Cold War, Globalization, and Economic Introspection


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr.


The bloody war casualties of World War II had ended in 1945. However, conflict between the once-allied superpowers recurred. As Harlan Cleveland also noted in, The Cold War: An Eyewitness Perspective, “The Cold War was called cold because the featured heavyweights, the Soviet Union and the United States, were nominally ‘at peace’” (2006, 4). Cleveland, however, further noted how the two superpowers confronted each other indirectly on various occasions through the United Nations and other international organizations. Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin consistently, competitively, and aggressively maneuvered each other, yet, shy of war. Although these maneuvers could be seen as having a thawing or warming effect, the Cuban Missile Crisis ensured the conflict would stand still (Cleveland 2006).

Constructivism is arguably the most important theory to develop from the Cold War era. Previous international relations theories had focused on anarchy and excluded peace as an option. However, the end of the Cold War demonstrated contrarily. Alexander Wendt considered anarchy as a way of understanding the international system, not the substance of its construction (Kennedy-Pipe 2000). He believed that actors (individual and state level analysis) within the system shaped the system through ideational interactions, and therefore, the system could evolve. That is, the Cold War would not have occurred and would definitely end if the Soviet Union and the U.S. did not perceive themselves as enemies (Nugroho 2008). Constructivists would link communism and capitalism as ideational instigators (pre-war) and America’s promise to not invade (post-war) as instrumental. Doubly, post-revisionist interpretations of Cold War are anchored in how each side perceived the other (Lundestat 2009).

In The Fragmentation and Consolidation of International Systems, Stuart Kaufman pointed out how the balance of power in the international system was positively enhanced by military power throughout history, but gains turned to losses when economic decline proved irreversible (Kaufman 1997). Therefore economic power is more important as overzealous military calculations and unipolar assumptions can lead to ruin. The immediate distinction, from the old to the new system, is globalization discourages isolationism. That is, the limits of military reach are trumped by the inherent need to cooperate economically. Kaufman further noted,“Trade continued as long as intermediaries chose to profit from it rather than disrupt it” (Kaufman 1997, 197). Globalization brought with it many opportunities to disrupt international trade as the international system is currently consolidated and fragmented. Therefore, it has become more difficult to achieve legitimacy through military or isolationist strategies.

Globalization has positively and negatively impacted the world system. Through certain communication technologies, human rights abuses that once went ignored are brought to light. States have become more reluctant to engage in inhumane treatment of their citizens. Transportation technologies have improved trade opportunities. The diminishing relevance of national borders has spotlighted the need to cooperate as weapons of mass destruction threaten to initiate world-wide destruction. Nevertheless, accelerated consumption patterns have increased demand and the need to further exploit the natural environment and marginalized communities. Third world countries lose “land, pauperizations, tradition, and autonomy” (Eriksen, 67).

As noted by Stephen Wertheim, “In 2006 the UN Security Council adopted the ‘responsibility to protect’ (2010, 167). However, any decision to intervene in the affairs of other states should be the result of a carefully assessed inability or refusal of the most immediate and effectively responding state to stop mass and targeted killings. Here, I define careful assessment as state (A) observing the UN’s commitment to holding the appropriate state (B) accountable to its ‘responsibility to protect’ and then determining if the commitment has been effectual (systemic level of analysis). Then, non-support from a majority of member states (C, D, E, etc.,) would be ignored as long as the economic stability of state (A) (domestic level of analysis) was not threatened.




Cleveland, Harland. The Cold War. October 21, 2006. (accessed March 16, 2014).

Eriksen, Thomas. Globalization: The Key Concepts. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2007. (accessed March 3, 2014).Geir Lundestad. East, West, North, South (Los Angeles: Sage, 2009). (Accessed via American University class forum March 16, 2014).

Kaufman, Stuart J. “The fragmentation and consolidation of international systems. (cover story).” International Organization 51, no. 2 (Spring97 1997): 173-208. International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed March 4, 2014).

Kennedy-Pipe, Caroline. “International History and International Relations Theory.” Wiley (Wiley) 76, no. 4 (2000): 741-754.

Nugroho, Ganjar. “Constructivism and International Relations Theories.” Global & Strategis, 2008: 85-98.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Political Realism in Internationakl Relations. April 2, 2013. (accessed March 16, 2014).

Wertheim, Stephen. 2010. “A solution from hell: the United States and the rise of humanitarian interventionism, 1991-2003.” Journal of Genocide Research 12, no. 3/4: 149-172. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost(accessed March 14, 2014).



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