Cold War

.. and told the US to mind its own business. The US has certainly lost some importance of its leading role in the world, and this is also due to its internal problems with which it seems unable to cope with. There is a tremendous high crime rate within the USA, and poverty is like in some Third World countries. The USA also has to cope with inflation and an either stagnating or declining economy (the last two problems previously unknown to the USA).

Thus criticism arose as to whether the USA is still suitable to take up the role of leading world power and interfere in conflicts between other states, since it seems to be unable to cope with its own problems. Recent criticism also arose over the role of the USA in the UN. It is argued that several other states should have a permanent membership on the UN security council with the right to veto a decision, since several other states (notably Germany and Japan) are economically much stronger than the USA (although not militarily). To reform this it will however take at least ten more years (or a major crises). The post-Cold War “new world order” is not, like in the Cold War, dominated by ideology, but by economics. Countries want to achieve economic growth and want to prosper.

Poorer countries are eager to attract foreign investors and rich countries are eager to become even richer. Within this age of globalization, and with the iron curtain now something of the past, this aim seems to be easier to achieve than before. Companies can take up opportunities in the former Eastern Bloc states and by doing so help them to become more equal on an economic level to the Western States. Countries are unlikely to go to war just because they do not agree in terms of ideology. The reasons for war have shifted. This can be seen at the example of the war in former Yugoslavia.

Here the war was started by Serbia, and the reasons date back hundreds of years. One other big reason for them to start the war with Croatia is that Serbia was economically very dependent on Croatia. So here economic reason beyond any doubt also plays a role. Issues of (national) identity also may be a reason to take up arms. “Issues of identity will inevitably impinge upon the incident of armed conflict, whether this is between or within states. Thus national identity, ethnicity or religious affiliation is likely to contribute to the outbreak of conflict or to be used as a source of legitimation for recourse to arms.” (Charlotte Bretherton, p.103) This also contributed to the war in former Yugoslavia, as different ethnic groups started to fight for what they thought was “their” land.

(Ethnic cleansing was also a fact in the war in former Yugoslavia) Religion has always been a source of conflict, as several examples throughout history show us. Examples of this are the unrests in N. Ireland, the Muslim fundamentalists throughout the world (e.g. Afghanistan) and, to take an older example, the prosecution of Calvinists in the 16th and 17th Century. In N. Ireland the conflict consists out of a combination of conflict over national identity and religious affiliation; one Party is Protestant and wants to belong to Britain, and the other Party is Catholic and wants to belong to The Republic of Ireland.

One example of religion as a cause, which I think will be a source of conflict in the future (as it has been in the past) is the problem of the Palestinians and Israel in the Middle-East. So it is clear that armed conflicts mostly do not arise because of just one of the reasons mentioned before. Armed conflicts arise due to several reasons which can be interstate or innerstate ones (or both), and which can be quite complicated. The reasons I mention here are not new reasons (causes), and this brings me back to the point I mentioned earlier; the importance of these reasons has increased, due to the shift from the ideological reasons to the reasons mentioned above. This shift in causes does not significantly affect the effort of maintaining peace, since they always (or at least very often) played a part in resolving a conflict and maintaining peace.

In fact, with the importance of ideology not being such an important cause (or not being a cause at all) anymore, the people concerned with maintaining peace have one reason less to worry about, and one difficulty less to conquer. Potential sources of conflict can be found throughout the world. I think that armed conflict might arise in some of the ex-USSR states, and, if Netanyahu keeps up with his politics (and as I mentioned as an example before), in the Middle-East, notably in and around Israel. Another area where conflict might arise is in Africa. This is not alone due to internal tensions of various kinds, but also due to the “North-South Divide”. Europe can be under threat by Africa if there will be long-term economical dissatisfaction and if some charismatic leaders can unite Africa (or at least some African states) against Europe. However all these are just hypothesis and it remains to be seen whether any of them will take place in the future.

Of two things however I remain sure; firstly, the importance of economic benefits in conflicts and in political decisions will increase, and secondly, that it will be impossible to have a world without war, since to me it seems that war is a part of human nature and one can see this throughout history. Wars have built and destroyed them empires, and people have lived just to go to war. So the only way how this shift in the causes of war will effect the effort of maintaining peace, is that there is one cause less to worry about. The effort of maintaining peace will always be needed, since, in my opinion, there will always be minor armed conflicts and wars (about 148 at the moment…) In order to prove my opinion that war will always exist, one would have to write another essay to explore the reasons for this assumption more thoroughly, all I can say is to look at history, and then one will find the answer….

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