Is it Time for a New World Order?

Europe after the Peace of Westphalia (World Order by Henry Kissenger)

Arguably the most important idea in international relations, came about after the Thirty Years’ War, in the Peace of Westphalia. Core to these treaties was the concept of Westphalian sovereignty. Each state agreed to respect one another’s territorial integrity. With some exceptions, this has been the guiding principle under which the international community has expected of one another. But in an increasling connected world, Richard Haass argues that this principle is “necessary, but not sufficient.” In his new book, A World In Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order, Haass outlines the incredilby complex inbox that President Trump will be facing when he enters office:

The rules, policies, and institutions that have guided the world since World War II have largely run their course. Respect for soverignty alone cannot uphold order in an age defined by global challenges from terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons to climate change and cyberspace. Meanwhile, great-power rivalry is returning. Weak states pose problems just as confounding as strong ones. The United States remains the world’s strongest country but American foreign policy has at times made matters worse, both by what the United States has done and by what it has failed to do. The Middle East is in chaos, Asia is threatened by China’s rise and a reckless North Korea, and Europe, for decades the world’s most stable region, is now anything but.

Haass argues that we need to recognize that an order premised only on respect for sovereignty of states, isn’t just inadequate, but dangerous. He writes:

A cardinal reality associated with globalization is that little stays local in terms of its consequences. The world is not to be confused with Las Vegas: what happens somewhere rarely remains there. Almost anyone and anything, from tourists, terrorists, and both migrants and refugees to emails, weapons, viruses, dollars, and greenhouse gases, can travel on one of the many conveyor belts that are moden globalization and reach any and every corner of the globe. So much of what has historically been viewed as domestic and hence off-limits because it took place within the borders of a sovereign country is now potentially unlimited in its reach and effects. The result is that we no longer have the luxury of viewing all of what goes on in another country as off-limits.

Recognizing the limits of the Westphalian model (World Order 1.0), Haass’ prescription of “sovereign obligations” takes into account the challenges of the globalized world. I recommend his book to anyone interested in world affairs. You can also read his great piece in Foreign Affairs, World Order 2.0.

There is little doubt in my mind,for the sake of international order, we need an active and engaged America. Although she is not perfect, I’d much rather America setting the terms of world order than any other major power.

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