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Normative Shift

Normative Shift

Mini Teaser: Social values change, and international norms change with them. A look at global issues and crises through the lens of "normative shift".

by Author(s): Coral Bell

The Pope's apologies to Muslims for the sins of 12th-century Crusaders, the crises over Kosovo and East Timor, the prosecution of Augusto Pinochet, the rows in the International Whaling Commission, the harangues of Slobodan Milosevic from his dock at The Hague, the belated compensation to the victims of Nazism-all these phenomena are improbably connected by a single invisible thread: normative shift. In the Western world of the last few decades, the phenomenon of normative shift-by which I mean simply the social process of changing domestic or international rules about what is deemed acceptable or unacceptable behavior-has been a factor in decisions ranging right up to military action, and even the form such action has taken. One special case, normative conflict between the West and the Islamic world, has deeper roots-at least 300 if not 1,300 years deeper. But that conflict, too, has been sharpened to a murderous point by recent changes in Western norms, even so domestic and seemingly marginal a change as the recruitment of women to combat forces.

How, then, to characterize normative shift? Why does it occur, and what factors account for its particular direction? How have the changes flowing from it been manifest in recent international crises? What is the relationship of changing norms to the structure of the international system, and what of the future? It is with these questions that this essay is concerned.

Norms, Laws and Consequences

Lawyers tend to equate norms with laws, moralists equate them with ethical standards, and religiously-oriented people equate them with the edicts of their respective deities. But the derivation of the word is very down-to-earth: from the Latin for a carpenter's set-square. The set-square tells the carpenter what a right-angle is "expected and required" to be. A social norm defines "expected and required" behavior in a particular society at a particular time. An international norm defines "expected and required" behavior in the society of states. The existence of a norm, at any level, thus does not imply permanence, still less divine edict, even though many norms are presumed to have that status.

Moreover, to get from a norm to a law is no simple matter. "Thou shalt not murder" is a moral norm, but the law is not identical to the norm: for one thing, laws always have escape clauses, allowing the state, for example, to engage in murderous behavior in war and sometimes in capital punishment-although the norm on that latter has changed recently in many countries. Understanding the difference between norms and laws is a prerequisite for grasping some recent international changes. Just as Prohibition was a law that never became a norm ("expected and required behavior") for most Americans, so too, on the international plane, have assorted idealists or liberals or "do-gooders" (according to one's point of view) promoted numerous un conventions that have been duly signed and ratified by enough governments for them to have acquired the status of international law. But they have not necessarily become international norms, because governments have not seriously "expected and required" themselves and each other to abide by most of them-at least not until very recently.

The case of Augusto Pinochet is instructive here. Until the British Law Lords decided otherwise in 1998, almost everyone believed that the old norm of "sovereign immunity" protected him from prosecution for the actions of his minions in Chile after the 1973 coup. The British government itself had believed so only a few weeks earlier, providing him with the usual courtesies for a former head of state when he arrived. But it then suddenly arrested him when the Law Lords decided that the un Convention against torture, ratified by Britain in 1988, trumped the old norm. Despite the final British decision to release the general on health grounds, and despite the Chilean government's protests at the time that Britain's behavior infringed upon Chilean sovereignty, that judgment became a precedent which, ironically enough, enabled the Chilean government itself to arrest Pinochet a few months after his return to Santiago.

The Pinochet incident stands as illustration of the fact that a confluence of developments that reached "critical mass" only in the last decade of the 20th century has induced a rapid shift from one more or less logically inclusive set of international norms to another. Note that I do not say that this shift is from old norms to new, for some of those norms now most vital to understanding world politics date back to the just war doctrine of the 5th century, and are to be found in Hugo Grotius. The shift is rather from "realist/nationalist" norms to alternatives that may in part be called "cosmopolitan" (as opposed to "internationalist"). But the shift toward cosmopolitan norms, which we will examine below, though rapid, is tentative and incomplete because it is related both to technologies and power structures that are still evolving. It may never be universal, and it is still potentially reversible.

