voice, on the other hand-such as scholars of
contemporary postcolonial historical scholarship, writing primarily after
the end of the Cold War geopolitical order in the early 1990s-tend to be
oblivious to the various roles of the Third World in the Cold War, not to
mention the Cold War's impact on the Third World, being intent instead on
highlighting the decolonizing world's arguably uninterrupted struggle for
self-determination and self-respect stretching from the time of
institutionalized colonialism to the postcolonial era during and after the
Cold War. In this somewhat impoverished state of contemporary historical
scholarship of the Cold War and the Third World, therefore, there is
either a failure to appreciate the conceptual relationship between the
Third World and the Cold War-even though it was precisely when the Cold
War ended that the Third World became the "developing world", "the South",
and variations thereof; or, if a relationship is recognized, it is one of
dependence-the experience of the Third World being understood and narrated
merely through the prism of the politics of the First and Second Worlds
(as defined, that is, through the bipolarity).

In this context, therefore, Artemy Kalinovsky and Sergey Radchenko's The


End of the Cold War and the Third World comes as a timely, insightful
volume that takes a major step in recognizing and correcting the
problematic analytical relationship between the Cold War and the Third
World. Its contribution to modern world history is especially valuable
insofar as it aims to be as much a work of contemporary history as about
the past century. As the title indicates, this work concentrates on the
meanings of the end of the Cold War, and thus may be regarded as a
companion volume to Michael Hogan's important earlier (1992, edited)
volume, The End of the Cold War: Its Meaning and Implications.1 Kalinovsky
and Radchenko's volume puts the Third World's experience of the end of the
Cold War on equal terms to that of the First and Second Worlds. This was
not the case with Hogan, notwithstanding its essays, particularly those
written by Walter LaFeber and Bruce Cumings, which called for a reasoned
pluralist perspective to the experience of the Cold War, drawing attention
to the experiential disparities of the global conflict between the world
powers and the decolonizing nations. These voices remain relatively
marginal in The End of the Cold War, whereas similar voices are raised
throughout The End of the Cold War and the Third World. Many of the key
issues mentioned by LaFeber and/or Cumings in understanding the Cold War
as a globally shared yet regionally divergent historical experience are
richly elaborated by Kalinovsky and Radchenko in their superb introductory
essay.

The issues raised by Kalinovsky and Radchenko include the question of


temporality as regards the end of the Cold War: namely, "Did the Cold War
end at the same time (and in the same way) in each of the three Worlds?"
This question of time is conceptually inseparable from that of spatiality:
"Did all communities and peoples everywhere experience the Cold War (in
the same way)?"-and from that of signification: Did the Cold War have
identical meanings for the decolonizing nations in Asia and Africa, and
the former colonial powers in Europe and elsewhere?" In short, was there
actually a single entity, "the Cold War", its passage and ending similarly
experienced across the world? Kalinovsky and Radchenko's answers to these
big, important questions take a form that I would endorse strongly: No,
indeed, there never was such a thing as the Cold War. The polarizing,
polarized world community of the past century experienced bipolar global
politics in radically different ways across different regions, and we may
not force their divergent experiences into a convenient, yet misleadingly
homogenous concept.

In conventional knowledge, the term "Cold War" refers to the prevailing


condition of the world in the second half of the twentieth century,
divided into two separate conceptions of political modernity and paths of
economic development. In a narrower sense, it also means the contest of
power and will between the two dominant states-the USA and USSR-that set
out to rule the world and thereby, neither being able to overcome the
other, divided it between them in an undeclared state of war. As such, the
Cold War was a highly unconventional war, having no clear distinction
between war and peace. Its ending was similarly unusual, failing to
benefit from any ceremonial cessation of violence. The Cold War was
neither a real war nor a genuine peace, an ambiguity that explains why
some consider it an imaginary (c.f. "phony") war whereas others associate
it with what in modern history was an exceptionally long period of peace.
It is probably fair to say that-in the first two Worlds at least, and
certainly in the West-the dominant image (recollection, cultural
impression) of the Cold War is of its having been fought mainly with
political, economic, ideological, and polemical means; of the nations that
waged this war as being engaged in building and stockpiling arsenals of
weapons of mass destruction in the belief that they would never have to
use them; and of the threats of mutually assured total destruction as
assuring a prolonged duration of international peace. These strange
features that constitute our collective memory of the Cold War make it
difficult to come to terms with its history according to the conventional
antinomy of war and peace (hence the oxymoronic nomenclature).

As LaFeber notes, however, this view of the Cold War speaks a half-truth


of bipolar history.2 The view represents the dominant Western (and also
the Soviet) experience of the cold war primarily as an imaginary war,
referring to the politics of competitively preparing for war in the hope
of avoiding an actual outbreak of war.3 In fact, of course, this
identification of the second half of the twentieth century as an
exceptionally long period of international peace would be hardly
intelligible to most of the rest of the world. The Cold War era resulted
in forty million human casualties of war in different parts of the world,
as LaFeber mentions; the major "proxy" (sic)-i.e. Third World-conflicts of
Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan between them spanned almost the entire
duration of the period. (In fact, "proxy war" here actually translates
as-operates as a euphemism for-"war in a Third World country," because had
it occurred in a First or Second World country, it would have been the
real thing!) How to reconcile this exceptionally violent historical
reality with the predominant Western perception of an exceptionally long
peace is crucial when it comes to grasping the meaning of the global Cold
War.4 According to Cumings, it is necessary to balance the dominant
"balance of power" conception of the cold war, on which the idea of the
long peace view is based, with the reality of the "balance of terror"
experienced in the wider (read "Third") world.5

If the various territories of the world did not experience the Cold War in


the same way, it is reasonable to think that today they do not all
remember the bipolar political era in the same way either, and that the
end of this era did not mean the same to all peoples in all regions. This
simple yet important recognition is what brings the essays together in
Kalinovsky and Radchenko's The End of the Cold War and the Third World.
These essays ask many other questions of diversity and plurality in Cold
War historical experience, both in spatial and temporal senses. Some
contributions focus on questions of disparity existing within the First or
Second World, including the Sino-Soviet split and its impact on
revolutionary movements in decolonizing societies. Other essays consider
the fusion and fission between the idea of the Third World and the horizon
of Asian-African solidarity, or the idea of non-alignment. Others again
look at South and Latin American cases, or at issue-related contexts
including debt crisis, arms trading and the media.

These questions ought to be taken seriously-not least because they have


much to offer for a better understanding of contemporary global
realities-and they should bring about further innovative questions related
to the deep plurality of Cold War historical experience. One hopes,
however, that the diversification of Cold War history is not to be
mistaken for a fragmentation of Cold War global history and a denial of
its basic unity. A global history is a history that is attentive to
locally variant historical realities and to the fundamental diversity of
human existence. It follows that the more we become familiar with the Cold
War's diverse realities, the closer we will be to an understanding of the
Cold War as a genuinely global history. The Cold War and the Third World
makes an important step in this hopeful direction.

Notes


1 Michael J. Hogan, ed., The End of the Cold War: Its Meaning and
Implications (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

2 Walter LaFeber, "An End to Which Cold War?" in Michael J. Hogan, ibid.,


13-14.

3 See Mary Kaldor, The Imaginary War: Interpretation of East-West West


Conflict in Europe (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990).

4LaFeber,op.cit.,13.

5 Bruce Cumings, Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American-East Asian
Relations at the End of the Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
1999), 51.

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