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About this book

An ambitious and engaging narrative survey that charts the history of the world from a political perspective, from 1937 to the post-9/11 era. Providing a wide-ranging assessment of global interactions in peace and war since World War II, Robbins connects the crises, conflicts and accommodations that have brought us to the still-troubled present.

Table of Contents

Towards 1945: Ending World War, Building Peace

Frontmatter

1. Struggles for Mastery

Abstract
In early May 1945, in ceremonies in the French city of Rheims, and then in Berlin, German forces surrendered. Churchill declared 8 May VE (Victory in Europe) Day. It was a day of celebration in a continent of widespread devastation. It was difficult to recall what ‘old Europe’ had been like when, in September 1939, a small number of large Western and Central European states had gone to war with each other. The ripples and repercussions from the German invasion of Poland that month had spread far and wide. It happened twenty years after what had been the bloodiest war in European history. The war that was now finishing exceeded it in bloodiness. The notion that Europeans would never fight another major war with each other had been shown to be false. Their renewed conflict, however, drew in peoples, subordinate peoples, from across the world whose direct knowledge of Europe was hazy. They had had no option but to fight. The reach of Europe was still worldwide and the war became ‘their’ war, though an inherently ambiguous one. The world map of 1939 showed British, French, Dutch and Italian ‘possessions’ in Africa, Asia and ‘the Middle East’ the product of conquests made over centuries or decades. ‘Empires’ were an ‘established fact’. They expressed power, European power. The world map of 1945 might superficially appear to be returning to ‘normal’. The reality was very different. Ruined urban landscapes and fields without crops suggested that ‘recovery’ would be a long process. The British king, George VI, broadcasting on Christmas Day 1945, acknowledged that young people had only known the world as one of strife and fear. It was time to make it one of ‘joyous adventure’.
Keith Robbins

2. Policemen Meeting

Abstract
In October 1943, in Moscow, Allied foreign ministers decided, amongst other matters, to establish the European Advisory Council, a forum in which the USA, the Soviet Union and the UK could consult on the future of Europe. No other continent was deemed to require an ‘Advisory Council’. A conference communiqué emerged on behalf of ‘the Big Four’ (though China, ‘the Fourth’, had not played a part in drafting it). It was agreed that the ‘Big Three’ should meet in Iran in late November 1943. The locations of these meetings, and who was present, revealed the way the world’s wind was blowing. Roosevelt did not come to London. Stalin did not come to ‘the West’. The next ‘away’ location for Roosevelt and Churchill was Cairo in November 1943.
Keith Robbins

3. Outcomes and Anticipations

Abstract
Coming out of war, the future of Europe was obscure. There was no one to ‘speak for Europe’ or who could put forward a ‘continental perspective’. The British and the Russians might both, perhaps, be judged to be Europeans, but they were rather peculiar ones. Europe was not going to ‘arise’ in any spontaneous sense. It was going to be ‘liberated’ from both west and east. Military reality in the present therefore shaped the future. In October 1944, in Moscow, Churchill and Stalin openly discussed ‘spheres of influence’. In Poland, Romania and Bulgaria and also Hungary, the Soviet influence was to predominate. Italy and Greece would go the other way. It looked like, and in large measure was, an ‘old-fashioned’ carve-up of the continent. Such arrangements were difficult to square with the language about liberty and democracy to be found in the ‘Declaration on Liberated Europe’ made when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin subsequently met at Yalta in the Crimea in February 1945. What was precisely entailed by ‘predominance’ was soon a matter of disagreement. Both the behaviour of the British in Greece, in backing the royal government against Communists, and of the Soviet Union in Poland, in rounding up Home Army fighters, evoked criticism from the ‘other side’.
Keith Robbins

