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From War to Peace: Altered Strategic Landscapes in the Twentieth Century

April 11, 2001

From War to Peace: Altered Strategic Landscapes in the Twentieth Century by Paul Kennedy

Introduction

JOANNE MYERS: On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I would like to welcome members and guests to our Books for Breakfast program this morning with author Paul Kennedy, who will be discussing his book From War to Peace. He actually is the co-editor of this volume.

For the past hundred years, there have been shifts in the balance of power throughout the world. In 1918, following the First World War, the balance of power among the states of Europe collapsed, leaving European and American leaders to place their hopes in the new diplomacy and the League of Nations. Regrettably, these hopes for peace were quickly dashed by the rise of totalitarian states which led to the worldwide conflagration that we know as World War II.

After the war, the Americans and Europeans planned once again to build a more just and lasting world peace that would avoid the pitfalls of war. This time it was under the aegis of the United Nations. Unfortunately, rival ideologies between the communist and capitalist blocs took center stage and a number of conflicts ensued.

When the Cold War finally came to an end, a mere decade ago, it seemed perfectly reasonable to assume that a new world order would emerge once more. Today, however, a series of unexpected and unfamiliar challenges, such as internal conflicts, worldwide economic instability, environmental crises, and nuclear proliferation, have led us to question how to preserve the ideal of order and stability that nations long for, while admitting reasonable demands for change and heading off more blatant calls for revolutionary action.

In an attempt to place contemporary debates about the desire for international order in historical perspective, several leading historians of international relations were invited to a conference at Yale University to analyze a process by which peacemakers in the years immediately following 1918, 1945, and 1989 attempted to craft a viable post-war order and to consider the twentieth century's recurring failures to construct a stable and peaceful international system in the wake of war.

These papers were compiled into a volume of essays, entitled From War to Peace: Altered Strategic Landscapes in the Twentieth Century, which was co-edited by our guest this morning, Paul Kennedy.

It is always a pleasure to welcome Professor Kennedy to the Carnegie Council. Every one of his visits has been marked by enthusiasm, education, and thought-provoking ideas that linger long after his departure. The compassion that he has used in his teaching, combined with his thoughtful expertise, makes his perspective on international relations unique.

After earning his Ph.D. from Oxford and a teaching stint at the University of East Anglia, Professor Kennedy arrived at Yale in 1982 where he has distinguished himself ever since. Among his many achievements, I would like to highlight several of his important books, including The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and Preparing for the Twenty-First Century. Currently he is the J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History and Director of International Security Studies at Yale.

Professor Kennedy, it is indeed a privilege to have you with us again.

Remarks

PROFESSOR KENNEDY: Thank you, Joanne. It is nice to be back. I thank you for turning up and for your interest.

Let me offer about twenty or twenty-five minutes' worth of remarks and see if I provoke you, because what I get most from these Carnegie breakfasts is the questions, the challenges, the new points, the things I or my co-authors have missed.

First, I would draw your attention to the sub-title. Very often, your publishers or editors force you to use a general a title, whereas the real substance is in the sub-title, in this case "Altered Strategic Landscapes in the Twentieth Century.?

What do we mean by a "strategic landscape?" It was my term — another term that Kennedy invents sitting in the hot tub some of these weekends — and I see it as a sense of examining the overall panorama of where the international system is, just as if one were on a high mountain somewhere in the Egyptian desert looking off in many directions to see the landscape. But this is a landscape which sometimes changes, because it is a political and social landscape.

We argue in the beginning of this work that three times in the twentieth century the political landscape altered as dramatically as if there had been a great earthquake shaking up the system. It altered in 1917 through 1923, again from 1944 through until about 1950, and finally significantly after 1989.

When existing landscapes collapse and familiar buildings fall down, our argument is that with the smoke, dust, and debris, you don't really see what is left standing and what has collapsed, and what's more, that debris takes quite a while to settle.

If we think about the post-1919 or post-1918 world, the policy-makers who go to Paris in 1918-1919 do not know yet what is happening in Russia in the midst of civil war and revolution; they haven't yet worked out the settlements in Eastern and Central Europe; they don't know how the new states which are claiming to emerge, like Yugoslavia, or Poland, wanting to re-emerge, will function; they are unsure of how the Far East settlement over naval issues and China will pan out; and it is unclear how the international financial order will unfold.

