Recycling Old Ideas

Klaus Larres evaluates the track record of previous attempts at a 'New World Order.'

We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment ... Out of these troubled times, ... a new world order can emerge; a new era – freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace, an era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.

At the end of the Cold War, in the midst of US-USSR collaboration in the Gulf crisis and shortly before the unification of Germany, President George Bush uttered these words before a joint session of the American Congress on September 11th, 1990. On some other occasions in the course of the Gulf conflict, Bush and his senior officials, particularly National Security Adviser, Robert Gates, made use of the term 'new world order'. But once the Gulf war was over, it was conspicuously absent from their speeches. This, however, did not stop ever-increasing numbers of journalists, political analysts and contemporary historians picking up Bush's phrase and applying it to the post-Cold War world.

Political writers have always been fascinated by historical 'turning points". The years 1989-90 certainly qualify as such a watershed and may soon be seen on equal terms with 1789-94, 1814-15, 1918-19, 1945-47. However, it is often assumed that the new world order is something new, something which has not existed before. Yet it should not be overlooked that in the wake of almost every upheaval, a new generation hoped to be able to create a new international system to obtain everlasting peace and stability – peace in our time.

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