1945–1955: Making a Cold Peace

Frontmatter

4. European Alternatives

Abstract
It was in Europe that the apparent division of a world growing out of war was most obviously evident. The speculation about the continent’s capacity to recover, evident in the latter part of the war, continued. Its condition seemed parlous and its erstwhile global eminence precarious at best. No state in 1945 could ‘speak for Europe’ at the new UN. Some supposed that a continent — perhaps it was a civilization — had finally destroyed itself. The second struggle for mastery in Europe had perhaps fatally undermined the supremacy, indirectly or directly, which the continent collectively had exercised in and over other continents. The Europe of 1945 seemed to the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to be ‘a rubble heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground of pestilence and hate’. In wartime New York the exiled French Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain had counselled against slick solutions. The world was too sick for its sickness to be easily cured. He wrote against the ‘anarchic individualism’ which he believed to have ruined the vital principle of democracy. The democracies had not only to triumph over Hitler but also over their own self-contradictions in the social and spiritual realms. It was a stance which he and others pursued in France, the Low Countries and in circles beyond the confines of ‘Catholic Europe’. Such anxieties seemed well founded. ‘Western democracy’ needed safeguarding.
Keith Robbins

5. The United Nations and The United States

Abstract
If the world needed a new start, it needed a new world body. To this end, representatives of 50 states, 45 of whom had signed the UN Declaration of January 1942, met in San Francisco from 25 April to 26 June 1945 to determine the ‘International Organization’ of the future. They drew together earlier proposals and sought to resolve contentious points. ‘The world’ had never before been considered so comprehensively. The ‘United Nations’ was obviously the successor to the ‘League of Nations’, but that lineage required careful handling. The League had ‘failed’, however that failure was explained. Simply to replicate the League, therefore, would carry the stigma of past failure. The wartime discussion, as we have seen, therefore emphasized ‘realism’. The Great Powers could not be wished away. The new Security Council (China, France, the UK, USA and USSR, plus six temporary members) recognized that fact. These were apparently the only states that really mattered. When an issue was before the Security Council, the General Assembly could not also consider it. Ideally, the permanent members would be in accord, but the veto each possessed recognized that this could not be guaranteed. It was ‘realism’ to accept that the world could not be ‘policed’ in the teeth of opposition from a Great Power, though it was realized that constant use of the veto might render the Security Council ineffective. It came to be accepted that abstaining, in relation to a resolution, was different from vetoing it. In the decade up to 1955 the veto was used once by China, twice by France and 75 times by the Soviet Union. Neither the UK nor the USA used it.
Keith Robbins

6. The Middle East

Abstract
On 23 July 1952 Egyptians were told by Cairo radio that Free Officers had taken control of the country. The King was required to abdicate and leave the country permanently. A Revolution Command Council, chaired by a young colonel, Gamal Nasser (b.1918), was going to give the Egyptians a new start. The 1923 Constitution was abolished. A Revolutionary Tribunal was set up to try old-style politicians. By the end of 1953 the monarchy was overthrown. Deep divisions then followed within the army, personified in two men, Neguib and Nasser, as to whether there should be a return to parliamentary government or a radical revolution. The latter outmanoeuvred his rivals, survived an assassination attempt, and took on or dissolved the old parties of Left and Right and the Muslim Brotherhood. A Liberation Rally was promoted as a national movement of revival. He was not anti-Islamic, but his modern Egypt was not to be theocratic. His own The Philosophy of the Revolution (1954) proclaimed an Arab form of Socialism with an Islamic tinge. He spoke to the people in an Arabic that was not superior in tone and vocabulary. Power came steadily into his hands. Here was the first ‘indigenous’ Egyptian to lead the people for two thousand years. Building the new Nile Corniche in Cairo gratifyingly removed the garden of the British Residence in the city. Cairo and Egyptians were going to travel on a new road.
Keith Robbins