They only discover how to put these pieces together — as we will see, not very well — in a series of post-war conferences, up to the settlement in the Middle East in 1923 and in the Washington Conference and naval settlements in the Far East in 1921-1922.

Thus when historians go back and look at how policy-makers and their advisors were grappling their way through the dust, debris and altered landscape, it takes some time to make a judgment. We shouldn't immediately rush to judgment and say, "They got it wrong and 1919 just led directly to 1939." You have to get in the minds of the policy-makers to see what options they had, or thought they had, at the time.

Again, think of the period just at the end of the Second World War and following. It wasn't clear that there was going to be a Cold War. There were great hopes about the functioning of the new United Nations organization, that the Big Five would provide long-term security. Nobody guessed, perhaps, that the British and French colonial empires were going to collapse so swiftly after the Second World War.

Many things were unsettled. How Germany was to be run was not clear. That the Iron Curtain did come down was not known to planners in 1943, 1944, and 1945. A look at their records gives you a much better understanding of what they thought might happen to the world, but how they were groping their way through. So I would say it is not surprising if it has taken policy-makers, thinkers about international affairs, and ambassadors some time to identify the shape and contours of the post-1989 altered strategic landscape. We did not foresee the rapid breakup of the Soviet Union, the end of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of Yugoslavia.

We could see certain things happening in Asia, but others have taken us by surprise. Twelve years ago, this place would have had many a breakfast with discussion of when will Japan take over from the United States — Japan is Number One, a best-selling book by Ezra Vogel.

So we didn't get the shape right. I could argue with some conviction that perhaps we still haven't got the shape right, that the landscape is still confused, that there is still a lot of mist out there.

The second point I would make is central to what we tried to do by convening this conference: Can we learn from history? Is there a presumption here which needs to be challenged?

When I look at the debates, I could lay out two absolutely contrary views to the question "can we learn from history?"

Answer one would be "No." "History is bunk," said Henry Ford, and what he meant by that was not that he didn't like it; it's just that Ford, at the beginning of the twentieth century, saw that with the coming of electricity, the automobile, the aircraft, there were so many technological changes, that trying to draw lessons from, the decline of the Roman Empire or Elizabethan England simply was nonsense because the whole world was altering as a consequence of the industrial revolution.

And some people today frequently argue that we are in such a new world order — the Internet, global warming, and other such imprints of human breakthroughs, or deteriorations — that we can't learn much from the past. Some of you may believe that. The alternate answer is "Yes, we can learn from history " and, what's more, it is probably wise to try, though you have to do it with a careful language.?

So the contrasting quote to "history is bunk" is, of course, Santayana's "those who do not know the past are condemned to relive it." In other words, you may walk away from the past, but there are lots of things that you will blunder into because of a lack of sensitivity to political change and historical movement. So this argument would say: technology may change, but some basic patterns do recur, like, for example, the rise and fall of certain powers over two or three decades or longer.

What's more, we instinctively look for historical analogies, use history to try to give us some measure — not, I think, because we are saying that a historical case study which we compare with something today is exactly the same, but because the analog makes us think a bit more.

For the past ten years, a number of political scientists have used the phrase "Weimar Russia." When we think about it, we know what the meaning is: it is a country which has suffered deep humiliation and defeat, the economy is in shambles, the social fabric is unraveling, the political leadership is discredited, democracy is weak and unpopular, there are many unfilled or unfulfilled agenda items around the borders. Now, if I just gave you that list, you could say, "Well, that describes Germany in 1923 or it describes Russia right now."

If I go to the Naval War College or other Pentagon-related establishments these days, I am intrigued by the use of the term "Wilhelmine China." Again, the analogy is to Wilhelmine Germany, Wilhelm II's Germany, before the First World: a big economy, a somewhat unpredictable leadership, a concern about internal pressures causing the leadership to push for external actions to solidify the regime, an ambition to develop a large navy, et cetera.

With those first two thoughts in mind, my fellow editor Will Hitchcock and I put together that conference at Yale, bringing two different sets of people.

