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New world order not so new

By Osman Softic - posted Thursday, 27 April 2006

As we all know, the world in which we were born and which we knew, until only a decade and a half ago, was the world primarily dominated by the ideological divide between the free, democratic and capitalist West (led by the US and its allies) on one side and the totalitarian, despotic East (led by the former USSR) on the other.

We now know the final outcome of this half-a-century old “monumental struggle”. Communist totalitarianism has long been defeated and the free and democratic world triumphed spectacularly without any major armed conflict erupting between the two former super powers. Yes, there were a large number of regional and local conflicts - some would like to call them proxy wars - but direct confrontation was avoided. We were then promised a “new world order”, a world unified by our common liberal democratic freedoms - free market and economic prosperity and, indeed, inter-state co-operation.

Some prominent western thinkers and scholars of international relations have used this moment to pronounce their futuristic but conflicting paradigms of the world order. Well renowned American Professor Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the “end of history”. Borrowing from and commenting upon the earlier philosophical works on the Hegelian philosophy (as it was interpreted by the French philosopher and EU bureaucrat Alexander Kojeve) Fukuyama concluded in his book End of History and the Last Man that the world had reached its ideological end. Fukuyama claimed that liberal democracy was the final achievement of the human struggle proclaiming that humanity had reached its ideological end point.


According to Professor Fukuyama’s view, there will no longer be wars among nations once every country has adapted the same liberal principles and concepts. Simply, there will be no need for wars and armed confrontation, as all conflicts and differences will be resolved peacefully in dialogue and by way of diplomacy. This is, of course, a simplified view based on the assumption that liberal democracies do not fight each other.

As much as I admire Fukuyama’s work, this seems to be yet another utopian projection of an idealistic future - the future that we would all want, but reality is pointing in the opposite direction.

Professor Fukuyama did rightly predict the prevailing economic and political global trend that is taking place around the world (i.e. more countries are becoming democratic and they are also adopting the economic principles of free market, which its anti-globalisation critics call “neo-liberalism”). However, this does not mean that armed conflict has been eliminated. In fact, we could say the contrary is true.

It is also noticeable that some countries are reverting back to authoritarianism after they initially embraced democracy, Russia being a case in point. There are still authoritarian regimes that are refusing to surrender power and control to their own people: that is to the forces of democracy, liberty and human rights.

We are all aware of the misery and fear in which millions of people still live today. Consider Cuba, Zimbabwe, and North Korea as well as the vast majority of the Arab countries, including Iran, as a non-Arab Islamic theocracy where movements calling for democracy and reform are being suppressed as we speak.

Another prominent scholar, and indeed one of the foremost American political scientists, Professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard University, became famous worldwide as he launched his own “grand thesis”. Professor Huntington claimed the opposite would be the case.


In his famous work Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, this senior intellectual authority claimed that conflicts among nations would not end as we witnessed the demise of the dissolution of Soviet communism. Huntington suggested that rather what will happen is that the basic nature of conflicts will change. He concluded that the future conflicts would no longer be ideological but rather cultural and civilisational in nature. Professor Huntington predicted the division of the world into seven different civilisations that, according to his view, will inevitably clash in the future.

Huntington identified the world of Islam as a major challenge to the established world order. He also claimed that Islam has “bloody borders”. Huntington mentioned the war in Bosnia in the context of a beginning of a clash of civilisations. Apart from “rising China”, Huntington contended, the world of Islam represents the major threat to peace and stability and the continuing prosperity and global dominating position of the world by the western civilisation led by the United States.

An equally important strategic scholar, Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski, provided analysis and suggested guidelines as to how this pre-eminent position of the West can be preserved. In his famous book titled The Grand Chess Board, American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, Professor Brzezinski concluded that world domination would belong to those powers that manage to successfully dominate and control the so called “world island”. By “world island” he meant the Euro-Asian land-mass, which contains the largest number of people and material resources.

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About the Author

Osman Softic is a Research Fellow at the Islamic Renaissance Front. He holds a BA degree in Islamic Studies from the Faculty of Islamic Studies of the University of Sarajevo and has a Masters degree in International Relations from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He contributed commentaries on Middle Eastern and Islamic Affairs for the web portal Al Jazeera Balkans, On Line Opinion, Engage and Open Democracy. Osman holds dual Bosnian and Australian citizenship.

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