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After the Cold War: The North/South Divide

Introduction by Randall Forsberg


This is the third Boston Review roundtable on security in the post-Cold War world. It starts with the same broad question posed earlier: "Is a more cooperative international approach to security feasible and desirable in the wake of the Cold War?" The first roundtable (May 1992) looked at the impact of increased reliance on multilateral peacekeeping for US defense cuts and conversion, while the second roundtable (November 1992) focused on the feasibility of increased great power collaboration under UN auspices to strengthen multilateral peacekeeping and peacemaking.

This roundtable explores North/South differences on security matters. Will a stronger UN peacekeeping capability represent great power hegemony in multilateral rather than unilateral or bipolar form? What steps might be taken to avert this danger?

The five participants in this roundtable bring vastly different perspectives and experience to these questions. Jagat Mehta, former Indian Foreign Secretary and ambassador, surveys the impact of the Cold War on our expectations about international relations before turning to the question of how to extricate ourselves from "mindsets conditioned by four decades of folly." His cooperative security proposals involve domestic and foreign policy changes in both developed and developing nations.

Olara Otunnu, who heads the premier international center for the study of multilateral peacekeeping and peacemaking, the International Peace Academy, focuses on ways to strengthen the effectiveness and fairness of international institutions. Like Mehta, Otunnu sees the global spread of democratic values and human rights as one positive trend which may help address growing internal strife and ethnic conflict.

Eqbal Ahmad, a writer and scholar, looks at the great power interests that twist multilateral action, or inaction, to partisan effect. Ahmad makes a case that cultural and ethnic bias are not only riving individual nations in new ways, but also cleaving the international system in old ways.

Where Ahmad despairs of consistent, constructive action by great-power dominated multilateral institutions, Alan Henrikson proffers the quintessential such institution, the Group of Seven summit talks, as a forum less US-dominated than the UN Security Council and thus potentially better able to serve as the nucleus of an effective, moderately cooperative security system.

Finally, responding to the first four contributors, I compare their proposals with the key suggestions put forward in the previous roundtable. My references to the earlier discussion are meant to help build a web of national and international interaction that can serve as a foundation for a continuing dialogue, with cumulative effect. Over time, past and future participants in the dialogue should be able to develop a stronger conceptual architecture for cooperative security; and, in the best of all possible worlds, find the energy needed to translate ideas into action.


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Originally published in the June-August 1993 issue of Boston Review



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