One were historians of post-1919 and post-1945 international affairs, and we asked them to go into the minds of the policy-makers of those periods and let us know what they were thinking about, and perhaps if some of the advisors or strategists got it more correct than others, is there a way of explaining that? Did they just have a broader vision? Was their analysis deeper, more focused? Are there any lessons we can learn from these earlier examples about how to begin to make some sense out of a very altered strategic landscape, and then how to formulate policy recommendations?

We put them together with a number of experts on contemporary strategy on foreign policy. We wanted the contemporary experts to listen to the historical case studies and to criticize and ask questions about them, just as we wanted the historians to listen to the observations of the contemporary strategic economic and foreign policy experts.

Therefore, the book is in three parts, rather like classical Gaul: some wonderful chapters on the post-1919 landscape and how it altered and how we should think about it; then a set of essays about the making of the post-1945 landscape and the position of different powers, like Europe or the United States in that landscape; and then about six articles or chapters on how to think about the world today — the world economic and financial system, the strategic system, the special position of the United States, the future of Russia.

Then Will and I had to walk away and think of not only how to put it together, but how to book-end this edition, to write the introduction which explains where we are going, but to move on to the conclusion — How does our present Cold War world compare with the two previous alterations in the world landscape? How do our new construction efforts compare?

I am going to conclude with about five minutes of questions which I hope will get the debate going, because I think these are the questions we should be asking, especially as we look at a new Administration in Washington literally groping its way through mists and some collapsed structures.

We had on those previous occasions collapsed and imploded empires — the Austria-Hungarian Empire, Imperial Germany. Can we logically compare them with Russia today? Can we look for differences, so we don't just look at what is similar and ignore what is different?

How do we handle newer powers on the scene — just as the traditional powers in, say, London in 1944 and 1918 were wondering how to handle newer powers?

What is the role and how do we understand and help brand-new states or states which emerge from a long period of being under a multinational empire? This was an important challenge for the peacemakers in 1918 and 1945. How do you help newer states? What could you reasonably expect from them?

One of the biggest questions is: what new international machinery, if any, is needed, and how does that compare with what was done by the peacemakers of 1918 and 1945? In fact, one then sees great differences of this third stage. I argue that the changes after 1989 were significant enough to be called one of the three great transformations in the international landscape, but, unlike 1918-1919 and unlike 1945, we are staying with the older structures such as the Bretton Woods organizations, despite considerable discontent with what it does and doesn't do.

In particular, we haven't at all managed to rethink the security issue. We are still here with the security organization structure and constitution of Dumbarton Oaks.

Some years ago I went off to London to the Public Record Office, to the extraordinarily rich record in the British Foreign Office files on what the planners were up to in 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, by far the best record. It was only then that I discovered that there were five powers who had a permanent veto and seat because the planners in 1943-44 expected to win the war. They then predicted that Germany and Japan would become aggressive again by the mid-1950s, and that small powers, like Belgium and Czechoslovakia, were security consumers and the big democracies were security providers, that it was only fair that the providers of the future security have some say on issues of war and peace. The veto was meant to be on issues of war and peace, not about vetoing who should be next Secretary General or such.

We both agreed that those plans were undermined by the Cold War, by Molotov coming into New York every season and vetoing anything in sight, so they couldn't use the Military Staff Committee or the Security Council in the way they wanted.

But we are now in a different age again, and it may be well to go back and try to do something about it. I spent three years of my life, between 1993 and 1996, on the Yale University/Ford Foundation "Report on the United Nations in Its Next Half-Century," and when we raised the issue of the legitimacy and membership of the Security Council, of the use of the veto, we were dismissed, almost with contempt. Every one of the P5 wanted things left nicely as they are.

Then think of one or two more lessons or questions before I stop.

How do we integrate the losers back into the system when the long conflict is over? Yes, there are winners; yes, there are losers; but how do you integrate the losers back into the system?

Actually, the best example of this we have is after 1814-15, the reintegration of France after the defeat of Napoleon into the concert of Europe. We can see after 1945 a very successful reintegration of Western Germany, Japan, and Italy into the democratic order and a prosperous order, admittedly after some years of military occupation. The post-1919 story was much less successful — Germany is not integrated into the system, it has to pay war debts and lose territory, it has to be humiliated. The USSR flies out of the system. The United States walks out of the system.

