This decade's closing in three short weeks gives occaision to reflect upon it as well that which is about to open. In honor of this arbitrariness, One World, Many Peaces will run a four-part weekly series on Thursdays, "The Decade in Review," to offer provocative closing and opening thoughts.
Among the few certainties of 2000-2009 is, as last month's commemorative events of 1989 make clear, that the world is finally yet still slowly shifting away from the Cold War/ Superpower paradigm that was artificially sustained by the Bush regime under the banner of the "New World Order."
The U.S. still has some 800 bases and 1 million troops around the world, but these may be more to protect what's left of the American Empire than feasibly extending it further, as compellingly argued by Chalmers Johnson in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. So where are we heading?
Actually, the directions the tides of history are pushing us towards are not without precedent. From an imperial oligarchy in the 19th century, to a bipolarity in the 20th, to an imagined monopoly in the very early 21st, the rest of our century is likely to take up a form that has survived the lat two.
Not NATO, the militarism of which purportedly precludes it (or should) from playing a major role in non-military world affairs. Nor the U.N., which has been beaten into impotence by the U.S., the Security Council and its own structural flaws, namely a debilitating dependence on the sovereignty and dues of its members coupled with the lack of enforceable international law.
Rather, as I show in Peace: A World History and have proposed several times here, the Non-alligned Movement offers the best (and perhaps only workable) model for how states with different political, religious, cultural and other systems can build on common interests to achieve shared objectives.
The term "multipolarity" (as in Dilip Hiro's forthcoming After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World) has sometimes been used to describe the post-Cold War world, meaning that power is sufficiently dispersed around the globe to have superseeded the bipolarity of the previous period. I would argue that the symbolic gestures which have confirmed the underlying actualities were only put on global display when President Obama visited China and hosted the Indian premier just days ago.
The import of such signs is that they bear meanings which their bearers can only partially control. So in denying what top experts predicted soon after the Cold War (unquestioned and unending American dominance), and confirming what their opponents had been saying all along (that American dominance is already imploding), a new paradigm based on current events is shaping the future. Call it multipolarity, "One World, Many Peaces," or just a world in which we have to learn to work with each other as we are before becoming something else together.