7. South Asia

Abstract
‘British India’ was not the story of some short-term ‘mandate’ without historical depth. A sentimental picture of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ under British rule, as imperially presented, no doubt masked exploitation and arrogance, but was nevertheless genuinely held, and beyond the retired ranks of the Indian Civil Service. The end of the largest and most populous empire ‘possessed’ by a European power was a statement about European power or European will (or a combination of the two). It did not, however, arise out of a concerted and coordinated decision in the capitals of Europe to ‘end’ empire. France and the Netherlands would have to live with the ‘signal’ that the British intention gave: European colonial empire, in all its varied manifestations, would have to end everywhere. Its implications for the British could be glimpsed, as in the previous chapter, in the Middle East. That region’s importance had often been seen as ‘safeguarding the route to India’, but it had now to be reinterpreted. There would, in short, no longer be the same kind of passage to India, whether the voyage out was viewed literally or metaphorically. In a different way, the context of the British relationship with the small sheikdoms of the Arabian/Persian Gulf on the one hand, and its position in Aden (both Crown Colony and the Protectorates in the hinterland) on the other, also shifted. In the former, by virtue of nineteenth-century Exclusive Treaties, Britain was the protecting power but the sheikhs carried on their own internal government. Their significance began to change from being, as it were, Indian backwaters to significant small states with ill-defined borders, possibly predatory neighbours, and oil wealth.
Keith Robbins

8. East Asia

Abstract
Zhou Enlai (b.1898) had been a man of the world for a long time when he became Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the new China in 1949. He had come to France in 1920 on what was supposed to be a work-study tour. Already a Marxist, he spent the next four years as an organizer of groups of Chinese students and workers in France and Germany and ferrying some of them through to the Soviet Union for training in the art of revolution. Another young Chinese similarly active was Deng Xiaoping. On his return to China, Zhou found himself navigating the twists and turns of the relationship between the Kuomintang and the Communists in the 1920s and 1930s. It was Communism as perceived by the world of the Comintern which initially guided his path. However, he backed Mao Zedong — who had not been so trained — for the party leadership in the mid-1930s. That support is sometimes seen to have been crucial. After 1937, until the end of the war, he was most often found in Chongqing in a pivotal role handling Communist relations with the Nationalist government there. At the end of the war, too, he was a key figure in the talks which the Americans hoped would produce a negotiated solution avoiding civil war. In 1946, in China, General George Marshall worked hard to this end, but to no avail. Stalin had also lent a hand, concluding a ‘treaty of friendship and alliance’ with Chiang Kai-shek which also brought him territorial concessions. In 1947, judged by their clear superiority in men and materials a Nationalist victory looked probable. However, weakened by corruption, defection and loss of morale, Nationalists lost ground inexorably. Chiang took his government and as much of his army as he could manage to the island of Formosa/Taiwan (it had been returned to China by Japan in 1945). He still proclaimed himself to be the legitimate government of China and still occupied the Chinese seat on the Security Council. He had the support of the USA.
Keith Robbins

1955–1965: To the Brink and Back

Frontmatter

9. Superpowers and Subordinates: The Middle East and Europe

Abstract
The last British troops left their Suez Canal base on 13 June 1956 in accordance with the 1954 British–Egyptian agreement. Within six weeks, however, Suez was once again the point where worlds intersected: Israel, Egypt, the Arab world, Western Europe, the USA, the Soviet Union. The origin, course and conclusion of the crisis revealed much about the mindset and preoccupations of the participants. The youthful Nasser had returned from Bandung feeling that the world was ripe for change. The ‘non-aligned’ world might not, as yet, itself be adequately internally aligned, but it gave him some potential leverage. He gained wisdom from Marshal Tito in discussions on an Adriatic island. He knew something about the balancing act required of those who inhabited the ‘in-between’ world. Both Washington and Moscow wanted friends. The trick was to accept their offers without slipping into subordination. Egypt’s bid for meaningful independence needed to be taken a stage further.
Keith Robbins

10. Cross-Continental Confrontations: Castro, Kennedy, Khrushchev

Abstract
During the 1960s, the world witnessed interlocking crises. They involved the two Superpowers in the persons of a new boy and an old hand: Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. They involved two ‘Young Tigers’, both testing their own ‘New Frontiers’: Fidel Castro and Jack Kennedy. The diplomatic scene shifted, as it had never before, between Havana and Washington, Bonn, Berlin and Moscow. There were experienced but largely impotent bystanders in Paris and London: Charles de Gaulle and Harold Macmillan. This was the way the world now was.
Keith Robbins

