Aging and Rising World Orders
Dr. BURAK AKCAPAR
[Fall 2009, Volume X, Issue I)
People the world over have entered 2009 in doom and gloom. The economic crisis that spread from the collapse of sub-prime mortgages in the United States quickly turned towards the end of 2008 into a bush fire engulfing all developed economies and most of the rest of the world. The violent street protests in Greece added to the pessimism as the Director of National Intelligence warned in February 2009 that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States. Amidst global economic calamity the calls for a new international order became in vogue, again.
However, there is no convincing argument that the ongoing global economic crisis amounts to a dramatic and episodic moment the likes of which in history produced what Robert Gilpin called the “systemic shift” in the global order. 2008 is in no way akin to 1453 when the Ottomans defeated the Eastern Roman Empire or 1918 when the US broke its taboos about military engagement in the Old Continent. It is not 1989 when the US was left without any competing power with a rival ideology. There was no war. No major state or bloc disappeared. There was no political and military game changing change of circumstances. Despite the fact that the US Intelligence Community did warn that security risks would be aggravated by the economic crisis, there is room for skepticism even on that point. The economic crisis did not create new failing states; it might have exacerbated the situation in the already failing ones.
It is true nonetheless true that it all could have been different. To the credit of the Bush administration the vitalization of the G-20 was a masterful move. To the credit of the Obama administration, they continued the US support behind it. As in the 1930’s Great Depression, this crisis could have hastened the fall into an international political abyss, even a global war. After all, there is already enough political problems, geopolitical rivalries, shifts in power balances, economic imbalances, and almost everything else that triggered not only economic but also political and military crises. That is not happening. The fact is 2009 is different from 1930’s, as Fareed Zakaria observed: “There is much greater and more widespread wealth in Western societies, with middle classes that can withstand job losses in ways that they could not in the 1930s. Bear in mind, unemployment in the non-farm sector in America rose to 37 percent in the 1930s. Unemployment in the United States today is 8.9 percent. And government benefits— nonexistent in the ’30s—play a vast role in cushioning the blow from an economic slowdown.”1 Yet, perhaps more importantly, during the Great Depression there was an adolescent world order. In 2009 that world order is mature after umpteen amendments
1 The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and cannot be ascribed to the government and associations with which the author is affiliated.”
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and revisions, and a record of insufferable pain inflicted by mankind on mankind in the last one hundred years.
That said, the same mature world order may also be senescent. The current economic crisis may have produced an instance to highlight the fact that has been almost universally expressed but hardly acted upon: the current order of things in the world, whichever way one defines it, is manifesting serious wear and tear. It is maintaining a minimum order today yet should not be expected to live up to the challenges of tomorrow. At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the international community finds itself in a flux in which almost every aspect of the international order is being challenged from the top down and from the bottom up. Irrespective of the economic crisis, multiple transformations are underway that are global in scope and historic in impact. Faced with a daunting agenda, even in the absence of a war, these may be the times when it is legitimate to ask hard questions and take bold actions. These are the sort of times when historic leaders, whether political or intellectual, are made.
Against that background, the economic crisis may be an opportunity to revamp the world order. Debates already galore. Nevertheless, realistically speaking, no new world order, for better or for worse, will replace the current one this time around. Rather the next world order will be incubated in the human civilization’s collective womb and tested gently in reality. If history is any guide, the basic contours of the international system to come may have already made their debut. The old and the new are living together, one shaping up, and the other struggling to hang in.
Bar historical determinism: History did not happen in a preordained way; future will also be shaped by the vagaries of human action and follies. It will be a product of an unpredictability that humans have not as yet comprehended and unlocked. What we think is clearly visible is only that which is permitted by our limited knowledge and comprehension. Truth is what we create and believe in. Knowledge is not absolute but partial. Therein rests the human dilemma: We need to understand. And, we need to participate in the shaping of the future global environment that will surround our destinies. This is no easy feat. The task to assess global change involves questions that have no easy answers. It also concerns both the academic and policy worlds in a way that neither can deny. Every International Relations position comes from some conception of the world system in which we live. Every international policy needs to take account of the existing and arising world system.
The current world order was shaped since late 19th century when Europe was beginning its decline, the US was quickly rising, Ottomans were dissolving, and much of the rest of the world except Japan was largely colonized. The world order in which we live has been a product of insufferable pain inflicted by humans on humans, world wars, economic and political collapses, and environmental degradation. This order has also engendered for the people who lived within its broadening center immeasurable prosperity, stability and progress.
