Journal of International Affairs
Volume 51, No. 2 Spring 1998

Editor's Forward

Science is giving man the physical prowess of Superman in a Buck Rogers' suit. Man is attaining an awesome ability to control, exploit, transform and destroy his earthly environment. The time is fast approaching when he will be able to move mountains, wipe out most diseases, circle the earth in a flash and build machines to do a large part of his mental as well as his physical labor. 1

While man has yet to move mountains, Albert Stillson's contribution to the 1959 issue of the Journal of International Affairs on "Science and World Politics" reflects the ever-evolving nature of the events and issues that define eras. It also evokes the unique privilege that editors of the Journal have enjoyed for over 50 years: the opportunity to participate in the creation of an informed body of research that attempts to clear the haze surrounding emerging policy issues of international consequence.

The influence of technology, both its promises and perils, is one such issue. In 1959, 1979 and 1985, the Journal provided readers with timely analyses of the economic, political and social impact of technology, from military control of outer space to North-South technology transfer to Star Wars.

Two years after the 4 October 1957 launching of Sputnick I, with the world caught between the Atomic Age and the Space Age, "Science and World Politics" covered debates within the United Nations on the "peaceful uses" of outer space and the first discussions on nuclear disarmament. Warner R. Schilling, then an assistant professor in the Department of Public Law and Government at Columbia University, noted that the relationship between technology and foreign policy was "nowhere more evident than in the innovations made in the instruments for coercion."

The issue had clearly evolved by 1979, when the Journal published "Technology and the New International Order." Debates on technology's role in the North-South divide raged within UNCTAD. With little evidence of the impending debt crisis, calls for a New International Economic Order also dominated the international agenda. Erskine Childers, then the director of Information for UNDP, noted that "Of the various new dimensions of international development that have come to the surface in this decade, perhaps none has seemed so elusive to many in the North and also in the South, as Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries."

During the Cold War, space technology surfaced as a critical defense issue, capturing the attention of Journal editors in 1985—two years after President Reagan's famed "Star Wars" speech. Still four years away from the end of the Cold War, the Journal surveyed issues such as NATO's capacity to survive the onset of ballistic missle defense systems and the prospects for war and peace in space.

The Spring 1998 issue of the Journal of International Affairs, "Technology and International Policy: Essays on the Information Age," attests to both how much and how little the nature of technology issues have changed in the post-War period. We may not have attained the "physical prowess of Superman in a Buck Rogers' suit," but we have certainly furthered the noble goal of "wip[ing] out most diseases"; a select few of us have even "circl[ed] the world in a flash."

As we approach the next millenia, it is clear that computer, communications and information technologies have ushered in a new era. Many of the authors in this edition of the Journal have broken new ground in several arenas. David J. Rothkopf offers a fresh approach to the changing nature of power in the Information Age, which he documents as a transformation from the realpolitik of Metternich to the cyberpolitik of "an ever-growing cast of actors who have the power to damage or otherwise impact each other's interests." He argues that, thanks to information technologies, "power itself is being... endlessly redistributed and redefined," and that its changing nature "is one of the principle destabilizing forces in the world today." Stephen J. Kobrin, in surveying the new digital world economy, observes an ascendant "neomedievalism" and argues that a number of aspects of modern political and economic organization "may be exceptional and ephemeral." In contrast, Eric Helleiner surveys the impact of electronic cash to refute the argument that new information technologies undermine state sovereignty.

In the fields of trade and economics, Ellen L. Frost outlines the new challenges confronting trade policymakers in the Information Age. Gavin Cameron surveys economic growth theories, outlines the dynamics of the new "weightless economy" and offers economic prescriptions for both developing and industrialized countries alike.

Martin Libicki and Ahmed S. Hashim tackle the military aspects of technology: the former outlines current and future possibilities of information warfare and their implications for U.S. leadership in the international system; the latter examines the revolution in military affairs outside the West, particularly in China and Russia.

The collection of essays concludes with Michael Vlahos' intricate description of the "revolution" and "migration" that will form part of society's passage to the Infosphere. An interview with Ira C. Magaziner adds an important practitioner's perspective to the development of the Clinton Administration's Framework for Global Electronic Commerce—a key policy document and one of the first to govern financial transactions in cyberspace.

The Journal's technology case studies include a wide range of perspectives on the nexus between technology and international policymaking. Joseph Yam offers a perspective on the impact of technology on financial development in East Asia. Jorge Rosenblut and Derrick L. Cogburn analyze developments in the Chilean and South African telecommunications sectors, respectively. Louise I. Shelly examines the challenges of the new crime and corruption paradigm. Minoru Makihara critiques Japan's role in the information economy. Harry M. Cleaver, Jr., traces the role of the Internet in an emerging "Zapatista Effect" that is linking an alternative political fabric in new ways. Alistair Millar and Daniel T. Plesch outline the impact of technology on prospects for NATO enlargement. Finally, Thelma Krug outlines the use of space technology for environmental monitoring in Brazil.

Candice S. Levine's Andrew Wellington Cordier essay argues for an integrated U.S. national science and technology policy in support of sustainable development.

The Journal of International Affairs survives on the energy of many people. The editors are grateful for the support of Lisa Anderson, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, as well as Joan Turner and Penny Zaleta for their patient guidance. We are also indebted to Harpreet Mahajan for her technical assistance. Finally, we thank our enthusiastic editorial assistants for their crucial contributions.

This issue is, of course, constrained by its own historical moment. We have no ability to see beyond the curve of the year 2000 and are destined to make our own anachronistic statements. Our authors, however, have examined the present and peered into the future in order to risk taking a stand on the impact of technology on policy challenges in a constantly evolving international environment. The 1997-1998 Editorial Board of the Journal is proud to offer this issue, volume 51, no. 2, to the scrutiny of the generations to come. One can only imagine how readers will refer to this Journal issue 40 years from now. Such notions mark the boundlessness of our expectations and achievements.


Note 1: Albert Stillson, "Military Control of Outer Space," Journal of International Affairs, XIII, no. 1 (1959) p. 70. Back.