014.s08.syl - PLSC 014 International Politics Spring 2008...

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PLSC 014 International Politics Spring 2008 _______________________________________________________________________ _ Professor R. B. Packer Office: 217 Pond Lab Office Hours: TBA e-mail: [email protected] ______________________________________________________________________ Triumph and despair: 1989, 2001. These two years mark historic watersheds in the annals of world politics. When the Cold War ended in 1989 Americans felt triumphant about the rapid collapse of Soviet communism. The international system structure that two generations of political scientists had studied, along with the edifice of the Communist monolith, had shattered. For 45 years, American foreign policy was centered on the preeminence of the Soviet threat. With that threat no longer in existence (the Soviet Union itself ceasing to exist at the end of 1991), global citizens were treated to talk of a "new world order." Initially, American optimism reigned. Not only was 1989 proven to be the end of the Cold War, but the "end of history" as we knew it. Scholar Francis Fukuyama captured the euphoria of the period with his famous article of that name. Fukuyama argued that the Soviet Union had been defeated not by force of arms but by the universal allure of American Liberal values. The globalization of Liberal values of respect for human rights, democracy, and free market capitalism was truly changing the world. Even ostensibly communism countries, such as China, had joined the march toward the free market. "People power" had created a "third wave" of democratization in former communist states, the Philippines, and parts of Africa. Latin America was transformed from a region with only two democratically-elected governments in 1980, to one where only one country - the Cold War relic Cuba - stood in opposition to the democratizing trend by century's end. Europe, for four decades divided between East and West, was reunited under the banner of free trade. The historic great powers on that continent were negotiating the decline of their sovereignty in favor of a collective market-based future. In the 1990s, with the spread of market capitalism to the former Third World, less developed countries became "emerging markets" as over a billion people were lifted out of poverty. The world ended the twentieth century on a positive note. Historian John Gaddis wrote that the end of the Cold War was not a sudden event, but the culmination of latent "tectonic forces" that had been operating below the surface for some
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time. The Soviet Union had been "muddling through" economically since the 1970s, if not the 1950s. Since the 1970s, respect for human rights had been growing in the Communist Bloc - thus, Moscow did not react to the Gdansk workers in 1980 the way it did to the Prague Spring in 1968. Gorbachev, in articulating "new thinking," prefigured a new relationship with the West. But even he was startled by the utter bankruptcy of the communism in 1989. While Gaddis wrote of the precursors to 1989, so we might in hindsight write of the
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014.s08.syl - PLSC 014 International Politics Spring 2008...

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