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.
My good colleague, Stewart Patrick at the Council of Foreign Relations, left us a “must-watch list” of global summits for 2015 before he disappeared for Christmas and the New Year. Prepared for the slightly pretentious Council of Councils, Stewart nevertheless left us a sensible “go-to” list. This list for 2015 is valuable if only to suggest the range of global governance meetings in what most commentators have described as a growing sense of disorder in contemporary global order.
Without question South Africa remains a vibrant, complicated and seemingly a growing troubled land. My colleagues from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) one of the premiere think tanks in South Africa and the University of Pretoria, particularly the Department of Political Science there brought together some of their South African colleagues with experts from a number of countries for a conference (December 4th-5th) titled “Alliances Beyond BRICS: South Africa’s Role in Global Economic Governance”. Hats off to both Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, President of SAIIA and Maxi Schoeman Head of Political Science at the University of Pretoria and all their colleagues for a job well done.
A few surprises are worth mentioning – and then there were a lot of non-surprises. On the not a surprise side. Well start with headlines from most of the international press. Early headlines focused on the cool reception delivered to President Putin by various Western leaders and then the early exit of Russia’s President. Putin left before the collective lunch and before the release of the communique following the lunch. All-in-all reasonable political theatre but little to do with the G20 agenda.
After serious progress at APEC among the leaders, what can we expect from this weekend’s G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane. The continuing knock on the G20 as a “talkfest” continues. Chris Giles of the FT, no fan of the G20, declaring:
It leaves the G20 as something of a forum for grandstanding, bilateral meetings over geopolitics and impotence on world economic affairs.
There are repeated warning from media and other experts that the G20 has somehow reached a watershed. Ben Doherty at the Guardian has declared: “This week’s Brisbane meeting of the Group of 20 will be a crucial test: can it be a genuine agent for change, or just another tired horse on the merry-go-round of international confabs?”
The headline says it all. Just a quick look at the New York Times: “As Xi and Obama Stress Common Ground Stubborn Differences Persist“. Or an earlier headline from the same paper: “U.S. and China Agree to Cut Tariffs, but Vie for Trade Blocs“.
Let’s be clear, however. It’s been a good couple of days for global summitry. As Dan Drezner headlined in his Washington Post blog post this morning: “Best APEC Summit Ever“. As Dan suggested:
This year’s APEC summit that just wrapped up in Beijing is therefore highly unusual… because stuff got done. Seriously, a LOT of stuff got done.
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.