I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Look! No Wheels!

Look! No Wheels!

The Cold War, or at least the First Cold War, is now long over. Curiously, it ended without a war. Afterwards, the US global hegemony that some predicted failed to materialise. As in other areas, victories in history don’t always amount to as much as was expected. Meanwhile the debate seeking a credible explanation for the implosion of the Soviet Union continues. The interpretation which particularly suits the liberal western temperament argues that the USSR was constructed and operated in a manner incompatible with the modern world and therefore, ultimately, had to fail. It is a liberal version of Marxist determinism and for many is such a congenial explanation that versions of it will be – indeed are being –employed to predict the future trajectory of powerful contemporary states which are not liberal democracies. The view that China must become a liberal democracy or fail is frequently heard. Perhaps the ideological coincidence is not that surprising. After all, both Marxism and liberalism grew out of the eighteenth century enlightenment. However, the liberal wheel of history might well prove as bockety as the Marxist one. The belief that history is moving in a particular direction is really a soothing article of faith rather than something capable of convincing demonstration. We can be certain however that, as liberal democrats wait for progress to complete its historic task, power politics will continue. The difficulty is knowing what shape they will take. Presumably, in the still far from settled multipolar world, there will be regular disputes over where the influence of one major power ends and another begins. But in the atomic age ‑ drones or no drones ‑ these disputes can hardly be settled by war. Global trade, of course, also weighs in against militarism. So if war is not on, we can expect quite a bit of scheming, a good deal of huffing and puffing and occasionally some unfriendly acts but not much more ‑ at most some proxy wars. The settlement of questions which now seem intractable, such as who is to control the western Pacific and what the future of Israel and Palestine may be, will have to wait on the working out of complex historical currents which, whatever way they may run, will certainly differ in direction from determinist readings of human history. Recovering from its lower than hoped for yield after the First Cold War, but still committed…

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