Rediscovering One World Where the Cold War Saw Three

AMID the ruins of World War II, the victorious leaders imagined a global community. These ``United Nations'' would rest on a consensus of two great powers, the United States and the Soviet Union; two no longer so great, Great Britain and France; and one hoping to become great, China. They would lead the way to a brave new world of independence. They would police the world and keep it peaceful. But they had erected their structure on a fault line of ideological antagonism between communism and capitalism, East and West.

They divided the globe into three parts. We were the first world. Stalin reigned in the second world. And the rest was something loosely called the third world, the undeveloped world. The third world became an arena of struggle between first- and second-world superpowers.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the second world collapsed, and, hooray, our first-world team had won. We were ready to survey the fruits and costs of the cold war. In the 40 years of cold war, the casualties were almost entirely limited to what each superpower did to its own people and its own environment - and to the third world.

We left warring clans with weapons that they could use to kill each other. We have not done much to change the lethal mix of too many people driven to prey on their environment and on each other. Why genocide in Rwanda? Rwanda has the highest population density in Africa. Why does Haiti struggle to survive? Its population is 7 million, expected to double in 18 years.

Before we can imagine a global community, there are some words from our cold-war lexicon that need to be redefined. One is ``aggression,'' which is not just a matter of marching across a border with an army. Aggression can be committed by despoiling an environment and denying people a chance of future livelihood. Another word is ``security,'' which is not safety just against bombs and guns but against the less obvious threats created by pollution and population. Another word is ``violence.'' A child who dies of plague or AIDS dies violently.

If we are to imagine a global community, we must imagine one that can organize against new kinds of aggression and violence into a new kind of collective security. Perhaps we should look to NATO, which is regarded as a great success and needs only a new definition of security to give it a new mission of deterring violence and aggression. I don't care much whether NATO recasts itself or whether some new kind of alliance is created. I care only that an institution be created in which the US can function effectively, dedicated to the cause of human security in a world no longer divided into first, second, and third worlds. Just one world. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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