A Post-Colonial and Post-Soviet World

Introduction to IJWP, June 2008
This issue begins by discussing the elimination of the effects of colonialism and the Soviet Union which were each, in their own way, the result of empire-building. The idea of ruling over the lands of other people has been around as long as recorded human history. While it runs counter to the notion that people have the right to pursue their own destiny, it is an idea that dies hard and continually resurfaces when checks and balances in power are not put in place that would deter the force of conquest.

Succession in Foreign Policy in the Post-Soviet World
Our first article, by Alexander Nikitin on “Russian Foreign Policy in the Fragmented Post-Soviet Space” looks at the succession or transition of foreign policy in the geographic area vacated by the death, not of a single political leader, but of an entire political regime.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which was formed immediately after the collapse of the Soviet system over the same territory, has proven an interim structure that the author feels should die a quiet death as the various entities covering the fringes of the old empire begin to formulate new sets of regional relations with their neighbors.

In this context, Russia’s foreign policy is seen more as regional leadership than a global superpower. Nitikin traces the recent history of Russian foreign policy in the post-Soviet period and highlights the role of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has evolved in connection to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the increased influence of Iran in Central Asia.

Nitikin argues that neither Russia nor the West has adequately adjusted foreign policy goals to the new geopolitical issues in the world. He concludes by listing a set of foreign policy objectives that are recommended for implementation after the 2008 presidential election in Russia.

Political Succession in the Post-Colonial World
Our second article, by Adewale Banjo, discusses the issue of political succession in West Africa. It addresses the various methods used to perpetuate power in post-colonial societies that have become democracies or republics on paper, but not in cultural practice. The story of succession in Togo, well told by the author, is a classic example of the tactics that can be used to promote a family dynasty in a country that is in theory a post-colonial democracy.

After attaining independence from France in 1960, Sylvanus Olympio ruled Togo until, during the Cold War, Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power in a bloodless coup in 1967. After the Cold War, in 1991, on the crest of a new wave of democratization, political parties were legalized. However, in the next three elections Eyadema was repeatedly elected amid charges of political repression and election fraud. He reportedly salted away over $3 billion in personal accounts before he died.

After Gnassingbe Eyadema’s death, his son, Faure, used military force and the bribery of various officials to seize power by non-constitutional means, continuing the rule as a family dynasty. The article is a chronicle of all the tricks and tactics used by those in power to retain the control of a country rather than allowing democratic ideals to be realized.

The role of a modern political constitution is to provide a framework within which rule of law, not rule of force or corruption, can prevail. Orderly political succession under the rule of law requires the institutions entrusted with enforcing the rule of law to be more loyal to the constitution than to the leaders of the regime.

Good governance requires that the political system enable the most qualified people, not the best connected through influence, to rise to top positions of leadership. From the Roman Empire to the contemporary United States, even the most influential constitutional governments have appointed or elected “heirs to the throne,” not always with the best success.

Reining in Dissident States
Our third article, on North Korea by Yutaka Okuyama, examines what it can be like for legitimate governments to try to negotiate with regimes that have entrenched family dynasties that have ruled by force rather than constitutional law.

Okuyama looks at the problem of whether and how dissident states like North Korea can be brought into a civil relationship with the world community and cease functioning as a pariah state. North Korea is both a post-colonial state in which a family dynasty has emerged with absolute power, and a post-Soviet client state that lost its main patron and defender. It has continued a ruthless independent path, oppressing its people and threatening violence to get its way in the world.

Okuyama discusses the dilemma such states pose to the world at large and notes that two methods, military intervention and peaceful cooperation seem to be the only options available. Over the past several years there have been many attempts at peaceful cooperation without success in either helping the people or breaking the tyrannical and paranoid hold of the current regime.

After discussing disillusionment and failed attempts by South Korea, the international community, by Washington, and by NGOs in attempts to assist the integration of North Korea into the community of nations, the author concludes that a variation on the carrot and stick is required. He suggests that large powers like the United States implement long-term foreign policy strategies rather than short-term political objectives. These strategies should offer enough to the regime to make it worthwhile taking the assistance, while including measures that ensure the aid actually reaches the target.

What is the Mind?
Our fourth article, “What is the Mind?” might not seem directly related to peace, but we have included this contribution by Tom Kando because he argues that “minds” are a product of the social, cultural, and historical experience of people. They transcend the brain and cannot be understood by studying the genetic makeup of brain cells any more than a system of language can be understood by examining the mouths of the people who speak it.

Of course, one needs a brain in order to have a conscious thought, just like one needs a mouth to speak a word. The “nature vs. nurture” debates thus can be correlated with the ages-old mind-brain problem. It follows, for example, that if suicide bombing occurs in some societies but not others, it is a cultural problem related to the mind and not a genetic problem related to the brain. Solutions have more to do with socialization and learning than with physical restraint or chemical inhibitors. It might further seem that even unconscious emotions like love and hatred—that promote peace and war—are products of learning, the results of developed attachments or antipathies based on social experience.

Kando’s conclusion is hopeful for peace researchers, for if the mind is a product of learning, then war is not an inevitable product of nature to which humans are consigned. This is additional support for the psychologists who issued the Seville Statement in 1986 and the idea of “building a culture of peace” discussed by Lisa Reber-Rider in our last issue (March, 2008, p. 73).


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