A domestic analogy-but as we shall see, not just an analogy-may again be helpful in conveying the speed of change. Until the 1960s, most people in Western societies accepted traditional norms concerning relations between men and women. Men were expected to be the primary breadwinners, women were expected to stay home and raise children, most babies were expected to be born in wedlock, and homosexual relations were expected to be carefully concealed, being indeed illegal in many societies. Those were, in effect, the mainstream norms of the time; not everyone liked them, but mostly people went along without seriously questioning the existing order of things. In a mere ten years or so, starting from the late 1960s, all that changed (in Western societies) rather dramatically, giving us new norms that most Westerners now accept. Much of what once was "expected and required", like marriage, has become all but optional; some of what was "expected and required", concerning homosexual behavior in particular, has witnessed a virtual normative reversal.

How shall we account for such a profound normative shift, affecting the most basic social sinews of Western societies (though not of most others)? A few factors, in their mutual interaction, are obvious: the coming of age of a very large cohort of young people; the alienation of that group from traditional authority structures and norms, accelerated and spread partly because of the Vietnam War; the long upturn in prosperity; the rapid expansion of higher education; the influence of feminist doctrines. Most important, probably, was a single technological factor: the advent of the contraceptive pill. Without reliable means of controlling how many children they would have and when, women's surge into the workplace-on which practically everything else of social normative significance depended-would hardly have been possible. But even allowing for all that, the speed of change still seems a little mysterious. The zeitgeist keeps some of its secrets.

Much the same is true of the somewhat later normative shift in the society of states. Even after the usual suspects have been rounded up for inspection, some mystery remains. But a technological factor seems likely again to prove the most vital of all, and it is one that is being universalized far more easily than the Western domestic norms sketched a moment ago. That factor is information and communications technology in its widest sense, and the reason it is being universalized so rapidly is its essential role in creating an efficient modern economy. Even a government like China's, which is so afraid of alternative social norms that it throws fairly harmless Falun Gong practitioners into dungeons, is neither willing nor effectively able to prevent the spread of computers and mobile phones and e-mail, despite the fact that these devices have already proved how enormously useful they can be to political activists of every sort. Especially dissidents.

Factors of Change

So, norms change because the way we live changes, and in recent decades, if not the last few centuries, nothing has affected our lives as profoundly as scientific-technical innovation. Normative shift in international politics is not, however, a simple function of technology. The fuller sociological context of these innovations must be examined to make any sense of the matter. When we do, we see that three main factors have been driving normative change in international politics.

First of these in time, but not in importance, has been the institutionalization of diplomacy. That must be dated from 1945 (with 1919 as a "false dawn"), but it has only reached critical mass in the past decade or two. Second, and much more recent, is the end of the Cold War and the advent of the unipolar world, which dates from the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. I will return to these two factors in due course, but for now we dwell on the third and most fundamental factor: the information/communications revolution.

One could date this technology-driven transformation from as early as the beginnings of international broadcasting in the 1920s, but it has only reached critical mass in the mid-1990s with the near-universalization of the Internet. This will prove the most significant of the three factors because of its role in creating and empowering a cosmopolitan as well as an international civil society. The essential distinction between the two is one of focus. Internationalism seeks greater cooperation among peoples, but it focuses on and reinforces the concept of the nation-or, more precisely, the sovereign state as represented by its government-as the central player in world politics. Cosmopolitanism, by contrast, sees the individual as a citizen of "the universal city"-that is, of the single worldwide community of humankind, all of whose members are deemed to be entitled to equal rights independent of what their existing governments are prepared to allow them. It is thus subversive of state authority in a way that internationalism is not.

The "battle of Seattle" in 1999, and successor episodes since, can to some degree be seen as the two concepts in collision. Most of those seeking to disrupt the meetings of the wto and other international organizations may be economic or cultural nationalists, angry at the loss of jobs or the intrusion into their societies of American cultural norms. But others believe (mistakenly) that the wto and other international organizations promote only the interests of rich nations to the disadvantage of the majority of humankind. Though probably not a majority of the activists, the techniques they use and the agendas they promote are inherently cosmopolitan: human rights must be defended in California as well as in China; forests must be cherished in Indonesia as well as Oregon; land mines must be banned for the sake of humanity as a whole, even if they deter war in Korea. The relevant normative focus in cosmopolitan decision-making is not the interest of the nation, the state or the government, but the supposed general well-being of the world's people.