Post-1989 I am sorry to say our record is more like post-1919. We really haven't got Russia into the system. We sometimes talk about G8 meetings, but other times we want G7 meetings. We haven't really dealt with many of the successor problems in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and elsewhere.

We are inordinately puzzled by China and the system. The debate these past ten days has been absolutely extraordinary, and the recent reports in The New York Times show Bush's policy-makers being split right down the middle — Is this a China we can and should bring into the system bring into the system? Is this a China we have to keep our eye on, like Wilhelmine Germany?

Finally, what about different sorts of changes in the landscape? I am not thinking only of changes in the political landscape and the territorial boundaries, which clearly was the focus of 1919 and again 1945. What about other non-military transformations, the sorts of changes which I described in my book Preparing for the Twenty-First Century?

The massive transformations in global population balances? After all, when the planners of 1945 were trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, the Western and Northern democracies had about 31 percent of the world's population. At the end of the Cold War, those Western democracies had about 11 percent of the world's population, and by 2025 this will drop to 7 or 8 percent. That might be the single most serious transforming trend of the first part of the twenty-first century. How do these population pressures work out in the fast-growing societies, in terms of pressures upon the land and water supply in the Middle East and Central Asia, upon populations hoping to get up the ladder? Think here of the challenges facing the leadership of a country like India, the most extraordinary country in the world. How does the leadership see India over the next twenty-five or fifty years, when it is adding 18 million people to its population each year, the equivalent of the population of Australia; when in India you have the world's largest middle class, of almost 200 million people — literate, computer literate, extraordinarily talented — surrounded by 800 million poverty-stricken peasants?

How do you handle these transformations in the landscape, let alone the South Asian arms race which will be exacerbated if we put up some Star Wars missile shield? China will definitely react, and when China does something, India will follow suit, and Pakistan will get very worried. So the agenda for dealing with alterations in our landscape is no longer just political and strategic, but an agenda with the broadest sense of challenges to both environmental and human security.

President Bush's Pentagon team under Andy Marshall is now working on — guess what? — a study of the new strategic landscape. I don't know if they agree with Henry Ford, that history is bunk, or with Santayana. But let's hope that they bear Santayana's motto in mind: Those who do not know the past will be condemned to repeat it.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: Paul, you gave Ford and Santayana as an either/or proposition. Is it possible that, paradoxically, both may be right in terms of the world today? Ford may be right especially if you study in Western Europe and North America, when you look at world history in the last 100, 200, 300 years, a time when the European powers were in their ascendancy and the whole world was looked at through European lenses. Global perspective comes when you look at strategy concepts.

We have never yet experienced a time where you have non-European powers joining the world stage and saying "we also have a stake in managing global affairs." That, in itself, may be the big change.

In terms of Santayana, perhaps we want to look further back at times when there were non-European powers on the world stage and what were their contributions. If you have been watching the reporting on the spy plan incident for the past few days, it is striking for someone from Singapore, who can see the vastly different accounts from North America and East Asia. What the United States saw as a legitimate activity on its part, spying off the shores of northern China, was seen as an intrusion, a recurrence of acts of humiliation to which China has been subjected in the past two centuries, and so you can see these different perspectives come into play.

When you talk about adjusting the strategic landscape, is it possible that what we need to consider is actually a much more fundamental restructuring of all the institutions that we have?

PROFESSOR KENNEDY: Thank you. My colleague at Yale, Professor John Gaddis, who teaches a historical method course to our undergraduates, has a wonderful way of describing the compromise here. He says there are far too many people, like Arnold Toynbee and others, who think that history is cyclical; and then there are others who think that history is teleological and one straight line upwards. He says we have to understand that history is both teleological, because there are new changes, especially technologies, but it is also often cyclical, because great powers or small powers do repeat certain patterns of hubris, over-extension, and the rest. Therefore, I think the challenge for Andy Marshall and then for Mr. Bush in the United States is to understand what are the linear elements which are developing and which make this world different from the world of 1945, but also what are the cyclical or repeating elements, and how to understand what has and hasn't changed.

