Along with 1968, 1989 is one of the most symbolically charged dates of the second half of the 20th century—the year in which democracy decisively triumphed over totalitarianism, and won the right to be hailed as the future of the world. But is 1989 still an inspiration for continuing change, or a high-water mark from which the tide of democracy has now receded?
In this month’s debate, Robert Kagan and Robert Cooper tackle these questions (and each others’ views), along with the issues of what can be said to be “normal” in global politics, what kind of world-view most accurately allows us to describe our times, and how far it is ever possible to talk about progress. The significance of the Cold War is, they agree, a crucial battleground, as is our sense of what most needs to change within the current world order. But such questions rarely have simple answers—let alone answers we can use to convince those we disagree with.