The explosive worldwide growth of information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, has provided an ideal context for the activists who run such groups. It is easier and cheaper to set up a "demo" now than ever before. And the media are in a sort of (mostly unwitting) symbiotic relationship with the advocacy ngos. They need stories even more than the activists need publicity. Few things provide better television pictures than a good rowdy protest-except for falling towers, which leads us to yet another technological development that is deeply unsettling to the traditional normative environment.

Those nightmare images of the 9/11 attack on New York remind us that a non-state actor, a terrorist group, can now inflict savage trauma on the richest and most powerful society in history. Contemporary technologies are the source of that power, and their nature allows, even facilitates, the redistribution of that power from the state to other groupings. Indeed, it may be that such technologies will come soon to rival the information/communications revolution as a factor in normative shift. The two types of technology are clearly already related in an important dynamic: while one sort of technological change is balm to cosmopolitan anti-sovereignty activists, another sort is balm to apocalyptical terrorists. The latter raises a response from the system's leading state in terms of new doctrines of preventive war and regime change that are themselves normatively novel, and the former then rush to undermine this response by insisting, for example, on conflating the Geneva Conventions, a traditional form of contract law, with the growing corpus of human rights "law." Cosmopolitan activists and apocalyptical terrorists share few norms in common-the only one, really, being their hostility to the norms of the Westphalian system. But they deploy their technological capacities in ways that are forcing that system to depart from its own fixed convictions and rules.

This does not mean that sovereign states will cease being the dominant actors in world politics for the foreseeable future. The point is rather that technological change will probably be an increasingly important factor both in normative shift and in the power relationships between the state and other global forces. This dynamic also helps to explain how norms and the structure of the international political system are related. How can cosmopolitan norms ever become institutionalized if they fly in the face of the nation-state organization of the existing system? The short answer is that they first challenge the norms of that system, which must then react in ways that acknowledge or partially accommodate the cosmopolitan norms that produce the challenge. The dialectic of challenges from the margin affecting core norms is usually so slow a process that we do not even notice it most of the time. Lately, however, as suggested above, the process is moving quite fast, and it is all we can do sometimes to notice anything else.

Vectors of Change

A brief look at the past will make clear how remarkable is the current speed of normative change, and what shape it is taking. For the whole three hundred years from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 to the un Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the normative foundations of the society of states hardly changed at all. An anti-slavery norm was added in the 19th century, a process that took sixty years-from the British legislation abolishing the slave trade in 1806-07 to the end of the American Civil War in 1865. An antiwar norm struggled to emerge in the early 20th century, especially after the horrors of World War I, but it can hardly be said to have established itself even now, considering how many wars go on happening. The most optimistic view that can be sustained on this issue is that the reasons for which war is still regarded as legitimate have been greatly reduced, and that war between genuinely democratic governments (an increasing band) is now very unlikely. An anti-colonialism norm that emerged after World War II is far better established. The overseas empires of the European powers have been wound up, except for a few islands here and there. The great contiguous Russian empire built by the czars and maintained by the Soviet Union has been partially dissolved, and may dissolve still further.

The European Union provides the most dramatic post-World War II example of how normative shift can rapidly effect large structural changes, both economic and political. In 1945, the people, and particularly the intellectuals, of Continental Europe were intensely disillusioned with their respective national states, which had protected them neither from the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and the trauma of conquest and occupation, nor the later depredations of Soviet power. So the norms of nationalism and of the sovereign state (which Europeans had invented and lived with for centuries) were at a sharp discount (with Britain a partial exception). For the past fifty-plus years, this basic normative shift has been the motivating force behind the changes in European political and economic structures. The construction of Europe has not replaced nationalism, but it has diverted the emotional drives behind nationalism into different channels, increasing feelings of identification both with the larger context, Europe, and (by reaction) also with the smaller, older polities like Scotland, Wales, Corsica, Brittany, Lombardy, Catalonia and the Basque country. Over the same fifty years, the new economic and political structures centered in Brussels have increasingly sought and acquired power to enforce new norms-some as comically trivial as the "expected and required" ingredients of a sausage or the allowable degree of curvature in a cucumber, but some as important as the prohibition of capital punishment. That process remains ongoing, and while no one can be sure of what the final shape and extent of Europe will be, it is already clear that it will have great economic clout, and probably many areas of normative difference with the United States.