We could see a select group of decision-makers and their advisors, all of whom went to — Oxford, Cambridge, Groton, Yale, et cetera — sitting in private, with not too much of the world press around them, up at Dumbarton Oaks in 1944, working out a common approach which they already had because of a common culture, language and education. Today it would no longer have the same legitimacy. In fact, I remember when we were trying to put together our Ford Foundation/Yale University Report, and we had a twelve-person international commission, just how difficult it was for us, cocooned away at the Rockefeller brothers' private house, for us to deal with differences with the Indian representative, a Mexican representative, a member from the women's movement in Africa — how to deal with the Russians, the Chinese. To do it in open forum in the middle of New York, with 182 members, each wanting a voice, is an enormous challenge.

But I don't see how you can avoid realizing that this landscape is also altered in terms of the legitimacy — or lack of legitimacy — of the different players in the international system.

QUESTION: The discussion reminds me of the reply that a certain Scottish minister made to a parishioner who asked, "Can Christians dance?" The answer was, "Some can and some can't." It also reminds me of one of your colleagues at Yale, who remarked at a conference, "My job is to resurrect the dead." I'm sure he was not being theological, but he was saying that to make past actors look real.

You mentioned at the very beginning that you thought you have to understand what was in the minds of major actors in those events. I agree with that, but I wonder are we putting too large a burden of psychology on historians, or is the task of understanding what the world looked like and what the alternatives were of this, that, and the other actions, one of the necessary burdens of historians?

PROFESSOR KENNEDY: Historians come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and, like your Christian dancers, some are willing to grapple with the lessons of history and how they might resonate with what is happening today and in the future, and others would run a long way from anything like that. The empathetic reconstruction of the past is the way they see their task, and what is happening now and in the future is not part of their agenda.

I can remember my dear colleague at Yale, Piet Bravandage [phonetic], a very traditional historian of East-Central European diplomatic history, when the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers came out, said: "Paul, I have read the first seven chapters of your book and enjoyed it immensely, but I am not going to read chapter eight because it is about current events and journalism and the future."

So there are many of my scholarly colleagues who would not even want to get into this. I would be as cautious about the historian learning lessons of the past as you would be of a political scientist or generally-read lay person. I think you have to see where the evidence is.

What strikes me as interesting, though, is two areas where there is a contribution. One is the understanding of other cultures, of other ways of looking at the world, just as Kishore said.

I don't know which colleague at Yale you are referring to, but my colleague in Chinese history, Jonathan Spence, who does this whole series of incredibly evocative reconstructions of some mid-eighteenth-century rebellion, does not have a policy-relevant present orientation. And yet, I once invited Henry Kissinger to a private discussion with my students at Yale, and he asked to see Jonathan, and sat for an hour and a half just bombarding him with questions about China — how to understand China, how to think about China, about the current Chinese leadership, about Chinese pride, about Chinese tradition — and I was a fly on the wall, and it was one of the most memorable conversations I have witnessed.

So a person who really understands the culture of Russia or China or South Asia because of deep historical background brings an advantage.

The other thing is history and national leaders or international leaders. When I say this, it is going to get you as worried as I am, because I don't think Mr. Bush studied much history at Yale, if at all. But I was struck by the way in which the policy-makers at Versailles — that small elite, I admit — Balfour, Churchill; again in 1945, Churchill, Roosevelt — I feel had a very deep grounding in history and very good historical antennae, from reading widely.

I am teaching a year-long course at Yale with John Gaddis and our Diplomat in Residence, Charlie Hill, on teaching and thinking about grand strategy, and we select twenty-three Yale undergrad and grad students out of the sixty-five or so who apply, and have them read an incredible amount of history — Clausewitz, Machiavelli, Liddell Hart, Cannon [?] — but we also ask them to go away and discover what leaders read. It's really quite fascinating to ask yourself what history or political books had FDR read, or when you go through Martin Gilbert's big biography of Churchill and you see just how voracious Churchill was in his reading.

So it may not be that the historian, per se, can come along to Andy Marshall and say, "Here is my blueprint for the world now based on my being a historian," but there are more nuanced ways in which information about history helps policy-makers.

