chapter  2
19 Pages

1945 and All That: a Brief History of International Co-operation

Countries, like people, have always interfered in each other’s affairs. For the first 2000 years of history, war and conquest were the driving force. Then came trade, commerce, and control over the raw materials and sea routes that were essential to economic supremacy. The idea that countries might benefit by co-operating surfaced periodically in the 19th century, but had little influence over politics and economics. It took two devastating world wars and the great depression of the 1930s to convince people that there had to be a better way. When it arrived in 1945, the system established by a nascent ‘international community’ did mark a revolutionary break with the past, but its vision was soon submerged under cold war politics. Only now, with the cold war out of our system and global threats mounting, have we begun to pick up the threads of the post-war agenda in a more concerted fashion. Old habits, however, die hard. The legacies

of the past cannot be written out of the present, and to make cooperation work we shall have to confront attitudes and prejudices whose roots lie buried deep in history. What are these attitudes, and from where did they come?