Other notable normative shifts of the post-World War II years have concerned environmental issues and arms control restrictions on both weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons. Efforts to restrict what governments can do (or permit to be done) to the environment, and efforts to restrict what weapons they can develop and deploy, no doubt both erode sovereignty around the edges. But what strikes to the heart of normative shift in international relations are the changes defining what governments can do to their own people. This emerging normative shift is not just postwar, but post-Cold War in its essence, and this cannot be merely a coincidence. Indeed, four of the five main crises of the 1990s-the Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor-have helped to define those changes, and the fifth, Chechnya, has indicated their limitations. We need now to examine these cases in brief, for they lie on the very frontier of a rapidly changing international normative environment.

Norms and Crisis Management

The Gulf crisis and war of 1990-91 was primarily interest-driven rather than norm-driven: that is, the U.S. "coalition of the willing" that mounted hostilities against Ba'athi Iraq was primarily motivated by the prudential concern of the individual governments for their respective national interests, notably with regard to energy resources. Nevertheless, the operation did assert two important norms: that aggression should not be allowed to prosper, and that small sovereignties were not to be expunged by force. Of course, as international ideals those concepts had been frequently given pious official endorsement at least since 1919, so they were not new. But their enforcement in 1991 in effect turned ideals into norms, into "expected and required behavior."

Then came Bosnia. Despite almost four years of blunders and false starts, that crisis confirmed those norms and added another: that states are not to expand their territories by armed force, even if most of the people in the disputed area favor the takeover. The Serbs in Republika Srpska may all have preferred union with Serbia, but they were not allowed to make that choice of self-determination at the territorial expense of Bosnia. A perceived parallel with the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia in 1938-39 perhaps haunted the negotiators. The clash between the self-determination norm (which was already quite strong in 1918, but has been reinforced by events in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor) and an anti-seccession norm (which had perhaps its strongest affirmation in the American Civil War, and is still backed by materialist norms as well as vested interests) in many countries is clear, and likely to lie at the heart of many future conflicts, as in Chechnya.

Kosovo and East Timor, unlike the Gulf War (and to a greater degree than Bosnia) may be defined as crises in which outside intervention was norm-driven rather than interest-driven. Both are small, resource-poor provinces. Aside from their immediate neighbors, no outside power had much of a stake, either economically or strategically, in their future governance. Nor were any other plausible outside national interests at stake, except the indirect long-term benefit supposed to accrue to every member of the society of states from living in a system in which norms are effective because they are observed. And they are observed because they have (when occasion has demanded) been enforced.

The norm asserted in both cases was not just or mainly that of self-determination, but rather that minorities, even if troublesome, are not to be massacred, expelled or deprived of their human rights as spelled out in the Geneva Conventions of 1948. If future governments have to take that norm seriously, it will plant quite a land mine in the society of states, one that might shatter several of its members into smaller pieces quite irrespective of claims to self-determination. A great many countries have dissident provinces that central authorities repress to one degree or another. Some Third World countries are a mosaic of separate (and potentially separatist) ethnic groups, just as Tito's Yugoslavia was. Undoubtedly, the whole sequence of recent crises from Macedonia to East Timor has taught political activists in such provinces to think more hopefully about autonomy or even sovereignty, and how it might be secured. The fact that the interventions in Kosovo and East Timor were norm-driven rather than interest-driven is even more encouraging (from their point of view) than the other crises. This is because norms can be claimed "universal" and not subject to compromise, whereas interests are usually local and eminently negotiable. To universalize the East Timor norm, however, would mean many new sovereignties, most of them unstable and not economically viable.