QUESTION: I wonder whether we are in the first fifty years of a 500-year history of, let's say, a replication of the Roman Empire, in which everyone in the known world integrated into a single system led by a single power that was quite willing to repress any country that tries to be a challenger. So I'm wondering if you would just comment on this sort of linearity.

PROFESSOR KENNEDY: I would be happy to, though it is an incredibly difficult question.

This post-1989 period is one in which the landscape does look different from the post-1945 landscape. People like Alex DePaut [phonetic] would say that the system changed. after 1945. What he meant was that it moved from a multi-polar system of six or seven big powers to two superpowers. After 1919, the system didn't change in that larger sense — it was a multi-polar world before the First World War; it was a multi-polar world after the First World War, only some had vanished from the scene and there were some newer ones emerging.

What we have had in the past ten years is signs of one particular country having a position really quite unchallenged vis-à-vis its rivals. We know that there are both positive and negative reasons for that: the implosion of the Soviet Union and its economy — if the second-largest economy in the world, Japan's, has been moribund for twelve years, and the third-largest economy in the world, the Soviet Union's, implodes and it is only a quarter of its size right now, then what seemed like becoming a multi-polar world in the 1980s looks a lot less like one now.

I started doing some statistics the other day for the World Economic Forum at Davos because I was to debate with Joe Nye about the nature of national and international power in the twenty-first century. I came across a number of pie charts, and they showed that the United States now has 4.7 percent of the world's population. Because of what has happened to other countries, its share of the pie, of the total world output and product, has gone up from the low of 22 percent ten years ago to 29 percent. So a country with 4.7 percent of the world's population has 29 percent of gross world product and is spending 36 percent of all of the defense spending of the 185 countries in the world. I don't think anybody has told President Bush that one country is spending 36 percent of all the defense expenditures.

What's more, we have 61 percent of the e-mail traffic each day. And there are various other indicators. I went back and checked science, technology and medicine Nobel Prize winners since 1970. I left out the Peace Prize and the Literature Prize for obvious reasons. But 82 percent of all Nobel Prize winners in science and technology and medicine were working in American universities.

So there is a kind of combination of what Joe Nye would call "hard" and "soft" power that I have not seen in world history. Even the Roman Empire had a very powerful Persian Empire to the east.

So it is difficult to watch. The only way I can do it is the way I did it in the 1970s and 1980s, to keep looking at those kind of basic indicators of the components of national power and see if they change.

Some of our colleagues in political science believe that if China doubles its economy every seven to eight years, then it will be a much bigger player and the U.S. share will relatively decline. The evidence is going to unfold. It will be, as the Chinese say, an interesting period to watch.

QUESTION: It seems to me that in the twentieth century, development of international institutions was fairly linear. Wouldn't it be historically impossible to envisage a radical change in the world of international institutions? What we can expect now in the post-Cold War would be rather a modification of the existing institutions, of the doctrine of NATO, for example, of the UN, rather than a dramatic departure from the course which has been developed over time?

PROFESSOR KENNEDY: I would be quite happy at incremental changes, amendments, metamorphoses. I don't think the international community, especially not the big power community, would be able to sit down and trade across a table massive changes in international organizations' constitution. The book I am working on now, about the evolution of the United Nations organization and the international system, reminds me that there have been many incremental changes since the 1945 San Francisco Charter in peace-keeping, in peace enforcement, that many things were invented on-the-fly, as it were, by Dag Hammarskjold or Ralph Bunche. There was a learning process, there were amendments.

I know when we put together our Ford/Yale Report, we came to some tricky issues like the Security Council, its membership and the veto, and were under instruction from our commission to be very bold and suggest a quite different composition for the Security Council. But we were also told to indicate intermediate steps, or smaller steps.

So there is a big vision of a Security Council which is so much more effective and legitimate in the eyes of the world, but right now, if that is going to be difficult for the P5 to agree to, how about agreeing to certain other steps along the way, including a diminution of the use and areas — of, say, veto — that is not as dramatic?

