Free Compare and Contrast Essay Sample

Compare and contrast the Cold War in XX century and the War on terrorism in XXI century
The main difference between the Cold War and the War of Terror is that they happened under different systems of international relations. America’s victory in the World War II established it as one of the world’s leaders under the bipolar system. ‘Polarity’ is a term used by international relations scholars to describe the alignment of forces and balance of powers on the world arena.

The bipolar system — the standoff between NATO members and the countries of Warsaw Pact — defined international relations for the most of the second half of the 20th century. The U.S. pursues containment policy to prevent the global spread of communism and victory of the USSR over the “free world.” After the collapse of the USSR, it was unclear what system of international relations was to follow.

Many believed that it was a historic chance to build a truly multipolar world order based on the principles of multilateralism. However, their hopes faded soon. While early 1990s left some space for the development of the multipolarity, the dawn of the 21st century clearly showed that the world has only one global leader eager to strengthen its hegemony. The importance of the U.S. on the global arena encouraged the present administration to promote its overseas interests more aggressively. No one would doubt the present system of international relations is a typical example of unipolarity – a system based on the principle of unilateralism. The criteria used to determine the nature of an international system, i.e. military power, economic strength, and cultural hegemony (Russett, 2003), clearly suggest that the U.S. is a global hegemony.

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The Cold War was prosecuted by a block of countries under the U.S. leadership rather than American alone. It was a collective endeavor under the bipolar system. However, one of the characteristics of the unipolar world order is that the world’s leader claims the right to resort to force as it sees fit. This is exactly what lies in the core of the U.S. doctrine of the pre-emptive strike, employed to justify the military operation in Iraq and discussed in connection with other Middle Eastern states. As it is set forth in the Bush Administration’s ‘National Security Strategy of the United States’ published in September 2002, the U.S. is ready to use preemptive military force to prevent U.S. enemies from using weapons of mass destruction against it or its friends or allies (Grimmett, 2003).

This strategy ‘breaks with 50 years of U.S. counterproliferation efforts by authorizing preemptive strikes on states and terrorist groups that are close to acquiring weapons of mass destruction or the long-range missiles capable of delivering them’ (Allen & Gellman, 2002, para. 4). Under the current provisions of general international law, such actions are illegitimate. The only body which can use preventive or enforcement measures against other states is the UN Security Council, which can sanction harsh measures like embargo and peacekeeping operations.

However, the Operation of Iraqi Freedom rendered quaint the role of the Security Council in the international system. The U.S. demonstrated their willingness to use force without the approval of any multilateral institutions.

U.S. War on Terror has resulted in the deterioration of its relations with its most important ally, Europe. The situation has aggravated to the extent that made scholars talk about the so-called ‘transatlantic crisis.’ The transatlantic crisis is essentially about disagreements in the transatlantic security community in the face of the modern challenges such as international terrorism, given the fact that the U.S. enjoys hegemonic position in the world and became prone to unilateralism.

The transatlantic crisis can be regarded as serious since the U.S. ad Europe have different perceptions of contemporary security threats and how to handle them. The U.S. embraces unilateralism – an approach that contradicts the constitutive norms of the transatlantic community, namely multilateralism and close consultations with the allies. The U.S. lives in the Hobbestian ‘dog-eat-dog’ world, while Europe lives in the world of Kantian peace and multilateralism. The U.S. relies on ‘coalitions of the willing,’ and NATO is reduced to informing the other side of decisions already taken rather than broad consultations (Risse, 2003).

Americans renounce international agreements and institutions and champion policies such as regime change by force or preventive war (as outlined in the notorious National Security Strategy), and few Europeans can easily tolerate it. The American foreign policy establishment is still dominated by the doctrine of ‘democratic globalism’ (Krauthammer, 2004) that mandates resorting to force to promote liberty and democracy. There are fundamental disagreements over such issues as nuclear and conventional arms control or international human rights (including the ICC); these are the signs of even deeper misunderstandings concerning the role of multilateral institutions and interpretations of international law (Risse, 2003). As a result, the U.S. is perceived as a destabilizing force in international relations – exactly the opposite of the image they are trying to create.

However, the proponents of the current foreign policy argue that the unprecedented rise of American military power means that the U.S. no longer needs allies. Trying to include more allies into coalitions is viewed as a way to ruin them rather than broaden them (Krauthammer, 2004). Transatlantic community is frequently perceived as too entangling to suit American interests; it can be superfluous and constraining on U.S. foreign policy (Risse, 2003).
One more difference is that there is no clearly identifiable enemy in the War on Terror.

Furthermore, the Cold War was primarily waged by state actors, while the War on Terror is a war against non-state actors. Modern war is often referred to as ‘asymmetric warfare.’ Precisely for this reasons, there are apprehensions that the War on Terror can never be won. Asymmetric threats to the United States include ‘drug smuggling, non-state and state-sponsored terrorists, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology’ (9/11 Commission Report, 2004, p. 17).

The similarity between the two wars, however, is that both are based on the ideological conflict as well as security considerations. In both cases, the U.S. defended Western values, such as democracy, human rights, rule of law, separation of church and state, albeit from different enemies.

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