1990s >> 1994 >> no-1073-january-1994

New World disorder

New Worlders have pointed to
 developments in the Middle
 East and South Africa as
 examples of a more stable and
 democratic world, but 30
 nations remain in the throes of
 war, and many more conflicts 
are threatening to erupt, as
 John Bissett reports.


At present, 30 nations are in the throes of war and experts have pointed to a further 15 potential flashpoints, from Cuba to North Korea. Where, then, is the New World Order we were promised three years ago when the Berlin Wall crumbled and “Communism” was extinguished in eastern Europe?


President Bush believed the collapse of “Communism” (ie, the Russian state capitalist bloc) would make the world a safer place. Capitalism could step in and fill the political and economic vacuum and the world would look to the US as a mentor, for guidance towards democracy and stability. Money previously spent on arms would be used for social programmes such as health and education. Confidence and security would prevail. Or so some thought.


Such a notion of the New World Order is a fraud and only a new World Order in the sense of a change in power relationships among the mighty.
New Worlders have pointed to developments in the Middle East and South Africa as examples of a more stable and democratic world. Recent steps to create peace and democracy in the Middle East and South Africa, however, are hardly examples of a new international trend. The end of the Cold War simply meant that Israel could no longer bully its neighbours, safe in the knowledge that the US was watching from the sidelines like the proverbial big brother. Neither could the PLO and its allies count on Soviet support. A similar situation had existed in South Africa with Soviet satellites backing and ANC and South African Communist Party and sponsoring the “frontline states” in their war of attrition with the apartheid machine. The absence of superpower support, more than any other factor, has forced old enemies to the negotiating table.


The end of the Cold War, far from bringing the prospect of peace to the Middle East, has brought the continuing threat of catastrophe. For the end of the Cold War made possible the Gulf War. which in turn resulted in the regeneration of arms stockpiling.


The Independent on Sunday (14 November) reported that “current sales of weapons to the Middle East mainly the Arab Gulf Stales — are running at $415 million a day”. When the Gulf War ended the US received S28 billions worth of arms contracts from Gulf States. This year alone Kuwait is buying 236 US MIA2 Abrams tanks, and the United Arab Emirates is buying $3.5 billions worth of Leclerc tanks. In January this year, John Major clinched the “A1 Yamanah 2” arms deal, providing the Saudis with 48 Tornado aircraft. This was followed by a deal with Oman for 48 Challenger tanks.


Unstable as ever
If anything, the Middle East is as volatile now as it ever was during the Cold War years, with no superpowers forcing a stalemate and with the globo-cops unsure what side to take should the “Warriors of Allah”, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites, rekindle old hatreds.


Since the Cold War ended, 18 new countries, some with a nuclear capacity, have been added to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’s annual assessment The Military Balance. The New World Disorder is a global phenomenon that has left all but a few nations unscathed. In Russia, the rise of the autocrat Boris Yeltsin and the new privation and austerity facing the people of the former Soviet Union is as much the fault of the West as the “Communists” who bequeathed the political and economic void.


Much was promised the Russian people by Western capitalists. Investment would pour into the former Soviet Union and businesses would be falling over one another to establish new markets there – or so the projection ran. Sums of money have indeed been given or lent to the old Soviet Union, but in such tiny amounts (a mere fraction of what was originally promised) that their effectiveness has been greatly limited. And when one considers that they were given on condition the old state capitalist bureaucrats adhered to Western economic approaches — clearly failing in capitalist nations  — the reason for the Russian mess becomes more clear.


The “New World Order” promises little to fledgling nations striving to survive in today’s hostile capitalist climate, and even less for those nations that thought the new order would bring peace and financial stability. The Cold War at least offered something of a global insurance policy against catastrophe. It was a system that prevented regional wars from getting out of hand. And though most of us were scared silly at the idea of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers, the closest we ever really came to Armageddon was at the time of the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis.


During the Cold War. the superpowers at least had a token respect for each others’ spheres of influences, but Western capitalism still harboured a desire to make the world its market.


Reagan stepped up the arms race in the 1980s in the full knowledge that this would cripple the Soviet economy. No sooner would Russian leaders attempt to redirect their state capitalist economy towards the manufacture of more consumer goods than the demands of the arms race rechannelled spending in the direction of military production.


The victory in the Cold War was what the US wanted and what they got. Now they have deprived themselves of their global role as standard bearers of capitalism. The end of “Communism” has meant the end of the US justification for global leadership. This was forecast by Georgy Arbatov in his office at Moscow’s old US and Canada Institute back in 1986:


“We are going to do the worst thing we can to America we are going to take away their enemy”.


