Without Cold War for Guidance, No One Knows What to Do


August 09, 1993|By WILLIAM PFAFF

PARIS. — Paris.

With the end of the Cold War, the world passed from a Copernican to a post-Newtonian political universe.

Before, the United States and the Soviet Union provided the fixed political points about which other nations revolved. Since their gravitational force has waned or been withdrawn, the international system's order has been lost, sending individual nations and parties tumbling into unforeseen and unpredictable orbits.

So long as the United States and the Soviet Union dominated the international scene, other states, and even the political party systems within other nations, functioned within the fields of force radiating from Moscow and Washington.

Now theirs is a situation of disorientation, erratic in its elements and frequently dangerous. This is the geopolitical situation we confront today.

First to go was what had been the quasi-imperial system in Eastern Europe, latterly and disastrously extended to Afghanistan. With the Afghanistan withdrawal, and the storming of the Berlin Wall, all that was finished.

Next to go were the minor clients on both sides of the ideological line, who were simply, or not so simply, abandoned: Cubans, Sandinistas, the PLO, but also contras, UNITA freedom fighters in Angola, the mujahedeen in Afghanistan. They had served their purpose and now were on their own.

The result of that today is Cuba's economic ruin, the drift of abandoned soldiers on both sides of the Nicaraguan war into banditry, ideological justification stripped from what had always been an ugly power struggle in Angola, mujahedeen sales of their Stinger missiles on the international black market and radicalized Muslims in Beirut, Cairo, Rabat and Jersey City, N.J.

And now the Western governments forged by the Cold War are imploding. The political force that ruled Japan from the signing of the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1951 until last month was the collaborative creation of conservative Japanese political figures and the American government. It now has been replaced.

When the Korean War broke out, Washington feared that the pacifist constitution Gen. Douglas MacArthur had imposed upon Japan might send the country toward a neutralist renunciation of international power, benefiting the Soviet Union and Communist China. Japan's 1947 elections had favored the Social Democratic Party, which also enjoyed the sympathy of the generally liberal-minded occupation authorities in the war's immediate aftermath, concerned about a revival of Japanese militarism.

By 1949, with the Cold War in Europe at full blast, and China in the hands of the Communists, the Social Democrats had lost their position, and by 1951 the government was firmly in conservative hands, where it has since remained.

The conservative parties that subsequently merged as the Liberal Democratic Party deliberately made themselves America's political client, and were seen to be such, which at the time was their decisive advantage in Japan's internal political competition.

The postwar system is being destroyed in Italy -- another implosion. After Mussolini's fall in 1943, the country became a battleground for Germans and the Western allies, the Italians themselves auxiliaries of both.

Postwar Italy submitted to what its NATO allies expected of it. The CIA intervened in the 1948 elections, establishing enduring alliances with party and labor groups. The Communist Party at the same time was, and remained, financed and controlled by Moscow.

The Italians themselves lived a form of internalized repression of their recognition of the external forces acting upon them, against which they felt themselves powerless. The immobilization of Italian political life during the Cold War was thus not only endured but willed, if resentfully so.

The explosion of terrorism in the 1970s, product of a (purportedly) Maoist doctrine of revolution, was part of the cost Italy had to pay. The corruption of political society was the other.

What began in a pliant accommodation to political fortune ended not only in terror but in crime, the three eventually combining so that proclaimed revolutionaries collaborated in civil crime and criminal organizations committed political crimes, of which recent bombings in Florence, Milan and Rome are the latest desperate manifestation.

The European Community itself has been deeply disoriented by the end of the Cold War. Its immobility before the crisis in Yugoslavia is directly attributable to the fact that the United States failed to tell the Europeans what to do.

Even now, more than a year after that crisis began, the West Europeans -- who include the third, fourth and fifth most powerful industrial and military powers on earth -- still are incapable of an effective common policy on the Bosnian end-game. Or a policy to deal with the conflicts threatened on Serbia's other borders and in Kosovo, and those which may develop elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

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