A marked characteristic of both the senescent and nascent world orders is globalization. It is hard to find a conclusive definition of globalization as scholars seem to disagree on the
Akçapar ! Aging and Rising World Orders
scale and causation, as well as development, impact, and policy results of this phenomenon. There is disagreement even on the historical trajectory and chronology of globalization although there seems to a consensus on the point that in the past half century globalization has intensified. The journey might be traced back to the Islamic Golden Age, when traders and explorers from Muslim lands have established a “global” links expanding trade, scientific and social interactions across the known world. The Silk Road later further advanced this integration. The territorial and particularly maritime expansion of Europeans into new continents also culminated in the discovery and colonization of America. The first multinational corporation, The Dutch East India Company, helped cultivate globalization as a business strategy in the 17th century. During the 19th century globalization was a fact of life through intensive international trade and investment between European imperial powers, their colonies and the United States. These links continually expanded to include sub-Saharan Africa and the Island Pacific. A world economic order was thus being created. The experience of protectionism during the 1930’s depression engendered deliberative planning to promote international economic integration and trade liberalization. By then China had also entered the world economic system. It is hard to negate Noam Chomsky’s assertion that globalization is beneficial to its designers: Multinational corporations and the powerful states to which they are closely linked. However, as capital became more multinational and its operations and investments geographically widespread, globalization also came to empower the target markets.
Anthony Giddens offers a particularly insightful definition of globalization “as the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.”2 This emphasis on “social relations” more accurately depicts the multilayered impact of globalization. Thus it is no longer about a powerful country sapping the natural resources of a weaker one and trading the processed goods back to the initial producer of the natural resource. The interaction is profusely and intimately social including political. The vector of the relationship continues to flow more from the powerful towards the weaker but it is no longer one directional. The expansion of globalization is therefore no longer merely economic expansion. It is also cultural, sociological, political and even psychological. Values and institutions are passed on as much as goods and capital. As such the reach of the world order is congruous with the reach of the multiple layers of globalization. A country that is fully within the world order is protected to a large degree against the torrents of being excluded. That is the zone of modernity, prosperity, liberty, and security. That is the first world. A country starts entering the globalized world order when it starts benefiting from the governing arrangements and adopting some of the economic, political, institutional fabrics worn in the first world. This includes democratization, constitutionalism, rule of the law, accountability, collective security, free trading, financial liberalization including through stock exchanges and the like. I will use this explanation in the remainder of this essay when talking about countries and regions in or out of step with the world order.
The aging and rising world orders are cohabiting, one caving in, the other moving in. The following is an admittedly bird’s eye view of the general contours of this asynchronous
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process or phenomenon. I call this the mutual existence of nascent and senescent world orders.
President Lula of Brazil at the G-7 Summit held in Evian in 2003 reportedly said: “Gentlemen, I would like to suggest to you that next year maybe you would like to meet in Brazil to get yourself ready for 20 years from now when 5 of you will not be here. Because you should understand that in that period of time, 20 or 30 years from now, the number one country in the world will be China, number two will be the United States, number three will be India, number four will be Japan, and I regret to say that none of the rest of you will be here. I’ll be here,’ he said. ‘But it would still be nice to have you around, so come get used to the developing world.”3 What President Lula’s intervention whimsically underscored was that the power structure of the world is under change and this is creating a new reality that will be recognized in due course.
The fundamental actors are the hyper power US, which is at the top of the global power structure, but may have reached the peak of its power potential; Europe which despite its painful and long decline still belongs at the top layer of the global power scala thanks to the EU, but is seriously lacking vision and direction. Discovering that vision and also admitting particularly Turkey, by itself Europe’s sixth largest economy, but also Croatia and the other remaining Southeast European countries as well is likely to replenish the EU’s potential to hang on to its position within the top layer. Together, the US and Europe form the top of the global power structure in almost every way. They also make up three of the five permanent posts in the worlds top multinational (or even supranational except for the permanent members) global organ, namely the UN Security Council. That Europe is not represented by a single seat at this forum is a relic of the war of half a century ago.
After having amassed attributes of power that no other mortal power has been able to assemble, the US has entered a relative stagnation the course and result of which is yet to be seen. That said, US will continue to be the dominant global power during the lifetime of anyone alive on this day. Obviously, US power cannot be easily matched although the EU has already superseded American economic power. In the military realm, Washington spends almost half of the entire global defense expenditures. The US defense budget is exceeds the combined spending of the next 46 countries. The US spends six times more than China, 10 times more than Russia and no less than 99 times than Iran. All the potential US rivals put together spend some $205 billion annually that is little over one third of US defense expenditures. However, even these numbers do not show the full picture. If one adds the defense expenditures of NATO allies, Japan, South Korea and Australia one reaches over 70% of all military spending in the world. One ought also to consider that all of the top ten defense companies in the world are from NATO countries. In terms of strategic culture, the US is accustomed to its leadership role and its elites are not likely to give up this position. The Obama administration is no exception. Furthermore, the current economic crisis can even produce the effect of a certain cleansing of the financial system thereby mitigating or even halting long term US economic decline. The financial crisis in Turkey in 2001 had exactly this sort of effect rendering Turkish economy one of the fastest growing in the world. The counter example
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of course is Japan which has not been able yet to recover fully since 1997. Whether the effect of the current crisis on the fate of the world’s leading superpower will be along the Turkish or Japanese examples will have to be watched and seen.
