Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 4/1998

About this issue

A world without war, without oppression and free of want appears utopian to many. Nevertheless, in the world's privileged countries peace, human rights and mass prosperity are a reality (the New Poor notwithstanding). It is the need to protect these achievements against dangers old and new which is at the hub of the security debate in the rich democracies bordering the Atlantic and the Pacific; and this debate has gone much beyond the menace of external enemies. Military strength - based on a country's own arsenal and the support of its allies - may still be an important consideration so long as war must be reckoned with as a last resort in the settlement of international conflicts. But military superiority can guarantee neither invulnerability (and those spoilt by peace and prosperity have a good deal to lose) nor a peaceable disposition on the part of potential enemies, not to mention non-military threats. Even a military-minded security policy needs to aim at an international order in which war no longer has a part in the players' thinking. Ernst-Otto Czempiel, a doyen of German peace research, presents in this issue an architecture for such an order in Europe.

An "order of peace" is not about resolving specific conflicts but about eliminating the structural causes of war. They includes the security dilemma inherent in the anarchic world of states and they include gross asymmetries in countries' international status. How conflict-prone they are in the existing "world order" is shown, for example, in the spread of nuclear weapons. The article by the Indian journalist C. Raja Mohan describes how India - a tolerably functioning democracy, not exactly a "rogue state" - was induced by its security and status problems to join the nuclear club. Mohan's arguments are echoed in the appeal by former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner for a staged denuclearisation of all weapons arsenals. Here, too, the central importance of structures to promote co-operation and reduce insecurity is revealed.

Our "debate" on the universality of human rights also highlights the asymmetries discussed by Czempiel. Whether everyone is entitled to the rights which were proclaimed by the United Nations fifty years ago, is not a matter for dissent among the various representatives of different cultures. But the question of how these rights are to be asserted points at two crucial conditions: the participation of all people in the material prosperity the world can provide, and the participation of nations and their states in what Czempiel calls the "social potential" of modernity. Will the normative force of the UN declaration be enough not only to demand (from others) respect for human rights, but also to counteract to their ongoing neglect?

Goodwill and enlightened thinking in structures that are conducive to peace have a precarious foothold in a world in which rivalries, strategic advantages and disadvantages define political reality. The obligation to think in the zero-sum categories of a chess or poker game seems particularly irresistible when significant shifts in the constellations of international power are impending. And when new and unapportioned plunder comes into view, such as the oil beneath the Caspian Sea, the architects of World Order must perforce leave the field to the geopolitical strategists. The new "Great Game", whose dimensions and parameters Rainer Freitag-Wirminghaus lays out before us in his contribution, certainly holds a fascination; but this should not blind us to the victims that "games" of this sort can produce. The "dark side" of the geopolitical renaissance is already evident in the Congo.

The articles by Franz Waldenberger and Michael Ehrke on the economic crisis in Japan can be read as a postscript to the focus on East Asia in our 2/1998 issue. The subject here is the altered conditions of continued prosperity in one of the richest countries in the world. However, there are greater things at stake in Japan: the ability of the world capitalist system to provide a sound framework for the global economic development without which lasting peace and lasting security - for the strong and the weak, rich and poor alike - is barely conceivable.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition bb&ola | November 1998