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A Brief History of International Relations

The World Made Easy

Kathleen Brush

The world does not need to be complex and confusing. It can be made simpler so that the business, political, social, and economic implications of global news briefs beaming across televisions and electronic devices can be easily grasped. Key to this is knowing that a five-hundred-year competition for global supremacy between the Chinese, European, Islamic, and Russian empires only ended in 1945. When it did, the world had 57 independent nations. After all empires were dissolved in 1991, there were 193, and each nation carried histories of empires in the form of conquest, religions followed, languages practiced, diversified populations, repressive rule, and histories of discrimination. A Brief History of International Relations: The World Made Easy explores this history of global conflict to contextualize and simplify the often perplexing relations between nations and empires.

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Facilitating the transition from empires to nation-states was given considerable thought. The best-laid plans can be undone, and this happened here. When the Cold War commenced the world’s grandest transition became an un-navigated muddle.

New nations had the benefit of IGOs like the UN, World Bank, and GATT, but assistance was often squandered by inexperienced, misguided leaders in an environment of limited oversight. They also had access to expedient generous global powers. In exchange for allegiance first- and second-world powers proffered financial and military aid. But global powers were not supposed to be leveraging opportunities afforded by the flood of newbie nations and national leaders to rebuild spheres of influence. It was, in the end, a fool’s errand. Allegiance to first- or second-world powers was as durable as the last tranche of squandered aid.

Decades and billions of development dollars later there was little to show for it. At best, nation-building in the Second and Third Worlds made modest progress. For the First World, things were different. They experienced decades of unprecedented prosperity. The democratic/capitalist First World, the communist Second World, and the unaligned Third World could now be described as the rich First World, the poor Third World, and the poor-to-less-poor Second World. ← 275 | 276 →

The environment for nation building was expected to be better for everyone in the post-Cold War period. The Red Scare had ended, there were expanded opportunities for trade, global powers would surely meddle less, and nations...

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