I was reminded recently of the enormous influence of the nonagenarian Henry Kissinger. My colleague from Brazil, Oliver Stuenkel, author of the blog Post-Western World reviewed Henry Kissinger’s most recent book, World Order. His review of the 2014 book caused me to look back at my notes on this book and then to drag from my University library his 1994 book, Diplomacy. Obviously quite laconic when it came to titles – don’t forget On China – Kissinger has been the most detailed – and THE contemporary deep thinker – both as an academic and a diplomatic practitioner – when it comes to articulating the contemporary global order and its inner workings. Kissinger has been enormously influential since at least his A World Restored (Kissinger’s Ph.D. thesis originally) published in 1954. And of course, his diplomatic practice in the Nixon and Ford administrations remains central to US foreign policy behavior and critique. Today, he is still consulted by many in Washington for his views on US foreign policy – see his and George Shultz’s review of the Iran nuclear deal – and in particular US diplomacy toward China.
It is jarring. It shouldn’t be, but given the strategic actions of the leading state, it is. We all have gotten so used to the exercise US military muscle (or not), especially in the Middle East, it is shocking almost, to see diplomacy in the lead. It takes some getting used to. So the Iran deal has been concluded. As Robin Wright described it in The New Yorker:
The agreement is the Obama Administration’s boldest foreign-policy initiative. It marks the first success in dealing with Iran since its 1979 revolution and the prolonged seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran.
So it’s time to rejoin the blogosphere!
I apologize to all of you who might have looked to Rising BRICSAM for news and views on the BRICS and the other Influentials in the global order. It was an extended absence, I know, but it was not time ill-spent.
Over the last months we completed the chapter on ‘concert diplomacy’ for the volume the Next Great War? The Roots of World I and the Risks of US-China Conflict – a work edited by Richard Rosecrance and Steve Miller from the Belfer Center at Harvard. And then there was the paper for the ISA in New Orleans entitled, “The Challenges to Contemporary Global Order” that can be found at my ResearchGate site. But the most critical work has been the effort by myself and many others from the Global Summitry Project at the Munk School, The Rotman School of Management and especially from Oxford University Press to get the lights on for the new OUP journal, Global Summitry: Politics, Economics and Law in International Governance. Hopefully the lights will be fully lit by the end of this month. This latter project is a ‘real labor of love’. Working with Don Brean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, we hope
Gideon Rachman recently wrote a rather downbeat post in the FT entitled the “The West has Lost Intellectual Confidence”. He suggests in this opinion piece that he sees the ending of era – the time from the end of the Cold War to now. He is not the only opinionator that has suggested that we are ending a period of global order.
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.
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”:
It’s a pleasure to review work of colleagues seriously grappling with the contemporary world order. Back in March I reviewed Bruce Jones’s examination of the global order at the point just prior to the publication of his new book – Still Our To Lead. Since that time a number of other close colleagues have had a chance to weigh in on his world view and I thought I’d double back to look at their perspectives and revisit my own.
Who said geopolitics went away? Well a number of international relations experts imply this in their various announcements that geopolitics has returned. One of those most loudly trumpeting this view is Walter Russell Mead, the Editor-at- Large of the American Interest. In his most recent piece in Foreign Affairs he declares:
But Westerners should never have expected old-fashioned geopolitics to go away. They did so only because they fundamentally misread what the collapse of the Soviet Union meant” But geopolitics never went away, notwithstanding there was a great deal of attention focused on the global economy – particularly in the light of the 2008 global financial crisis.
It is a little like having a stomachache. The United States is struggling to operationalize its diplomacy in the ever changing landscape. And its finding it hard to digest the changes without feeling rather sick.
So at the end of his 4-nation Asian trip President Obama pushed back against those who have grown increasingly critical of his foreign policy towards Russia, China and Syria, if not others. In his reaction Obama suggested that his policy was a game of what Americans call ‘small ball’:
You hit single, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run.
Great power rivalry has forcefully reappeared. It is a jolt for anyone that follows international governance to watch the Russian actions in the Crimea and to hear the assertions and rationalizations by Russia’s President Putin concerning Russian annexation of the Crimea.