11. Africa: Emergences and Emergencies

Abstract
This chapter brings the African continent to prominence. It scarcely needs to be said, however, that it constituted no simple bloc. The routes to a flawed freedom were various. The sections that follow give glimpses of Africa’s indigenous diversity, North South, East, West. Through and beyond the formal departure of European powers, the imprint of Europe remained. There were other transcontinental connections, with both North and South America, and into the Middle East. The interplay of relationships in these years was such that the sections that follow position themselves firmly in specific geographical locations. Emancipating Africa from the ‘European world’ — though there had never been a single European world — occupied centre stage.
Keith Robbins

12. Asian Accommodations

Abstract
Commentators in this decade, impressed by their size, frequently presented China and India as contrasting pathways to an ‘Asian future’, possibly even to the world’s future. India was ‘the world’s largest democracy’, as ‘the West’ understood democracy. Its elections, normally, functioned fairly. The Congress, however dominant as the governing party, did not exercise power as the Communist Party in China exercised power. India was attempting to operate a complex federal system — not without trial and error — whereas China was not prepared to risk it. In these respects and with central government in the hands still of an elite schooled in the political ideas and language of their former colonial masters, New Delhi had a ‘Western’ aspect not possessed by China. The balance between diversity and unity evolved under the British Raj was something which Indian central governments struggled to sustain. China, on the other hand, while it had been subjected to much outside European pressure, had not had a European presence defining its frontiers, map in hand. It was the lesson of the fragility of ‘China’ in the past which lay behind the insistence on a strong state, ruled out ‘federalism’ and produced assertiveness in border regions.
Keith Robbins

1965–1975: Old Patterns and New Permutations

Frontmatter

13. Asian Variations

Abstract
The future of India had undoubted global significance. When Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister, there had been much comment, at home and abroad, on the fact that India was ‘the world’s largest democracy’ (in 1967 the electorate stood at 250 million — with a turnout of 61.3 per cent). If democracy should fail in India it would signal that it had no future in the ‘developing world’. On one occasion Mrs Gandhi publicly said that interpreting India to the outside world was difficult. The outside world, in turn, was not sure whether her elevation was a sign of continuity or the beginning of a new trend. No shorthand depiction of ‘India’, externally or internally, was ever adequate. Indira had been a minister in Shastri’s government at the time of her father’s death. Pushed forward by Congress notables, she defeated Morarji Desai in the subsequent election by roughly two to one. In itself the contest had opened up different Indian worlds.
Keith Robbins

14. Superpowers Challenged

Abstract
In 1965 the epic encounter between the ‘Free world’ and the ‘Communist world’ still seemed the world’s dominant narrative. The difficulty of conducting a global policy was not to be underestimated, even in simple management terms. Distant global lenses were liable to ignore or misinterpret the peculiarities of local circumstances. Vietnam, from the east coast of the USA, was far away, geographically and culturally. Americans thought it scarcely conceivable that a country could voluntarily choose to become Communist. However, regimes in countries threatened by Communism did not necessarily share ‘American values’. In turn, safeguarding ‘freedom’ from Communism might lead the USA down paths at variance with those values. The USA seemed to have an ample supply of self-belief, but it might not be endless. The Soviet Union, for its part, had a self-belief which rested on the certainty that history was moving in an identifiable direction. It was therefore necessary internally to stamp on any ‘revisionism’ which called any elements in the existing system into question. By 1975 the outcome looked straightforward: the USA had lost in South-East Asia and the Soviet Union had ‘won’ in Eastern Europe. A decade earlier, however, American globalism had seemed both manageable and domestically acceptable in order to contain Communism. In March 1965, however, US marines arrived in Da Nang, on the coast of South Vietnam and, a few months later, were deployed routinely in combat.
Keith Robbins