I also hope that we might see significant moderations, but not dramatic changes in the Bretton Woods institutions and their relationship to the other economic and social parts of the United Nations organization. Thus, modification over time, but right now, since about 1994-95, when we had the paralysis in peace enforcement and less and less cooperation of the other two veto poses, we have stasis.

QUESTION: As I listened to what Kishore was saying, I recalled a G-77 meeting in New Delhi when Nuguanu [phonetic] told me what he thought of rule-making in large bodies. He walked out and went to Katmandu for three days of sight-seeing, he was so fed up with trying to do things with a large number of countries in public — this is slightly reflected in his books. I stand with the Procedural Minister on that question.

I have a technical, substantive question. You refer to "the international system." Do you mean something like the solar system, which is self-correcting; or are you referring to something like the American tax system, where there are enforcement procedures for people who do not conform?

I ask not only for clarification, but I am much more inclined to say that there is a balance, that's how things are kept going. Isn't it better to discuss how one achieves a peaceful balance of all of these various forces, rather than talking about a system that is either self-correcting or has an enforcer?

PROFESSOR KENNEDY: I guess I was borrowing from my political science colleagues, who think, talk, and write a lot about world system theory, et cetera. I certainly don't mean it's anything like the solar system. It is a human construct, and much of it was put together over centuries of international negotiation and understanding of what states could do and shouldn't do.

On the other hand, I would like to comment on the second part of your remarks and say that while it may have been put together by a small group of decision-makers at occasional turning points in this past century, there are parts of it which become increasingly self-sustaining or self-justifying.

The coming of an international human rights regime is not perfect by any means, but it would have staggered decision-makers in the 1920s or 1910s to think that there would be such advances in international human rights. When you do nasty things to your own people now, you try to keep it quiet, because there is an expectation that there is a basic set of human rights.

The evolution of the international financial system is beginning to be almost self-regulating because of the punishment which happens to your currency or economy if you head in different directions. I'm not saying that the directions are good one way or the other, but there is much more of a sense of the interconnectedness of it, of a kind of string theory, where if something happens in the Yen you will see something happening in the Euro, and the Europeans will wonder whether they have to lower interest rates, et cetera.

So it is man-built and it is man-adjusted, but it also seems to begin to create something which is larger than just the individual parts.

QUESTION: When you mentioned e-mail, it occurred to me that I would like to ask you if the present Internet makes it harder or easier to see this landscape when you are making up the report that you are talking about? We are all oppressed with information overload. The Internet is just overwhelming if you want data. What you think about this whole Internet world and its power to help us or hinder us?

PROFESSOR KENNEDY: Don't you think it's like a whole number of technologies which have come out of human ingenuity in the past? It brings advantages in one particular realm and disadvantages in another. I'm sure people said it about the telephone ? "Will that damn telephone not stop ringing" I wish I lived in an age when there wasn't a telephone.? — but then you want to phone your baker or grocer or candlestick maker, so you like the telephone.

I am going to be wobbly and do a two-way thing here. It is pretty overwhelming, I think, for almost every university professor now. The e-mails just come in every day, and dozens, dozens, dozens. I went briefly to London for two days last week and there were a mere 136 when I came back.

What's more, I think it's making some students incredibly lazy. I'm getting e-mails not just from my Yalies, but from high school kids in Santa Barbara saying: "Dear Professor Kennedy: I have to do this history European advanced placement essay on the origins of the Second World War, and would you kindly suggest a few titles?"

However, access to Web sites, statistical tables and data, et cetera, allows me to get material with much greater facility and speed. When I fly to give a talk for my lecture agency in Venezuela or Tokyo, as I fly down to Caracas I will have just checked on the CIA Open Country Report on how things are doing in Venezuela, the World Bank's Six-Monthly Report, the Economist Intelligence Unit Report, I will look to see where Venezuela is in the UNDP rankings of social indicators, I check on the reports on Venezuela from the Global Competitiveness Report out of Switzerland, and then, the Global Corruption Index, which is produced by Transparency, Inc., out of Berlin. So I can fly to Caracas and peruse material about exactly where Venezuela is comparatively and internally, which would have taken me quite a lot longer to get, or I wouldn't have been able to get at all. It's a double-edged sword: You win some of your day and you lose part of your day with e-mail.

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