Sunday, October 26, 2014

What the world needs now . . .

Walter A. McDougall

. . . isn't love, sweet love. Instead, writes my old Berkeley professor Walter McDougall, channeling Kissinger's new book, World Order:
What the world needs is a steering committee of responsible powers akin to the 19th century Concert of Europe.

But no longer is it even the 20th century, let alone the 19th, and not even America, let alone Europe, bestrides the whole world. Our moment in history is unique in that other, non-Western and especially Asian societies have assimilated western technology and economics and emerged as potential peer competitors. In particular, the United States now confronts, for the first time in its history, an authentic China: a coherent, confident, Confucian China that knows it is the Middle Kingdom and is bidding to become a regional hegemon to which all other states are tributary. Likewise, during the life span of the United States, no serious Islamic jihad had arisen before the 1970s. Whereas today Muslim terrorist movements and regimes aspiring to a universal caliphate have become pandemic, while Iran, of course, asserts its own Persian and Shi'ite concept of legitimate world order. India, Russia, and Japan also nurture historic notions of legitimacy and order that are unique to themselves. Kissinger only makes one brief reference in an end-note to Samuel Huntington, but the world he describes sounds an awful lot like a Clash of Civilizations.

In other words, the Westphalian order remains as an excellent model - or at least the only model - of an international order in which five or more Great Powers limited conflict among themselves and cooperated for goals of mutual interest. Why can't such an order be established today? Perhaps it can. But the only region with experience in that system is relatively impotent Europe, while the Great and Emerging Powers today are all bearers of non-Westphalian universalist ideologies. The classical Indian model of foreign policy, though muted today, is rigidly hierarchical. Its great classic, written by the prime minister Kautilya from the fourth century BCE, is the Arthashastra which Kissinger says is like Machiavelli and Clausewitz rolled into one. The Chinese model, associated with Sun Tzu and Taoism, takes for granted that the Chinese Imperial Dynasty is the sole source of legitimacy and peace under heaven. Hence it made no room for foreign policy at all, just relations with barbarian representatives to be administered by the Ministries of Rituals and Border Affairs. (But China, unlike Islamic and Christian civilizations, was not a missionary society.) The Islamic caliphate, in its most tolerable form, would probably look like the Ottoman Empire that terrorized Christendom for centuries. (Walter A. McDougall, "Kissinger's World Order," Geopoliticus: The FPRI Blog, October 13, 2014)
Will mankind have sufficient insight to work out a balance of power among the various civilizations? Or will Islamist aggression upend everything, and the other civilizations take on the clashes along Islam's "bloody borders"?

Stay tuned into reality . . . and find out.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home