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Chapter 4 The Strategic Implications of the New World Order The collapse of the Soviet Union drastically changed the security environment within which terrorists operate. During the Cold War, several Eastern bloc states were covert supporters of terrorist groups. At the time, supporting terrorism was viewed as furthering the foreign policy objectives of the Soviet bloc.1 In her classic study The Terror Network, Claire Sterling maintained that for much of the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the Soviet Union was at the center of a global terrorist apparatus.2 Soviet-supported terrorism was designed to advance the influence of the communist superpower. Near the end of the Cold War, however , Soviet leaders realized that collaboration with terrorists produced few tangible benefits and complicated relations with the United States and the West, with which they were seeking to improve relations.3 Initially after the Cold War, terrorism went into steep decline, in large part because several leading terrorist groups lost material support from communist states in the East and from their client states, such as Cuba.4 Left-wing terrorist groups lost credibility as the broader political Left became concerned more about social and identity issues than redistributive economic policies. In an era of globalization dominated by the United States, states presumably would have more to gain by accommodation with the West than by confrontation .This development militates against the viability of large terrorist organizations, which are more vulnerable to state repression and disruption, since the governments of these countries are now coordinating their counterterrorist efforts with the United States. As a consequence, terrorism by small groups and lone wolves is becoming increasingly prevalent. The Unipolar Era The collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in a new era of global integration. Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 article “The End of History?” presaged the coming zeitgeist. As he observed events around the world that year, governments were converging on a model of a free-market democracy. According to his analysis, all other ideologies had been effectively exhausted and discredited, and no credible alternatives 79 remained. All that was left was mere fine-tuning.5 Similarly, in 1990, on the cusp of the first Gulf War, Charles Krauthammer announced that the world had entered the “unipolar” era. Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he assumed that the Cold War was over and that the new era would be characterized by a period of US global hegemony. With this window of opportunity, he argued that the United States should establish a global order to its advantage. Krauthammer’s article proved prescient when, the next year, President George H. W. Bush announced the emergence of a “new world order,”suggesting a convergence of interests among the great powers of the world.6 In the years afterward, the “new world order” came to imply unprecedented globalization, with the United States playing the leading role. Throughout the 1990s and beyond, the US military attained global preeminence, with the US defense budget roughly equivalent to the combined defense spending of the rest of the world. As the historian Paul Kennedy has observed, “There exists no equal in history to such a disproportionate share, even if we [go] back to the time of the Roman Empire.”7 As the 1990s began, a new era of American triumphalism was foreseen, a period of unprecedented tranquillity and economic opportunity. With old-style Palestinian terrorism diminishing, in September 1993 a historic Middle East peace agreement was signed on the White House lawn. Even Middle Eastern countries that previously supported terrorism, such as Syria and Iran, retreated substantially from this tactic and no longer targeted the United States. Muammar Gaddafi, the most flamboyant Middle Eastern sponsor of terrorism during the 1980s, forswore his involvement in international terrorism and sought to cultivate the image of Libya as a reformed state ready to enter the community of nations.8 Still, conflict and terrorism did not disappear, and others began to express a less sanguine view of globalization, seeing disturbing trends antagonistic to democratization , namely the return of tribalism and violent religious fundamentalism. In 1993 US senator Patrick Moynihan saw the specter of violent ethnic conflict leading to “pandemonium” in various parts of the world.9 That same year, the eminent Harvard professor Samuel Huntington introduced his “clash of civilizations” model of international relations, in which he asserted that conflict in the twenty-first century would be most pronounced along “civilizational fault lines.” In his analysis, culture and cultural identities...


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