It is energizing when strong diplomatic effort, results in a step away from confrontation and conflict. And so it seems to be with China and Japan over the confrontation between the two with respect to the islets in the East China Sea – known either as the Senkakus or the Diaoyu depending which side of the East China Sea you happen to be on.
So we are about to enter high season in the global summitry calendar. First up will be the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation scheduled for Yanqi Lake just outside Beijing proper on November 11 and 12, 2014. This is in turn followed by the ASEAN Summit (technically not a global summit) where the day following is the global summit meeting called the East Asia Summit (EAS). This Leaders Summit includes 18 Asia-Pacific leaders now that Russia and the United States have been added as of 2011. The meeting this year will take place in Naypyidaw the capital city of Myanmar. And with a final burst of energy Leaders will meet for the G20 Leaders Summit on November 14-15th in Brisbane this year. It is a tight schedule designed to allow leaders to attend all three and then to return to their home countries.
As Stewart Patrick reflected today at the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) on President Obama’s forthcoming remarks to the UN General Assembly, the President will be called upon to: “… convince both foreign and domestic audiences that the world is not spinning out of control and that the United States is determined to keep it that way. At home and abroad, pessimism about the state of the world runs high.” And then Patrick confirmed the bleak view that has come to dominate the analysis of global affairs:
Syria is collapsing, Iraq is fragmenting, and Libya is disintegrating. Authoritarian leaders are tightening their grips from Cairo to Moscow, while Palestinians and Israelis murder each other. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is running rampant over the debris.
Now Patrick is not with these remarks, by any sense out of the main stream, in his downbeat description of the course of global politics.
Well it certainly has not been ‘the best of times’ – particularly not if you’ve been reading the international pundits. And indeed there is a lot of tension, strife and conflict in the international system whether in the Middle East, or in Eastern Europe or in Asia in the South China and East China Seas. No matter where you look it seems you can find these nasty conflicts.
For liberal internationalists, this is a bitter pill to swallow—or even to accept. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” Secretary of State John Kerry fulminated on CBS’s Face the Nation back in March. Ah, but you do, if you happen to have a mindset more in keeping with Otto von Bismarck than Woodrow Wilson (to say nothing of Barack Obama).
This is how my good colleague, Stewart Patrick, expressed his outrage – or at least his distaste – the other day at the admittedly aggressive and deceitful behavior by everyone’s favorite bad guy right now – Vladimir Putin. As Patrick describes Russia’s actions in his recent blog post “Russia Assaults Ukraine—and the Liberal World Order”:
Having just looked at the global economy, and more precisely, the efforts of the great powers, in significant measure through the G20 to avoid a new Great Depression, I thought it might be useful to turn my sights on another critical area of global governance – in this instance trade.
So the assessment of what is broken, and what is not, at the global governance level continues among the experts.
First a rare corrective to the gloom-and-doom assessments particularly from the international media.
Dan Drezner recently released his book examining the response, especially of the G20 to the Great Recession. The book is entitled – The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression.
So back to the role of the Stanley Foundation (TSF) in analyzing multilateralism in today’s global order. I had the good fortune to connect with TSF’s President Keith Porter. And he was good enough to respond to my questions. Keith started out responding to my questions:
I think your questions, “How does the Foundation tackle the broader concert diplomacy aspects of global governance? How does the Foundation capture and comment on contemporary multilateralism?,” don’t get to the heart of our approach. The foundation recently completed a major strategic planning effort where we re-affirmed our belief that multilateral action is the only way to bring about fair, just, and lasting solutions to the problems facing the world today. However, we also acknowledged that the infrastructure of multilateral cooperation has changed over the years. Given the growing number of active multilateral venues and the stubborn refusal of states to adapt older institutions to the changing world order, this doesn’t seem like the time to advocate for a grand, new, master plan for universal global governance.
Today’s realities demand positive international cooperation. Shared global challenges require creative multilateral solutions. Annual world leader summits like the G-8 and G-20 are free from the traditional trappings of fixed institutions like the United Nations. These gatherings adapt more easily to shifts in power, influence and political alignment.
The above is from the current Stanley Foundation website. I have had the great pleasure of working with various individuals and experts from this serious and effective US foundation.
The Stanley Foundation (TSF) has been in the multilateral business for quite some time. As its website identifies, the Foundation began programming in 1960.
Well the debate, discussion, dialogue – call it what you will – among the international relations experts and pundits began with the assertion by Walter Russell Meade and others over the return of geopolitics. This debate has grown since with the rising tide of chaos in the international system – the Middle East – Syria, Iraq, now Gaza – the Ukraine, Afghanistan, the rising tensions in the South and East China Seas. It has become – especially for experts from the US – a full scale (re)examination of US leadership. As noted by Peter Baker in the NYT:
It’s a very tangled mess,” said Gary Samore, a former national security aide to Mr. Obama and now president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group. “You name it, the world is aflame. Foreign policy is always complicated. We always have a mix of complicated interests. That’s not unusual. What’s unusual is there’s this outbreak of violence and instability everywhere. It makes it hard for governments to cope with that.