15. Security and Co-operation in Europe

Abstract
The path to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki in July/August 1975 had been winding. Warsaw Pact countries meeting in Romania in 1966 had proposed a general conference on European security. The idea had been that all European states should confirm their acceptance of existing boundaries and political systems. The NATO countries did not rush to reply and, when they did, wanted to shift the agenda onto a discussion of force levels. Proposals were batted to and fro. Events in 1968 and after, as discussed in the previous chapter, did not suggest that the time was altogether ripe. Instability in that year, as will shortly be discussed, was not confined to the Soviet bloc. Events in France and the Federal Republic revealed the scale of dissatisfaction with the status quo that existed in some quarters in Western Europe. There was, however, a paradox. In the ‘West’ it was a ‘liberal capitalism’ which was being savaged. In the ‘East’ it was the illiberality of a ‘rigid Communism’ that was being attacked. In country after country across Europe political debate raged. Familiar concepts — Democracy, Communism, Socialism, Class, Culture, Consumerism, Christianity, Secularism, Capitalism, Freedom, Tyranny, Equality — were again fiercely argued over and paired in different ways. There was, however, no regime change. ‘Order’, though different both in substance and structure, was reasserted in Paris and Prague. The questions that had been posed, however, had not disappeared, even in the ‘co-operative’ conference chambers of Helsinki.
Keith Robbins

16. Overlapping Linkages: A Mediterranean World

Abstract
Europe and the Middle East, not to mention Africa and ‘West Asia’, rubbed shoulders in a kind of extended ‘Mediterranean world’, one which in turn stretched through to the Gulf. An Algerian Foreign Minister in the late 1970s urged the world to think of Algerians as a Mediterranean people in an Arab context rather than an Arab people. Alternatively, he might have been prepared to say that Algerians were an Arab people, but in a Mediterranean context. There might often be disagreement about where the emphasis should be placed, but either way there was an underlying reality. Here was a duality, publicly expressed or not. It was also present, if with different elements, in the cities of Tunis, Tripoli, Alexandria and Beirut. Nor were ‘Northern’ Mediterranean people living in Nicosia or Izmir, Athens or Valetta without duality, a duality further complicated in the case of the islands by continuing Commonwealth membership, the substantial continuing presence of the English language and of British people, whether living as residents or visiting as tourists. An example of this ambiguity was Malta. The Oxford-educated Dom Mintoff, once the ardent but unsuccessful advocate of the island’s integration with the UK, returned to office as Prime Minister in 1971. Malta had been independent since 1964 with the British Queen remaining as its head of state. Mintoff now moved in another direction.
Keith Robbins

17. Africa’s Worlds

Abstract
Part of the message Boumedienne delivered from Algeria was that ‘Africa’ should assert itself. It was time, he said, to escape from a world which had been dominated by an East-West framework. Speaking in the UN in 1974 he spoke of millions of men leaving ‘the Southern hemisphere’ to go to ‘the Northern hemisphere’. They would go, he said, not as friends but to conquer it. They would conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women would bring victory. It was not a speech which was well received in the ‘Northern hemisphere’. Yet, despite this belligerence, North African states, whose populations were increasingly concentrated in their Mediterranean littoral cities, dubiously spoke for sub-Saharan Africa which lay at their frontiers. Africa in reality itself had its own distinct spheres. It was difficult to know where Africa began and who spoke for it. Most African states, settling down to their first decade or so of independence, still heavily carried the imprint of their particular former colonial rulers.
Keith Robbins

