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Dominating Forces Post Cold War Era

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Gone is the era when military force was the sole compass in a state’s quest for dominance. The Cold War world order has been lost. What has taken its place is a collision of two opposing forces both competing to materialize as the new, dominant world order. There exists now an overarching battle between the assimilating force of globalization and the emphatic differentiation of cultural identity as a reaction. This structural dissonance in global relations has elevated inherently tense inter-state relationships and cleared a path for the rise of cultural nations within and across states seeking to solidify their distinctiveness and secure a role in the order of the new world.
As the United States emerged victorious from the bipolarity of the Cold War era, so came her establishment as the hegemonic state of the world. This triumph of western liberalism symbolized what Francis Fukuyama deemed “the end of history” - the end of conflicting ideologies among the states which would lead to a world of perpetual peace. Fukuyama’s thesis is based on the Renaissance and Reformation of Europe and the Enlightenment experienced by North America and Europe (Packer. 2012.) Essentially, he argues that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies ends after the Cold War era; that the entire world will come to accept liberal democracy as the most desirable world order. The major fault in his theory, of course, lies in the simple fact that the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment were largely experienced only by western civilizations and therefore do not necessarily carry much weight with other civilizations. This failure to appreciate the significance of differing ethnic and cultural identities and experiences of all states of the world explains the legitimacy of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” theory.
Whereas Fukuyama’s theory can be interpreted as the final destination of the journey the world order had embarked upon in the immediate post-Cold War times, Huntington’s theory represents a sharp turn off the beaten path leading our world to a very different destination than the global adoption of western liberalism. In his written response to Fukuyama’s theory, Huntington states that “the peoples and governments of non-Western civilizations no longer remain the objects of history as targets of Western colonialism but join the West as movers and shapers of history.” (Huntington. 1993.23.) Here, he attempts to say that non-Western states and civilizations are attempting to ensure a function in the great machine of world order, but even this statement lends itself to the paradoxical belief that states who want their voices to be heard must become western or “join the West.” Indeed, it is this enigma which continues to trouble Russia even 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. “Whether it can reconcile or triangulate its interests in the former Soviet Union with its outreach to the West in particular will be a major test of whether Russia can achieve its Great Power aspirations in the long run, or whether it will remain a largely regional actor.” (Mankoff. 2009.28.) This statement suggests that a state must adopt western culture in order to become a “Great Power”, but China has achieved this status on many fronts while maintaining economic and political tactics which are much more aligned with its own civilizational ideology than with western liberalism.
The rise of China alone weakens the western claim of its superior culture as the key to global power. “The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group… equality and hierarchy. These differences are the product of centuries. They will not soon disappear.” (Huntington. 1993.25.) This truth can easily be seen in the failure to westernize non-Western states which led to the religious revivals we see sweeping civilizations such as the Middle East to fill “the vacuum left by the collapse of ideology” (Huntington. 1996.96.) Economic and political liberalism offer world peace and human freedom, but religion and culture offer a kind of refuge and communitarianism that cannot be provided by bureaucratic organizations, which explains the power of these religious revivals despite having no foreseeably secure future as a world order. To phrase this idea simply, globalization “delivers peace, prosperity, and relative unity—if at the cost of independence, community, and identity.” (Barber. 1992.)

A prominent juxtaposition of the battling theories of Fukuyama and Huntington was developed by Benjamin Barber in his article and later book of the same name, Jihad vs. McWorld.
Jihad vs. McWorld addresses the various flaws and highlights of each world order theory. In particular, Barber describes the McWorld order (which aligns most closely with Fukuyama’s triumph of liberalism theory) as a secular and universal transformation of the world. Barber describes the Jihad order (which aligns most closely with Huntington’s civilizational clash theory) as rooted in tribalism and religious fundamentalism, specifically Islamic fundamentalism. Though Barber concludes his own discussion in a rather negative manner – he proposes that neither Jihad nor McWorld lends itself toward promotion of democracy – his comparison of these two notable political theories has generated acknowledgment of the polarized paths competing to control our world’s future.
To the credit of Fukuyama, there is no doubting that the spread and acceptance of liberalism across the globe would result in many desirable outcomes. The liberalist idea behind globalization of markets and resources, the first two imperatives of McWorld, not only considers the economic benefits, but also the political benefits. “Every nation, it turns out, needs something another nation has; some nations have almost nothing they need.” (Barber. 1992.) Indeed, two billion people have been lifted from poverty since 1990, in no small part due to increasing economic interdependence (Packer. 2012a.) Trade partners have inherently created a state of mutual insufficiency, which has “reinforced the quest for international peace and stability, requisites of an efficient international economy.” (Barber. 1992.) However, the nature of international markets demands a commonality of many things – ideals, priorities, language, willingness to trade – and perhaps a depletion of the cultural ideals many hold dear in favor of making globalization easier. The sacrifice of culture and also the adoption of new culture are directly opposed to the protection and promotion of identity which makes up the basis for the Jihad order.
The “Information-Technology Imperative” of the McWorld order focuses on the inter-state openness necessary to facilitate scientific and commercial progress. The speed by which anyone in the world can access information about anyone else in the world is incredible and perhaps alarming to more closed societies. This accessibility of information lends itself very well toward the global popularization and integration of western culture, which has dominated industries such as entertainment and media. “This kind of software supremacy may in the long term be far more important than hardware superiority, because culture has become more potent than armaments.” (Barber. 1992.) The irony of this statement is that Jihad desires to retain culture and values and rejects a universal culture forced upon others, but the driving force and indeed strength of the Jihad view is in the potency of culture over tangible status indicators such as armaments.
If one truth is clear at this point in time, it is this: the world will continue to feel the pain and hatred proliferated by the clash of these polar world orders until one force dominates the other. Holding all else constant, the sheer influence of western civilization on the rest of the world will lead to the emergence of the spread of western liberalism as the victorious order. Consider the tangible promises it makes and the level to which it has already progressed – growth of impoverished nations through free trade, support of international law through institutions and global organizations, et cetera – and there is almost no doubt that, if choosing between these two theories, Fukuyama’s “end of history” seems to be the likely winner. That is not to say that Jihad will become obsolete. The world will continue to see ethno-political conflict as long as ethnicity and religion exists, but the increasing democratization of states will lead to a lessening of this conflict over time.
No matter the outcome of the battle between Jihad and McWorld or Fukuyama and Huntington, one thing is certain: there will always be conflict among humans. It is our nature to compete with each other because we have the ability to formulate opinions and beliefs. However, this competition of beliefs can sometimes be misperceived as invasive and aggressive, when the “aggressor” is only trying to share with the other ideas which it believes will be beneficial to all of mankind. “Statesmen… often fail to appreciate others’ perspectives, and so greatly underestimate the extent to which their actions can be seen as threats.” (Jervis. 1988. 374) Unfortunately, humankind’s failure to appreciate others’ opinions and beliefs will continue to fuel the fires which produce a cloud of smoke between civilizations of the world.

Barber, Benjamin R. 1992. “Jihad vs. McWorld.” Atlantic Magazine, March. Packer, Robert B. 2012. “Optimism v Pessimism in International Politics.”
Huntington, Samuel P. 1993. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, Summer.
Huntington, Samuel P. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Simon and Schuster.
Mankoff, Jeffrey. 2009. Russian Foreign Policy: The Return of Great Power Politics. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Jervis, Robert. 1988. Classical Readings of International Relations: War and Misperception. Wadsworth Publishing Company.

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