New players on the international scene: an introduction by Henry Milner.

AuthorMilner, Henry

It has been too long since an issue of Inroads has concentrated on foreign policy. When we decided to rectify that situation, we did not know that this issue would coincide with a series of dramatic changes in much of the Arab world, changes that would leave the world reeling.

However, a twice-yearly periodical cannot keep up with ongoing events, especially in difficult-to-penetrate countries like Libya, Yemen, Bahrain or Syria. That is the job of the daily press as it rushes to bring us the facts on the ground.

Hence, only one of the five articles that follow deals--and it only obliquely--with the ongoing transformation of the Arab world. Philip Resnick condemns the complaisance of too many respected intellectuals happily willing to accept Muammar Gaddafi's petrodollar-based honours along with the condition that they overlook the dark side of his regime.

The lesson of recent developments in the Arab world is that the old rules do not apply to Mideast politics. Beyond the Middle East, new players have entered the fray, their actions driven by poorly understood domestic imperatives. As the dominant position of America, Europe and Japan is challenged, the BRIC countries--Brazil, Russia, India and China, now joined by South Africa--are coming to the fore. Reg Whitaker and Chris Landsberg help us understand the emerging forces behind these events.

Reflecting on the immense changes in China, Whitaker concludes that the American claim to exceptionalism now has definite Chinese echoes, which do not bode well for Sino-American relations. He quotes Henry Kissinger: "Neither Washington nor Beijing has much practice in cooperative relations between equals."

Landsberg delves into the foreign policy of a less widely noted new player on the international scene, South Africa, first under Thabo Mbeki and now under Jacob Zuma. Starting from Mbeki's accomplishments, such as the founding of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development), the acceleration of the Millennium Development Goals and South African membership in the G20, he contends that these fit into a clear foreign policy map that spells out the country's broad strategic thrusts. On this map a key element is an "African agenda" aimed at establishing South Africa as a leader on the African continent. Mbeki also sought to deepen South-South cooperation, expand South-North relations, participate in the global system of governance and strengthen foreign political and economic ties. But for domestic...

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