1975–1989/91: Coming to Conclusions

Frontmatter

18. Europeans: Identifying a Common Home?

Abstract
‘Europe is our common home’ was Mikhail’s Gorbachev’s startling assertion in Paris in February 1986. A ‘European common home’, however, one in which, at its extremities, Dublin and Stavropol all had a place, and knew their place, looked an excessively ambitious notion. If taken seriously, it would be a major shift in perception, both in Europe’s capitals and elsewhere. There were, however, not many grounds for taking it too seriously, at least not yet. The self-identification of Europeans with ‘Europe’ remained uncertain in a continent still teeming with national sensitivities, sometimes trivial, sometimes profound. This chapter brings out the many forms of ‘Europe’ on display. The ‘common home’, as it presently existed, still had many diverse rooms. Straying between them for different purposes, whether economic, military, cultural or political, could be hazardous. Shared accommodation sometimes came at an unacceptable price when national preconceptions and interests were at stake. When they looked at ‘Europe’ on the map, non-Europeans were inclined to give ‘Europe’ a greater coherence than ‘Europeans’ themselves did. They might in the future have a ‘common home’, but in the early 1980s the conflicting ideological standpoints of governments, in London and Paris in particular, made a coherent’world-view’ impossible. Whether, when and how the Soviet Union might ‘fit’ was another matter.
Keith Robbins

19. The Middle East: Putting it to Rights?

Abstract
The USA avowedly proclaimed that it made one out of many. If external leaders did not know the telephone number of ‘Europe’, speaking to ‘America’ was straightforward. There was only one White House, though it was a residence in a city awash with would-be opinion-formers. Few inhabitants of Plains, Georgia, however, worried about the complexities of the world and America’s place in it. In such a community of around 500 people, the ‘outside world’ rarely impinged directly. Peanut farming, for the Carter family, was a difficult enough business. Plains was remote from Washington. Atlanta, the nearest city, was some 120 miles away. Globally, even Stavropol was better known. The conventional wisdom was that world-views that mattered were those formulated by politicians and officials in capital cities. Even so, men in Washington reached the summit of power with preconceptions or presuppositions formed elsewhere ‘in obscurity’. It sometimes turned out that the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ were more connected than one might suppose.
Keith Robbins

20. A Question of Latitude: ‘North’ and ‘South’

Abstract
‘West’ and ‘East’ in the Middle East rarely disappeared from the headlines. Yet there was a concurrent attempt, though in equally bold simplicity, to plot the world. ‘North/South’ terminology became commonplace. In the eyes of many commentators, this, not East/West, was the ‘great divide’. Since its formation in 1965, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in a sequence of conferences, had regularly been pressing the claims of developing countries for a New International Economic Order. Yet, in the presenting of such a case, neither in South America nor in Africa was there a homogenous ‘South’ over against an equally homogenous ‘North’ (North America and Europe). The extent to which the politics and culture of North Africa was ‘Middle Eastern’ needs no further fresh reminder here. ‘South Africa’ did not directly meet ‘North Africa’, rather a series of African North/Souths collided and sometimes conflicted. Any African ‘Southern’ unity against the Northern hemisphere from which it had been colonized, so briefly as it was now beginning to appear, was fragile. Sections of this chapter explore these ambiguities.
Keith Robbins

21. Afghanistan to Sri Lanka: ‘South Asia’?

Abstract
No Asian state had Asia in its title. There was no Union of South Asia. It was a matter of opinion, as has already been seen, where it began and ended. If it extended from Kabul to Colombo that might only be because it had formally and formerly been in a certain sense ‘British’, though never administered by them as one entity. That imprint, by the mid-1970s, had been removed for a quarter of a century, though still not entirely erased. Nothing had directly replaced it. There was evidently some kind of ‘South Asian’ space, but who controlled it, and on what terms, was problematic. At the ‘extremes’, the affairs of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka spilled over their boundaries. Some thought that Afghanistan was part of ‘the Middle East’ and not ‘South Asian’ at all. It was all a question of vantage point. There could be no dispute, however, that it now found itself locked into wider worlds beyond either.
Keith Robbins

22. East Asia/Pacific: Flexing Muscles?

Abstract
The ‘outside world’, looking at their physical size, their ever-mounting populations and the challenges facing their governments in alleviating poverty and bringing about social transformation, tended to lump India and China together as ‘Asian giants’, prickly in their border relationships. They were also odd giants, that is to say they had or could have nuclear weapons, and thus be deemed ‘Great Powers’, but not possess, or not yet possess, a pervasive overall level of technological sophistication. They stood in ‘South Asia’ and ‘East Asia’, respectively, but the contours of the latter were no more self-evident than the former. ‘East Asia’ rubbed shoulders with ‘Asia Pacific’, Oceania and that even more tantalizing hybrid, South-East Asia. The future of China was on all minds in the mid-1970s. What did its rulers, and perhaps even its people, now make of ‘the world’?
Keith Robbins