The collapse of “Communism” certainly has harmed the US arms industry, even if it can boast huge profits. In 1982 the Pentagon listed 118,000 US firms providing products to the Defence Department. Since the Berlin Wall came down this had dropped to 36,000.


New enemies please
Martin Walker writing in the Guardian (27 July 1992), described the New World Order as a “phrase looking around vaguely for a policy”. Now the old enemies have left the international stage, the US is confused, unsure of its role, and of how to confront the problems of the current world malaise. There are new problems now, with new dimensions. New conflicts could escalate overnight with outside interference. In the old Yugoslavia and former Soviet Union, for instance, nationalism is taking a form few in the West could have prophesied in 1989.


Part of the US frustration regarding its role in the New World Order is a result of its relationship with the UN and commitment to UN peacekeeping forces. Washington is basically unwilling to place its forces under non-US UN command. Chapter VII of the UN Charter stipulates that the use of force should be controlled by a military committee made up from the five permanent members of the Security Council all with the right to veto decisions. One US diplomat summed up the US attitude succinctly: “Can you imagine our guys being told how to fight by a Chinese General” (New Internationalist, October 1992).


Neither is the US in a hurry to contribute its share of finances towards UN peacekeeping missions. At present the US is in debt to the UN for $1 billion an assessment based on a formula that reflects UN members’ wealth and size. If the end of the Cold War has given the US a headache, it is giving the UN a huge migraine. In 1987, peacekeeping missions cost the UN a mere S364 million. The figure for 1992/3 is estimated at $36,200 million. The UN is currently so short of funds that it can only foresee financing missions for several more months.


Rather than send US troops to Bosnia under some foreign UN general, which might increase the US UN contributions. President Clinton believes a lot of bother would be saved if the Bosnians were armed and the Serbs bombed. When the US led UN peacekeeping forces found themselves at loggerheads with Haiti’s upstarts, Clinton offered the 8,000 strong Haitian army a $50 million bribe to restore democracy and save the US further embarrassment on the international stage.


Intellectual laxatives
The US and the UN (the terms are interchangeable) seem to be going nowhere fast, having been frustrated in Somalia, Bosnia, Cambodia and Haiti. Their peacekeepers kill, their financial advisers spread economic havoc and their think tanks are desperate for intellectual laxatives. We are left with an image of an organization lacking all credibility. Any pretensions the UN had of being an agent for world peace were shattered in the wake of the Gulf War when the Security Council ruled that food and medical supplies to Iraq be intercepted, in direct contravention of the Geneva convention and the UN Charter itself.


In today’s international climate, countries that can pay their way can expect US friendship and support. Those who are becoming a burden to the West are having to solve their own problems. The US is neither prepared to spend the money or sacrifice the lives that the direct confrontation of problems might demand — look, for instance, at Bosnia.


Just as the US and the UN are lapsing into global incompetence, so too is the World Bank that profit seeking organization that milks the “Third World” under the guise of humanitarian economic aid.


In 1991, Mexico went all out and serviced $16 billions worth of old international debt. The same year, the World Bank lent $16.4 billion to struggling nations, 37.5 percent of which went on projects deemed a failure by the World Bank’s own staff.


At present “Third World” debt is running at 1.3 trillion dollars. African nations are now taking out new loans just to service the interest off old debts, so health and education programmes are sliding down the list of government priorities. This year. World Bank projects have been responsible for the displacement of 2,153,000 people on three continents. This figure is nothing compared to those displaced as a direct result of the end of the Cold War. In 1972, the world had 2.5 million refugees. At December 1992 this figure stood at 19 million.


Most generous


Ironically, the most generous host countries are proving to be the most impoverished (ranked according to ratio of GNP per capita): Malawi. Pakistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Algeria. Malawi, with a population of only eight million, is presently caring for one million refugees. Meanwhile, the US coastguard is intercepting flotillas of Haitian refugees off the Florida coast.


So much, then, for Bush’s “New World Order”. But there again, few of us were fooled in the first place. There was, however, one person who swallowed the idea hook, line and sinker, who can remarkably still regurgitate it. The newly-inaugurated Clinton said at the beginning of 1993, that his job was to “develop an approach . . . to the post Cold War World that is a good place for freedom and democracy and market reforms.” (Guardian, 15 January).

John Bissett