That consideration brings us sharply up against an uncomfortable but unavoidable question: Why only Kosovo and East Timor? Why not Chechnya or Tibet, or southern Sudan or Rwanda, or a host of other recent struggles, many of which have evinced worse humanitarian consequences than those that provoked the two interventions of 1999? In the cases of Chechnya and Tibet, the obvious reasons are those of strategic prudence and great power diplomacy. But there is also the matter of "security regionalization", which returns us, as promised, to the institutionalization of diplomacy.

Both Kosovo and East Timor were regional crises that evoked primarily regional responses, but the regional circumstances were significantly distinct in the two cases. In the case of Kosovo there already existed a large, powerful and long-established military coalition, nato, specifically dedicated to the security of Europe. That is not true of the Asia-Pacific or for any other part of the world. For East Timor, a security force had to be improvised in a hurry, for none of the three organizations interested in Southeast Asia (ASEAN, APEC and ARF) was at all militarily-oriented, still less capable of actual military initiative. It was only because Australia had capable forces and bases nearby that rapid action was possible. U.S. policymakers, in turn, put sufficient diplomatic pressure on Jakarta to induce President Habibie (and perhaps even more importantly, General Wiranto) to pull out Indonesian troops so that Australian forces could enter a "permissive environment."

What is significant here is that a form of transregional international action substituted for the absence of a diplomatically institutionalized regional security structure. This was quite remarkable, not least because it represented the maturation of an idea suggested in the earliest days of the League of Nations in 1919. It was called the "hue and cry" concept, the assumption being that if the society of states made enough of an outcry about some delinquent government policy, the targeted government would lose its nerve and abandon the denounced line of action. In effect, international public opinion would substitute for armed force. It did not work against Japan on Manchuria (1931) or against Italy on Ethiopia (1936) or against Germany on Czechoslovakia (1938), so the concept was abandoned by all but the most starry-eyed of liberals. But those crises occurred in a multipolar world, and a world in which the communications revolution was still at an embryonic stage. In the contemporary "internetted", media-dominated, globalized and unipolar world, it may be that the moment of truth for that strategy has finally arrived.

But only in some cases. It has not been sufficient in cases such as the Sudan and Rwanda, and it would not have worked on the hard-shelled government of old Communist apparatchiks in Belgrade. For that, another old theory found its moment of truth: the airpower concept first propounded by Giulio Douhet in the 1920s. The central proposition of his theory was that to modify the will of the chief adversary decision-maker, the best strategy was to destroy the fixed assets that he valued and his society needed: power stations, bridges, air-defense systems and so on. When the level of destruction reached a point that threatened his own power base, the adversary leader would make a deal. That seems a fair approximation of the process by which Milosevic was induced to withdraw his troops from Kosovo in early June 1999, thus allowing the nato troops to enter "a permissive environment."

Thus we have two neatly contrasted political situations responding to two different crisis-management techniques: the weak government structure (or non-structure) in Jakarta yielding to the "hue and cry" concept in September/October 1999, and the tough-minded, tightly controlled authoritarian structure in Belgrade yielding to airpower doctrine in June 1999. In both cases the concept was one invented about eighty years earlier but not technologically or politically feasible, on the evidence, until the end of the century. I stress this point because of what it indicates about the 21st century. Imagination leaps forward: the means to effect what has been imagined limps slowly after it, but it usually does arrive in time. The crucial diplomatic necessity is to recognize that moment.

Both crises also reinforce the point that the institutionalization of diplomacy, especially in its regional form, gives the governments which have created those institutions a stake in their survival and prestige. Almost as important, the frequent meetings involved give the decision-makers a sense of collegiality, and a tendency to bandwagon. nato's power and prestige are so important to all its members that even Greece, which abhorred the attack on its fellow Orthodox ally, Serbia, played a vital role in that campaign by use of its port in Thessaloniki. In the East Timor case, even Malaysia, which abhorred the pressure put on the largest Islamic power (Indonesia), and which has often been at odds with Australian prime ministers, went along, if reluctantly.

