Twenty-five years ago, from August 16-20, 1985, the Professors World Peace Academy sponsored a conference on “The Fall of the Soviet Empire: Prospects for Transition to a Post-Soviet World,” organized by Professor Morton A. Kaplan of the University of Chicago and Lithuanian-born Soviet scholar Alexander Shtromas, who was teaching at the University of Salford in the UK. As an insider, Shtromas was one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts on the Soviet system. I was the secretary for the conference held in Geneva, Switzerland, in which over 90 research papers on all aspects of Soviet society were discussed.
In this issue of International Journal on World Peace, our first articles will take a retrospective look at the thought about the future of the Soviet Union and the international order at the time, some of the recommendations of Morton A. Kaplan and others, the collapse that came more quickly than most of those at the conference predicted, and opportunities for a more peaceful international order lost. Continue reading →
With the rise of the sovereign nation-state, after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, came a period of great scientific and technical advancement as well as the rise of national and international wars in which millions of people have perished. The modern state, which has the capacity for efficiently providing rule of law in which large populations can live peacefully, is more often than not a tool used by powerful people to exploit masses, or an instrument of power through which to seek world dominance.
The United Nations Security Council, organized by the major powers after two devastating world wars and the development of weapons of mass destruction, has provided deterrence against powerful states entering into traditional wars against other states. However, the state, as the center of sovereign power, has been the target for control by unscrupulous individuals and groups everywhere. The result is a world in which individuals and groups are oppressed by those who control state power. Continue reading →
We can better understand the War on Terror and the role of Western military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan by learning the history of the politics in the region. Southwest Asia is marked by many weak state governments and competition for control of them by more powerful neighbors, international superpowers, and non-state actors that include religious jihadists and independence movements. In the September 2009 issue of IJWP we discussed anarchy in unsecured territories, with an emphasis on Africa. Southwest Asia suffers from many of the same political dynamics: (1) state borders that were created by past political conquest, either by expansion by indigenous rulers or conquest by colonial masters, (2) the collapse of European colonialism and the rise of the bi-polar world of the Cold War that had rewarded dictatorial allies, (3) the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of hopes around the world for self-rule, and (4) new contests for state power based on self-determination movements, regional hegemons, and non-state religious and ideological actors.
Realpolitik is a term derived from German. It refers to a politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives (Merriam-Webster dictionary). Historically, many political platforms have been based on theoretical, religious, ideological, or moral arguments.
Most visions of ideal societies, as disparate as Plato, Confucius, Jesus, and Marx, all rely on changing basic human behavior. If we can only learn to love one another, to share with one another, to accept a Christian, Muslim, or socialist theory of justice, or change our selfish and exploitative behavior in some way, then we can create an ideal world. As we recently learned from the efforts of the Soviet Union to create a “new man,” one that is rational and scientific, the laws of nature are not easily trumped. Instead of getting a “new man” who gives according to his abilities and receives according to his needs, the Soviet Union got the Nomenklatura, the”old man” in a new bureaucratic class, who used position and power in the Soviet political system for personal and selfish desires. Continue reading →
The modern desire for democracy and self-rule is largely a reaction against a history of oppression and exploitation following military conquest and imposed rule. World history is predominantly shaped by conquerors, yet most people desire to live their own lives and not serve as a means to someone elseâ€™s ends. While self-rule requires the overthrow of imposed rule, it is more difficult than the mere overthrow of a regime and the declaration of freedom and of rule of law. Self-rule requires self-discipline and the willingness to use force, when necessary, against foreign aggression and civil violence. Continue reading →
Our lead article by James Yunker suggests ways in which global governance could be improved, ways that could create a “more perfect union” than the League of Nations, or the United Nations, which he compares to the Articles of Confederation of the United States. This more perfect union would involve three principles not present in the world government proposals of the twentieth century. First, voting principles must be changed so that an involuntary redistribution of wealth could not occur. Second, there should be an inalienable right to withdraw from the Union. Third, each nation should be allowed to keep whatever military power they desire. Continue reading →
New Book on Fixing Government
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This issue contains a variety of articles that do not easily coalesce around a particular theme, but all refer to containing the violence wreaked by those with power in the pursuit of self-interested goals, whether they be political, economic, or religious. This violence might appear in the form of a ruthless warlord raping the economy and natural resources, the kidnapping and murder of NGO workers trying to serve the ravaged and oppressed in such countries, or the unilateral actions of a state to impose its will on others or threaten them with weapons of mass destruction.
Our first article, by George Kieh, examines the roots of civil war in Liberia. He notes that the peace imposed after the first civil war laid the seeds of a second civil war. Too often peace settlements aimed at ending fighting do not contain a process for the resolution of underlying social problems. Thus, they become a temporary cessation of violence rather than a real peace. In Liberia there was scarcely two years between the end of the first civil war and the onset of a second. The lack ofÂ an adequate national security regime led to the competition for state power among warlords. Continue reading →
The articles in this issue all relate to the Middle East region from Palestine to Pakistan. This region is perhaps the most resistant to religious pluralism in the world. War and violence are often the result of the attempt by a religious or ethnic group to lay claim on an entire state. A group may want to use the power of the state to redistribute all of the wealth and resources to its own members, or it may fear mistreatment or genocide if another group controls the power of the state.
When a religious group, an ethnic group, or a state claims to have the true understanding of peace and justice, or some monopoly on knowledge, they run into direct conflict with others who make similar claims based on different sacred truths. Continue reading →