The Old World Order Continues

The December issue of Foreign Policy magazine features an essay by Parag Khanna, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, which asks " How's That New World Order Working Out ?" The timing could not be better. A U.S. carrier strike group is sailing into the Yellow Sea in a show of force against a China-supported North Korea that has just unveiled a new uranium enrichment facility. And WikiLeaks has revealed Arab calls for a preemptive attack on Iran over its nuclear program. The 21st century was supposed to be different from a 20th century rent by wars cold and hot. Khanna commentary raises points that are both insightful and problematic.
A little over 20 years ago, then U.S. President George H.W. Bush -- who had just witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and saw the Soviet Union disintegrating before his very eyes -- stood at the granite podium of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and proclaimed a "new world order," a U.S.-dominated international system "where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle." Two decades later, the "new new world order" we are in fact living looks almost nothing like what Bush -- and most Americans -- imagined or hoped.

 

The United States still has the world's most powerful military, of course, but its utility is diminishing as the capacity to deter and resist spreads.... More fundamentally, the world has quickly become multipolar, with the European Union a larger economic player than the United States while China rises quickly on all measures of hard and soft power. Obama couldn't give the "New World Order" speech today; he'd have to negotiate it first with his peers in Brussels and Beijing. And as for democracy: Meet authoritarian state capitalism, a new entry into our lexicon that underscores the non-Western options every state can pursue today.

 

Khanna overstates the role of the EU, which was supposed to be in the vanguard of progress with its advocacy of democratic socialism and the United Nations. But its economic model is in shambles as sovereign bankruptcy looms and many question whether monetary union was a good idea. In world affairs, the Europeans are still in retreat as the balance of power that matters has shifted from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. And as Khanna points out, "The [UN] Security Council has long ceased to be legitimate or effective, with little prospect for reform in sight."

European decline has weakened the forces of global democracy as the rise of China has given new legitimacy to the authoritarian model. It is not the end of ideology any more than it is the end of history.

President Obama did try to revive the NWO and make the UN the center of world politics. The National Security Strategy released last May tried to turn the clock back to the optimism of the 1990s. In his cover letter, Obama claimed that "globalization"-the buzz word of the post-Cold War era, has "made peace possible among the major powers." The document even talked of North Korea ending its nuclear program and becoming integrated into the "international community." Yet, in Northeast Asia, the Cold War continues and the term "international community" remains an oxymoron.

The Old World Order has not fundamentally changed since Thucydides noted in the 5th century BC, "Peace is an armistice in a war that is continuously going on."

 


The December issue of Foreign Policy magazine features an essay by Parag Khanna, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, which asks " How's That New World Order Working Out ?" The timing could not be better. A U.S. carrier strike group is sailing into the Yellow Sea in a show of force against a China-supported North Korea that has just unveiled a new uranium enrichment facility. And WikiLeaks has revealed Arab calls for a preemptive attack on Iran over its nuclear program. The 21st century was supposed to be different from a 20th century rent by wars cold and hot. Khanna commentary raises points that are both insightful and problematic.

A little over 20 years ago, then U.S. President George H.W. Bush -- who had just witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and saw the Soviet Union disintegrating before his very eyes -- stood at the granite podium of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and proclaimed a "new world order," a U.S.-dominated international system "where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle." Two decades later, the "new new world order" we are in fact living looks almost nothing like what Bush -- and most Americans -- imagined or hoped.

 

The United States still has the world's most powerful military, of course, but its utility is diminishing as the capacity to deter and resist spreads.... More fundamentally, the world has quickly become multipolar, with the European Union a larger economic player than the United States while China rises quickly on all measures of hard and soft power. Obama couldn't give the "New World Order" speech today; he'd have to negotiate it first with his peers in Brussels and Beijing. And as for democracy: Meet authoritarian state capitalism, a new entry into our lexicon that underscores the non-Western options every state can pursue today.

 

Khanna overstates the role of the EU, which was supposed to be in the vanguard of progress with its advocacy of democratic socialism and the United Nations. But its economic model is in shambles as sovereign bankruptcy looms and many question whether monetary union was a good idea. In world affairs, the Europeans are still in retreat as the balance of power that matters has shifted from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. And as Khanna points out, "The [UN] Security Council has long ceased to be legitimate or effective, with little prospect for reform in sight."

European decline has weakened the forces of global democracy as the rise of China has given new legitimacy to the authoritarian model. It is not the end of ideology any more than it is the end of history.

President Obama did try to revive the NWO and make the UN the center of world politics. The National Security Strategy released last May tried to turn the clock back to the optimism of the 1990s. In his cover letter, Obama claimed that "globalization"-the buzz word of the post-Cold War era, has "made peace possible among the major powers." The document even talked of North Korea ending its nuclear program and becoming integrated into the "international community." Yet, in Northeast Asia, the Cold War continues and the term "international community" remains an oxymoron.

The Old World Order has not fundamentally changed since Thucydides noted in the 5th century BC, "Peace is an armistice in a war that is continuously going on."

 


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