By contrast, in those military and humanitarian crises where regional organization is absent, inadequate or underdeveloped, and where no Timor-like ad hoc international substitute is at hand (Sudan, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Congo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and others, especially in Africa), nothing effective tends to get done. By its very nature, the un is incapable of putting together rapidly an effective military force: too many decision-makers have to be consulted or persuaded. Besides, even though there is a cosmopolitan tendency in the current normative shift, peoples who are culturally or geographically close tend to get the largest share of any society's attention. So regionalism is almost inevitably a major factor in the prospects for effective action, particularly so in those regions in which the United States has no vital national interests engaged.

In the case of the 1990s' fifth military crisis, Chechnya, the rights of minorities had to be weighed against the interests of the world as a whole in stable relations between Moscow and the West. The discontent of the Chechens with their incorporation into the Russian Federation is well justified. The Caucasus was a contested 19th-century acquisition by the Czarist Empire, and the Chechens claim never to have stopped fighting it. Stalin brutally deported them en masse to Central Asia during World War II, so they have every reason to resent and resist Russian control. But an outside military intervention on their behalf, even if it were possible, would violate two ancient norms of just war doctrine, prudence and proportionality; the chances of success would be slight, and the danger to world peace would vastly outweigh any good that might be done. The same is true with regard to Tibet and its situation vis-à-vis China.

In short, attempts to enforce normative change, however sincere, still have to take account of power relationships, thus inevitably attracting charges of hypocrisy. New norms cannot, or at any rate do not, override structural realities except perhaps with time, often protracted time. Moreover, the trajectory of normative development can stall (or even be reversed as, for example, when Nazi norms replaced those of Weimar). Several trans-sovereignty norms were hopefully asserted before World War II-we remember, do we not, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and Peace Pledge ballots?-but the rise of totalitarianism forced states and publics alike to hold on to traditional norms. There can be little doubt that the post-Cold War international security environment is what has enabled the rapid advance of the cosmopolitan normative agenda. We live in a world in which war among the great powers is highly unlikely-less likely, perhaps, than at anytime since the Treaty of Westphalia. But clearly, a major deterioration of the contemporary security environment-caused, say, by a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan-could set back the advance of cosmopolitan norms considerably. After all, it is generally true, as Josef Joffe has written, that international organization thrives because there is peace, not the other way around.

West and Non-West

What, then, does it mean to live in a world stuck between two normative claimants? It means, for one thing, that diplomatic and economic pressures can be fairly effective in an increasingly globalized world, even against great powers like Russia and China. Certainly, they can be effective enough to be profoundly resented. Like Milosevic over Kosovo, future Russian and Chinese presidents faced with continuing unrest in the Caucasus or Tibet will in effect invoke the Westphalian norms of sovereignty, and a great many fragile new sovereignties in the ex-colonial world will support them in doing so. Like Indonesia and the old Yugoslavia, they often tend to be mini-empires, originally put together by local or European powers from many diverse ethnic or cultural groups. Once the charismatic leader who has secured independence leaves the scene, the army may be the only factor holding those groups together--and that will almost invariably mean the rough suppression of dissidents or separatists. So a Western-driven no rmative shift that tilts the balance in favor of discontented minorities looking for self-determination is likely to cause Third World governments to see Russia and China as potential allies on this issue, and the United States and Europe as ill-informed meddlers in matters that are none of their business.

That is not the only subject in which West and non-West will clash over normative issues. Another factor needs to be mentioned because of its diplomatic importance; I shall call it "forced emulation." One can see a trivial instance of this in process in the rows at the International Whaling Commission. The West (except Norway) has recently evolved a norm that whales are not for eating. The Japanese are still resisting and resenting the pressures to conform. There is in that small instance a vivid symbol of the enormous pressures that non-Western societies are under, in a unipolar globalizing world, to adopt Western norms.

The murderous rage that can be generated among defenders of alternative systems of norms, especially when incited by religious authorities, is most obvious, of course, among Muslim fundamentalists. The United States has had almost universal success in getting governments throughout the world to proclaim an antiterrorism norm, but whether the underlying populations of the most relevant of those governments really endorse that norm is at best uncertain. One important reason, curiously enough, has to do with the domestic normative shift in Western societies discussed above.

