Francis Fukuyama, Eric Hobsbawm, Edward Luttwak, Timothy Garton Ash, Pierre Hassner and Robert Cooper discuss global order in the 21st centuryby Prospect / August 20, 1999 / Leave a comment
Published in August 1999 issue of Prospect Magazine
Robert Cooper: Our subject is the global order at the end of the 20th century. But let’s begin with the concrete rather than the abstract. What are the lessons of the Kosovo conflict? Should we see Kosovo as the last act of the 20th century or the first of the 21st century?
Eric Hobsbawm: I would say that it is the first act of the 21st century. It is the first war fought in the absence of a global state system-for the first time since the 18th century, large parts of the world are outside the international system. Moreover, it is the first war waged with high-tech weapons (allowing for a couple of practice runs against Iraq). This makes it possible to be more precise, but it also makes it easier to be more frivolous in the use of extremely powerful weapons. And, of course, the war also demonstrated the limitations of this technology. Finally, it is the first war fought under conditions of, you might say, consumer sovereignty. We are back to the situation which Thomas Hobbes assumed to be normal: that whatever the Leviathan can do, he cannot force people to run the risk of death. For several centuries politics was based on the opposite assumption. This return to Hobbes may only be true of America, but the Kosovo war was waged by politicians who believed that their people would not stand casualties.
Edward Luttwak: I agree. This is the first post-heroic war. But it is not just the Americans who think like this. The Brits might have taken 300 casualties, the French 150. But nobody, not even the Russians, is willing to stand the thousands of casualties needed to fight a war on the ground. This was also an information war, with the deliberate use of the mass media. If you are using force to intimidate, why not amplify that force through the mass media? Case in point: the total number of cruise missiles used in Kosovo was less than the 425 used in the Desert Fox action against Iraq in December 1998. While the world had the impression that there was a massive bombardment going on, the Serbs were shrugging their shoulders.