Saturday, August 30, 2014

Conditions of our World in the 21st Century - World History

In 2000 the world turned its back on an ambiguous century torn by violence and conflict, but capable of extraordinary technical and economic progress. The new century has inherited that same ambiguity. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, civil wars in Africa and bitter religious conflict in the Middle East have already shown that the new century will be no less violent. The nuclear threat did not disappear with the Cold War. Bitter divisions still exist between the secular western world and the revival of popular religion.

THE 20TH CENTURY bequeathed to its successor a variety of issues and problems. Some are long-term issues about global development which first alerted public concern in the 1960s and 1970s. Population growth has slowed down but is still high, and will mean by the year 2050 that the world will have to sustain 50 per cent more people than it does today. There has already been severe pressure on natural resources, which will worsen as the new populations demand food and basic living standards. Oil, which is essential to the motorized populations of the developed world, is a shrinking area in world politics. High consumption has also helped to fuel environmental damage. Despite agreements reached at the Kyoto Summit in 1997, a number of major industrial powers have refused to ratify or implement those agreements to the full. 

Religion and the rise of terror

One of the factors encouraging instability in the Middle East is the long-running tension between western capitalism and its westernising allies and the rise of radical Islam. In the first four years of the new century this tension has produced a growing train of violence and terrorism. A number of spectacular attacks by Islamic militants, on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, on a Bali nightclub in 2002 and on Madrid railway targets in 2004, have been accompanied by regular killings, bomb attacks and other atrocities. The militant groups, particularly al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin laden, have declared holy war against the west and are committed to reducing western influence in the Islamic world. Hundreds of young Muslims have died in suicide attacks or in battles with security and military forces from Afghanistan to Egypt.

The religious revival has also affected Christianity. In the USA religious fundamentalism has also become an important political force both in foreign policy and in domestic politics, where popular Christianity has challenged the accepted orthodoxies of secular, rationalist science. In the former Yugoslavia uneasy peace reigns, but tensions between Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox Christians played a part in the civil war of the 1990s and remain an issue that divides not only the Balkans but the Caucasus and southern Russia. Religious conflicts have become the major force for destabilizing world politics, and will remain so among the youthful and disillusioned populations of the Islamic world.

Weapons of mass destruction

The great fear in the West has been the distribution of weapon capable of producing a high destructive yield for relatively little terrorist effort, including toxic biological and chemical agents, radioactive material for making so-called “dirty bombs”, or small nuclear devices produced by states with the scientific potential to do so. Much of this technology was first made available during the Cold War conformation with world communism, but the overwhelming bulk of such weapons still lies in the hands of the most powerful and militarily sophisticated states. 

Nuclear capability is still restricted to no more than eight or nine states, but the danger of a nuclear con-formation cannot be ruled out. In 2002 Pakistan and India came close to the brink of military crisis and both posses nuclear warheads and missile delivery systems. Nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran provoked strong UN pressure in 2006 and 2007 to compel disarmament. The most heavily armed state remains the USA, which not only has sophisticated nuclear weapons and delivery systems and tactical nuclear weapons for the battlefield, but also a variety of armament for high-technology warfare whose effects are yet to be fully assessed. US military power has been used twice already this century. The unipolar world system produced by the collapse of communism has become a reality - the United States spends more on defence than the rest of the world together.

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