Looking at a Different ‘World Order’

It is evidently a result of the distemper of our immediate circumstances – brought on by President-Elect Donald Trump about to become President of the United States – that my colleagues are not unreasonably contemplating alternatives to the current Liberal Order.  Being apocalyptic is in; optimism out.  As my Cornell colleague and political economist friend, Jonathan Kirshner recently wrote in an article in the Los Angeles Review of Books

And so the election of Trump will come to mark the end of the international order that was built to avoid repeating the catastrophes of the first half the twentieth century, and which did so successfully — horrors that we like to imagine we have outgrown. It will not serve us well.

We have lost, we are lost. Not an election, but a civilization. Where does that leave us? I think the metaphor is one of (political) resistance.

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So Much Talk of ‘Disorder’!

So it appears just about everyone has joined in. There are of course insightful views of the current global order from some of my IR colleagues, including but not limited to by Thomas Wright at Brookings or Joe Nye at Harvard.  But it would appear that many others have joined in as well. And it is understandable.  The rise of populist forces, especially in Europe, the surprise election of Donald Trump in the United States and the continuing global economic slowdown, the decline in trade and the incomplete recovery from the financial crisis of 2008 leave an attractive political and economic landscape to contemplate the future of the global order,   

This is not to suggest that folks other than my IR colleagues don’t have the necessary insights to assess the implications of current actions and events.  Many do.  For there is after all a need to assess the political actions, the military capabilities and the economic trends in the global order.  And it remains, after all, that it it is still unclear how to determine great power capability, power and dominance.  Depending on who you read, it is all about military assets; others suggest it is economic capability; and still others introduce soft power aspects as well.  Thus, it is probably not very surprising that as well known an economist as Nouriel Roubini finds he is able to analyze the ‘disorder’ presented by recent events.  As he declares in a recent Project Syndicate article

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The Threat is Real – The Global Order and Its Travails

Donald Trump greets supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Donald Trump greets supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan.

There is no doubt today about the threat to the Liberal Order.  For decades we thought the the greatest threat to the Liberal Order was posed by those outsiders, the bad Russians, Mao’s China, other authoritarian adversaries.

But we were wrong!

The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States poses the greatest challenge yet to the Liberal Order the United States and its allies built after World War II.  Gideon Rachman in the FT , yesterday, November 8th, expressed it well:

Mr Trump’s proposed policies threaten to take an axe to the liberal world order that the US has supported and sustained since 1945. In particular, he has challenged two of the main bipartisan principles that underpin America’s approach to the world. The first is support for an open, international trading system. The second is the commitment to the US-led alliances that underpin global security.

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Enhancing Global Order: Is It Not Possible With the Great Powers?

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The Law of the Sea claim the Philippines commenced against China in 2013 came to an end last week with the award from the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) tribunal. The award was a setback to the expansive claims by China in the South China Sea (though the Tribunal made clear it had no jurisdiction to determine the sovereignty claims asserted by China or any other country).

A number of conclusions were reached by this UNCLOS panel.   First, with respect to the historical rights China claimed through the 9-dash line (China has never made clear the actual claims arising from the 9-dash line), the Tribunal acknowledged the historical claims of China but as Taylor Fravel suggested, “the tribunal reasoned that whatever historic rights or high-seas freedoms China enjoyed were “extinguished” when it acceded to the convention.”

Second, the Tribunal set out a 4-part test to determine whether a ‘feature’ – rock, or protruding reef, or islet, is an island thus providing for expanded maritime rights.  The Tribunal utilizing this newly enunciated test rejected that any features in the Spratly Island chain brought with it a 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as opposed to a 12 mile maritime territorial limit.  This ruling is likely to have a significant impact on a variety of maritime claims asserted by other states. It also would suggest that Mischief Reef, part of the Spratly Islands and where China has carried out reclamation work, is located within the EEZ claimed by the Philippines.

Finally, the Tribunal acknowldeged that the Philippines held EEZ rights in the Scarborough Island’s Second Thomas Shoal, where China has denied access to Philippine fishing boats.

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Take a Deep Breath – Not Yet the End of the Global Order

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Gloom and despair have accompanied the Brexit vote, especially for those concerned about the wider Atlantic alliance.

Mr. Obama, after meeting with leaders of the European Union attending the Warsaw NATO Leaders’ Summit, tried to play down fears that Britain’s exit would weaken European resolve. He acknowledged that the “Brexit” vote had “led some to suggest that the entire edifice of European security and prosperity is crumbling. But he added, “Let me just say that as is often the case in moments of changes, that this hyperbole is misplaced.”

As Kathleen McNamara of Georgetown succinctly put it in her recent Foreign Affairs article, “the answer to the breathless question posed in the New York Times on Sunday—“Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling, too?”—is simple. No, it is not. And yet the emotions and cultural chasms brought to bear in the Brexit vote cannot, and should not, be ignored.

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“Burning the International Order to the Ground”

 

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Image Credit:  en.wikipedia.org

 

There is shock and incredulity following the victory of the ‘Leave’ vote in Britain.  I will let my colleagues who follow closely the EU to pick up the threads of both this negotiation and the future of this supranational institution.  There will be much analysis over this difficult exit and the reduction of the EU from 28 to 27, though it may well be that it will return to 28 if Scotland decides it unprepared to leave the EU.

But let’s turn to the implications of the British exit on larger global order questions. The vote to leave immediately brought to mind the phrase that adorns this post that my colleague at Brookings, Tom Wright used to describe Donald Trump’s foreign policy. The post from Brookings (June 3, 2016)  was using Hilllary Clinton’s San Diego speech to examine Trump’s foreign policy ideas.  As Tom concluded:

So he will double down. And as he does, he will reinforce every word of Clinton’s San Diego speech and further alienate those voters who may be skeptical of an activist foreign policy but do not want to run the experiment of deliberately burning the international order to the ground.

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