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politics - 18 02 2003 - 21:21 - katatonik

Pre-, modern, post-

“Â… Blair’s approach is not just framed by personal style or conviction. It has a more robust conceptual grounding in the arguments of Robert Cooper, a British diplomat who now heads the secretariat of Javier Solana, the EU’s representative on foreign policy.

Cooper’s thesis is that the world is now divided into zones of modern ity: pre-modern states, such as Afghanistan and Somalia, that are incapable of establishing basic governance and domestic security; modern nation states, such as India, China or Brazil, focused on acquiring the status of a classic great power, like the European nation state of the 19th and early 20th century; and postmodern states, defined in practice by western Europe.

Cooper argues that the tools of security in the postmodern zone are transparency and interdependence. Nations that once relied on the balance of powers or the threat of mutually assured destruction now routinely inspect each others’ weapons and intervene in each other’s affairs through the EU and many other agreements.

As Cooper suggests in the original pamphlet, this implies “a new form of statehood”, and raises major questions about security and law in the wider world.

Much of his thesis has been borne out: for example, the nation state competition between India and Pakistan has become more dangerous, and failed states such as Afghanistan have been recognised as sources of instability and threat that richer nations cannot afford to ignore.

But the most intriguing and difficult part of Cooper’s argument concerns the place of the US in this new world. In 1996 he wrote: “It is not clear that the US government or Congress accepts either the necessity and desirability of interdepend ence, or its corollaries of openness, mutual surveillance and mutual interference.” If that was true in 1996, it is doubly so now, and proved not just by President Bush’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto treaty or to accept the authority of an international criminal court, but by the publication of a Bush doctrine that openly asserts the legitimacy of pre-emptive military attack by the US, not to enforce global justice or prevent wider conflict, but to defend its own national interest.”

Tom Bentley, director of Demos, an independent think tank based in London: “Tony Blair, Issue by issue” (Le Monde Diplomatique, Issue February 2003). The article deals with Tony Blair’s approach to international politics and its differences, in terms of grounding, from that of the USA.

Full text of Robert Cooper’s essay on the post-modern state.

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