In the grip of millennial anxiety, many people are having visions of the four horsemen, or computer glitches that could spell the end of the world. However, political events of the 1990's may be the true harbinger of disaster in the 21st Century. Recent incidents like the unilateral US-NATO involvement in Kosovo, have exposed us to the specter of a new world order with very little unity or direction. The US in particular has failed in the decade after the Cold War to use its position of dominance to bring stability to the world. Their foreign policy has been marked by a vaguely idyllic and poorly thought out philosophy which reads something like this:
The us will make every attempt possible to make the world a better place as long as it is in our best interest to do so and/ or is an opportunity to give us more control and influence in the world and/or test new weaponry. Europe and the rest of the world will do as we say because we will hurt them economically and/or physically if they do not. This policy is made with the sound knowledge that our morality is relevant and acceptable to all peoples of the world, in all circumstances and is based on the underlying principle of 'might makes right.'
The incident in Kosovo demonstrated the probable future stance of the us and NATO in world affairs. Circumventing the authority of the United Nations Security Council, they brazenly ignored direct opposition from Russia and China, deciding that the issue was only of concern to Western Europe. In the end it is still highly questionable whether or not the NATO plan was even successful. Even with the initial confrontation over and the occupation just begun there are still several questions that remain. What is the objective of the allies? What is the exit strategy? Are they going to stay in Kosovo until Milosevic is ousted? Are they going to stay until there is peace? If that is the plan, you had better get comfortable my friend because it could take a while.
One thing we certainly did achieve, and I don't believe it was by accident, was the complete alienation of Russia from the international political scene. This was America's opportunity to show Russia that they are no longer a super power and that their opinion is now of no consequence. Ten years ago the us would not have dreamed of such a direct rebuke of Russian opinion, but now they are openly declaring the impotence of Russia in world affairs. Only time will tell the impact this will have; hopefully they haven't spoken too soon.
Isn't it funny how history repeats itself? Way back in the twenties and thirties a little supranational organization called the League of Nations could never find consensus amongst its most important members and was criticized by many as being slow to act and quite cumbersome. Several members began to feel alienated from the decision-making process and others even began to ignore the League altogether and take matters into their own hands. Sadly, in the end, this contributed to the start of the most brutal warfare the world has ever seen.
Of course today's situation is different. The US is no longer in isolation, but is a domineering member of a European military alliance. Furthermore, instead of only disillusioning three disparate nations, such as Japan, Italy and Germany, the West is actively alienating Russia, China, parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa. We can hardly be comforted by these differences. It seems that only time will tell whether the new world order will manage to bring the peace and stability we all hope for.