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The Gulf War and Bush’s formulation

Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 0 Comments

The Gulf War and Bush’s Formulation

Bush started to take the initiative from Gorbachev during the run-up to the Gulf War, when he began to define the elements of the new world order as he saw it, and link the new order’s success to the international community’s response in Kuwait. Initial agreement by the Soviets to allow action against Saddam highlighted this linkage in the press. The Washington Post declared that this superpower cooperation demonstrates that the Soviet Union has joined the international community, and that in the new world order Saddam faces not just the US but the international community itself. A New York Times editorial was the first to assert that at stake in the collective response to Saddam was “nothing less than the new world order which [Bush] and other leaders struggle to shape In A World Transformed, Scowcroft notes that Bush even offered to have Soviet troops amongst the coalition forces liberating Kuwait. Bush places the fate of the new world order on the ability of the US and the Soviet Union to respond to Hussein’s aggression. The idea that the Gulf War would usher in the new world order began to take shape. Bush notes that the “premise [was] that the United States henceforth would be obligated to lead the world community to an unprecedented degree, as demonstrated by the Iraqi crisis, and that we should attempt to pursue our national interest, wherever possible, within a framework of concert with our friends and the international community”.

The Malta Conference

The Malta Conference

The Malta Conference on 2-3 December 1989 reinvigorated discussion of the new world order. Various new concepts arose in the press as elements of the new order. Commentators expected the replacement of containment with superpower cooperation. This cooperation might then tackle problems such as reducing armaments and troop deployments, settling regional disputes, stimulating economic growth, lessening East-West trade restrictions, the inclusion of the Soviets in international economic institutions, and protecting the environment. Pursuant to superpower cooperation, a new role for NATO was forecast, with the organization perhaps changing into a forum for negotiation and treaty verification, or even a wholesale dissolution of NATO and the Warsaw Pact following the resurrection of the four-power framework from WWII (i.e. the US United Kingdom, France, and Russia). However, continued US military presence in Europe was expected to help contain “historic antagonisms”, thus making possible a new European order. In Europe, German reunification was seen as part of the new order. However, Strobe Talbott saw it as more of a brake on the new era, and believed Malta to be a holding action on part of the superpowers designed to forestall the “new world order” because of the German question. Political change in Eastern Europe also arose on the agenda. The Eastern Europeans believed that the new world order didn’t signify superpower leadership, but that superpower dominance was coming to an end In general, observes that the new world order would be based on the principles of political liberty, self-determination, and non-intervention. This would mean an end to the sponsoring of military conflicts in third countries, restrictions on global arms sales, and greater engagement in the Middle East (especially regarding Syria, Palestine, and Israel). The US might use this opportunity to more emphatically promote human rights in China and South Africa Economically, debt relief was expected to be a significant issue, as East-West competition would give way to North-South cooperation. Economic tripolarity would arise, with the US, Germany, and Japan as the three motors of world growth. Meanwhile, the Soviet social and economic crisis was manifestly going to limit its ability to project power abroad, thus necessitating continued US leadership.

Commentators assessing the results of the Conference, and how the pronouncements measured up to expectations, were underwhelmed. Bush was criticized for taking refuge behind notions of “status quo-plus” rather than a full commitment to new world order. Others noted that Bush thus far failed to satisfy the out-of-control “soaring expectations” that Gorbachev’s speech unleashed.

Historical Usage of New World Order

Historical Usage

The phrase “new world order” was first explicitly used in connection with Woodrow Wilson’s designs in the period just after World War I, during the formation of the League of Nations. The “war to end all wars” had been a powerful catalyst in international politics, and many felt the world could simply no longer operate as it once had. The First World War had been justified not only in terms of US national interest but in moral terms—to “make the world safe for democracy.” After the war, Wilson argued for a new world order which transcended traditional great power politics, instead emphasizing collective security, democracy, and self-determination. However, the United States Senate rejected membership of the League of Nations, which Wilson believed to be the key to a new world order. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge argued that American policy should be based on human nature “as it is, not as it ought to be.”

Roosevelt and Churchill during the meeting that would result in the Atlantic Charter, precursor the Bretton Woods system.

The term fell from use when it became clear the League was not living up to the over-optimistic expectation, and as a consequence was used very little during the formation of the United Nations. Former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim felt that this new world order was a projection of the American dream into Europe, and that, in its naïveté, the idea of a new order had been used to further the parochial interests of Lloyd George and Clemenceau, thus ensuring the League’s eventual failure. Although some have claimed the phrase was not used at all, Virginia Gildersleeve, the sole female delegate to the San Francisco Conference in April 1945.

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