23. Gorbachev and Reagan: Turning Point, 1985–89

Abstract
In March 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and Ronald Reagan was a few months into his second term as US President, neither could accurately gauge the changes in ‘East–West’ relationships that lay immediately ahead of them. For four decades, the world had been substantially shaped by the fluctuating relationship between their two blocs. There was scarcely a state which, to one degree or another, had been not been caught up in its ramifications. Generations had grown up knowing no other world. ‘Cold War’ had both spawned and sucked in antagonisms, from Ecuador to Eritrea or Cambodia to Colombia, which had a life of their own. Even if the principals ‘called it off’, subordinates, for their own reasons, might continue. So, just as the Cold War had itself ‘emerged’, ending it had various beginnings. In December 1989, however, on board a Soviet ship off the coast of Malta, new American President George W.H. Bush and Gorbachev announced that the Cold War had indeed ended. It would have been rash to predict such a statement four years earlier. Their declaration was not a ‘world’ conclusion, reached by comprehensive multilateral conference. It was, in the end, an abrupt and laconic bilateral announcement.
Keith Robbins

1991–2011: New World Orders?

Frontmatter

24. Superpowers: Rethinking Required

Abstract
Two men initially set the tone. The language used by Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush on board a ship anchored in a Maltese harbour in December 1989 was ambitious. The former declared that the world was leaving one epoch and entering another. The latter spoke of transforming the East–West relationship into one of ‘enduring co-operation’. George W.H. Bush (b.1924) knew much more about the world on the ground than most US presidents. His initial caution had been welcomed by his fellow-Republicans but others, including some in his own party, felt that the time had come for eloquence. The USA could not give the appearance of being in second place behind a Soviet Union now apparently eager to make the world safe for democracy. Ironically, therefore, ‘enduring co-operation’ initially manifested itself in verbal competition to own this ‘new world’.
Keith Robbins

25. The Middle East: Still at the Centre

Abstract
George W.H. Bush and Fukuyama belonged to different generations, but their message was not radically different. In his State of the Nation address in 1990, Bush argued that the USA was not just a place, it was an idea. That idea, however, could be the world’s. The world needed an idea. In other places, however, there were other ideas, also ones which transcended place. The Middle East, with its particular sites of violence, once again moved to the fore as the place where, in new circumstances, ‘East’ and ‘West’ again met. What was not anticipated in 1991 occurred in 2 00 1, namely ‘its’ violence came to the USA. A new kind of world war seemed to be taking place with at least the semblance of a war of ‘civilizations’. As the world was in the Middle East so the Middle East had entered the world.
Keith Robbins

26. Identifying Multipolar Complexity

Abstract
Barack Hussein Obama (b.1961) was elected President of the USA in November 2008. It was a success which carried complex and perhaps fortuitous messages both about and for the USA and also ‘the world’. On the one hand, as a Democrat, it was a success which signified a turning away from a Republican ascendancy that had also been a Bush family ascendancy. It might be a soft-pedalling of the assertive external policies discussed in earlier chapters. The oscillation between parties, however, was not in itself surprising. A surprise might have been that the successful candidate was a woman. However, Hillary, wife of former President Clinton, lost out in the contest for her party’s nomination. So there was no surprise in the election of a man. What was surprising was the man. By the time he became of age, the world landscapes which had moulded his seniors had changed. While much comment in the USA and abroad focussed on Obama as ‘the first black African-American’ president, such a categorization underplayed the complexities of his world inheritance. To be born in Hawaii was not in itself especially exotic, but his white mother (British/Irish by descent) had met and then married his Kenyan father, a Luo, when at university in Honolulu. The couple had been studying Russian. Obama senior was on the kind of scholarship which brought potential ‘leaders’ of ‘the new Africa’ to the USA at this time.
Keith Robbins
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