Whether 300 or 1,300 years in incubation, the conflict between the West and Islam has changed dramatically in the past thirty or forty years. For most of its history, this conflict was about power, land, and religion thought of as a creed armed rather than as a basic moral. Muslims and Christians alike had no argument with the bedrock code of the Hebrew Bible when it came to family, sexual and other fundamental moral obligations and assumptions. But in the last three or four decades, it is the West that moved rapidly away from these fundaments. Having so moved, the West then turned around and, mostly by media and commercial-borne inadvertence, begun exporting these new norms to the world of Islam--where they have caused no little trouble and resentment. The critical normative gap between us and them has widened because we widened it. And yet this obvious fact is hardly ever noted in the West.

Nationalism, Regionalism, Internationalism, Cosmopolitanism

The connection between domestic social norms and those of international society is neither accidental nor marginal. As the bipolar world of the Cold War was shaped by a clash of social ideologies complicated by interstate interests, the current unipolar world seems likely to be shaped by a clash of domestic norms also complicated by interstate interests. Instead of two fairly coherent adversary coalitions and a crowd of interested bystanders, however, we have a free-for-all, largely between young and old. That is to say, the generation factor is important. The young tend to be ardent in pursuit and support of normative shift, even when it is backwards toward older norms. The cultural and normative establishment (or former establishment) tends to be defended especially by the elderly--old communists in Russia, old cardinals in the Catholic Church, ancient ayatollahs in Iran. The middle-aged are often converted to their children's norms: consider the growth of opposition to the Vietnam war. But they and sometim es the young are nevertheless also often nostalgic for the norms of their parents.

International conflict seems a world away from most of the norms we live by, norms related to our lives as parents and children, husbands and wives, academics, businessmen, journalists, scientists, employees. Yet domestic norms can have a huge impact on the processes of international politics. Indeed, the doctrines enjoined in mosques and churches and temples and synagogues have clearly engendered many past and present international conflicts, and will undoubtedly go on doing so. As they do, however, they will collide with as many as four organizing principles of international politics: nationalism, regionalism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism.

Nationalism is still undoubtedly the most solidly entrenched and universal of the four. It is also the most dangerous. The wars of nationalism dominated the past two centuries, and its norms can be bent to allow almost any behavior in the interests of the nation. As Cavour said, reflecting on the making of Italy in the late 19th century: "If we had done for ourselves what we have done for our country, what scoundrels we would be."

At least in Europe, however, the teeth of nationalism now seem to have been drawn by the necessities of regionalism. Economic regionalism seems also to be spreading to much of the world: the American hemisphere, South Asia, Southeast Asia, even Africa. But the EU has become a role model that looks much easier to emulate than it actually is.

Internationalism has had a harder row to hoe, especially in the United States, not least because it is attacked both by nationalists and by cosmopolitans. But the almost unstoppable march of globalization will probably push it along. Despite what some right-wing Americans maintain, international organizations from the UN on down have for the past fifty-plus years been useful tools of American foreign policy. Dean Acheson once called the UN "a diplomatic do-it-yourself kit", and that is true of most of the others as well. Washington policymakers have used them adroitly over the years, and could once again if they chose to do so--especially if they are wise enough to appreciate that international methods can blunt cosmopolitan efforts to undermine American sovereignty.

Cosmopolitanism, however telegenic, is still the weakest of the four, its norms (so far) those of small minorities. But its potential constituency now is vastly larger than before: media people, international civil servants, the entrepreneurs and managers of transnational enterprises, the academics and scientists who migrate overseas from university to university as their interests and opportunities change. Like the wandering scholars of the Renaissance, they have a common language that helps them earn a living. Then it was Latin; now it is English, which more people already speak as a second language than as a mother tongue. The vast Internet-obsessed cohort of students will multiply those numbers many times.

It is even possible that cosmopolitan norms may come to be seen as the logical counterpart of a truly globalized world economy, at least to such elites. It will probably not seem so to the grassroots though, and that could mean quite a battle, particularly if that other domestic norm we are supposed to care about in the West--democracy--really means anything. Here perhaps is where domestic social and transnational norms will most portentously clash; here is where the 21st century is leading us.

Coral Bell is a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University. Her next book, World Out of Balance, is about the problems and prospects of the unipolar world.

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