The edifice built by wise men after 1945 erodes....
We are seeing, writes Henry Kissinger in his latest book, World Order, published today, a world order in crisis. HK describes the post-1945 order established by America & Western Europe:
The search for world order has long been defined almost exclusively by the concepts of Western societies. In the decades following World War II, the U.S.—strengthened in its economy and national confidence—began to take up the torch of international leadership and added a new dimension. A nation founded explicitly on an idea of free and representative governance, the U.S. identified its own rise with the spread of liberty and democracy and credited these forces with an ability to achieve just and lasting peace. The traditional European approach to order had viewed peoples and states as inherently competitive; to constrain the effects of their clashing ambitions, it relied on a balance of power and a concert of enlightened statesmen. The prevalent American view considered people inherently reasonable and inclined toward peaceful compromise and common sense; the spread of democracy was therefore the overarching goal for international order. Free markets would uplift individuals, enrich societies and substitute economic interdependence for traditional international rivalries.
But this was a unique moment:
The years from perhaps 1948 to the turn of the century marked a brief moment in human history when one could speak of an incipient global world order composed of an amalgam of American idealism and traditional European concepts of statehood and balance of power. But vast regions of the world have never shared and only acquiesced in the Western concept of order.
Several forces are undermining the old order. The nation-state is being tugged at both ends: Europe embraced the idea of a multinational superstate, while in the Mideast various flavors of separatism are spawning statelet tyrannies. In the end, HK observes, regional combines may emerge. Meanwhile, economic globalization tugs against political Balkanization. And the lack of an effective international institution to create a stable forum for mediating geopolitical disputes fosters conflict.
For the US, HK writes, it must juggle contradictory concepts:
For the U.S., this will require thinking on two seemingly contradictory levels. The celebration of universal principles needs to be paired with recognition of the reality of other regions' histories, cultures and views of their security. Even as the lessons of challenging decades are examined, the affirmation of America's exceptional nature must be sustained.
On Sunday Kissinger discussed his book with Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer (scroll down for HK's segment).
We are currently overwhelmed by this challenge. And in Russia there is Tsar Vlad the Bad, hell-bent on restoring his retrograde vision of Mother Russia's imperial grandeur. We see it as risible, while he laughs at us. It is a dangerous geopolitical juxtaposition.
Bottom Line. A struggle to wake up America must be waged, successfully, or we will die in our slumber.
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