Russia is no longer the top contender against these two powers, but it has every resource to be on the rise and is thus considered to be part of the BRIC. Russia’s influence is curtailed by the loss of its political appeal but it is using its position in the energy market to recover ground lost since the end of the Cold War. It has also launched an open challenge against US-European primacy by attacking Georgia and recognizing the separation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. However, Russia is a systemic power in almost every other field.
China, like Russia, already belongs in the post World War II top layer of the global power structure including by virtue of its UNSC permanent membership. However, it is currently forming the second layer together with Russia. China is careful in not openly launching an anti-systemic challenge to the US primacy although it is not shy in drawing its own redlines including in Taiwan and Nepal. China is a major benefactor of globalization and thus far has been particularly lucky in staving off its inevitable challenges and problems.
I have essentially recounted the UNSC’s permanent members which is illustrative of which countries the current world order, as an institutional global compact, has codified as the top powers. Clearly, this list is not totally representative of what actually forms the top of the power chain. Although all the listed powers are in the actual top layer, there are others which exert significant leverage. In a recent study the Stanley Foundation concluded that ten countries will form the top layer of the global major powers layer. These are the US, EU, Turkey, South Africa, Russia, India, China, South Korea, Japan. Obviously, this list is subject to debate. For instance, it takes for granted that Turkey will remain outside the EU. However, with perhaps a few additions the list also reflects more or less a general consensus as to the top achievers in the world. If that scenario is realized, it would have ramifications for the global economic, political, institutional structures.
It is interesting to note that at first side, leaving aside Russia’s indecision, all the actors are in fact conforming to the global order that is shaped under the US lead. All act within the system, protect it, try to improve its position within the system, and aim to reform it without jeopardizing its fundamental parameters. They also show reflexes that try to keep the US within the order that US itself has pioneered. Furthermore, all of these powers shun the prospect of armed conflict between them. It can be said that the domestic dynamics of these countries, the type of the relationship that they will develop among them and how they would related to their close neighborhoods will be important from the perspective of the evolution of the coming world order.
The reason why all the current and likely future major powers appear to support the current world order could be mainly economic. First of all being an anti-systemic power is unbearably expensive even for a country like China that holds around $2 trillion in
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reserves. Secondly, all these powers rise by benefiting from the current world order albeit in different degrees. Thirdly, the level of interdependence among US and China is such that historian Neill Ferguson talks about a Chinamerica, which smacks of Brzezinski’s one time Amerippon idea. At any rate, a version of the nuclear strategic doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction that formed the underlying logic of the US-Soviet balance during the Cold War is probably now applicable between China and America which can shatter each other’s economies.
Needless to say, acting against the system is also risky given that it would spark not only US but also the fellow small and large powers’ potential resistance. Therefore, a free trading capitalist system has been anchored along the US-EU-China-India-Brazil axis and this forms the infrastructure of the evolving world order. This economic system will likely see specific amendments but will probably be resilient in its basic form beyond the horizon. However, there is already an old tension resurfacing between state control and the market this time with stronger vigor on the part of the proponents of state control.
On the one side is the astounding achievement of the private business in the world. The free market has produced a dramatic reorientation of the power relationship between the nation state and the private enterprise. In our day and age the US defense budget is only half of the annual sales of two companies, Walmart and ExxonMobil. The latter’s annual sales is approximately on par with the GDP of the 19th largest economy in the world. Top 250 companies have annual earnings that form one third of the global GDP. One third of all assets in the world are controlled by the top 50 financial institutions. There are around 100 companies that have sales worth over $50 billion whereas only 60 nation states have GDP of similar power.4 Private business is a powerful force. Ian Bremmer points out that the free market tide has receded: “Across the United States, Europe, and much of the rest of the developed world, the recent wave of state interventionism is meant to lessen the pain of the current global recession and restore ailing economies to health. For the most part, the governments of developed countries do not intend to manage these economies indefinitely. However, an opposing intention lies behind similar interventions in the developing world: there the state’s heavy hand in the economy is signaling a strategic rejection of free-market doctrine.”5
The 13 largest oil companies in the world, which Bremmer measures by their reserves, are owned and operated by governments. He thus argues that state capitalism in which the state functions as the leading economic actor and uses markets primarily for political gain is replacing free market policies. And, that signals a global competition not among rival political ideologies but between competing economic models. This observation is interesting yet not necessarily novel. The free market has always been in tension with the state. What may be new is that the global economic crisis has increased this tension and created a backlash against neoliberalism also in the US and European markets. Therefore, Bremmer is right from his point of view in taking the nation-states’ resurgence in the economic field seriously, because that trend can fundamentally influence economic policies and balances and thus the future place of private business in world order. However, the political dimension of the tension between state and private business can be equally if not more fundamentally important and game changing.
The main ideology that supports the current world order is shaped by liberal or even neoliberal economy that promotes global access over national boundaries, social and individual freedoms that encourage creativity and skilled migration, and multi party democracy and rule of law regimes which maintain stability and facilitate resolution of differences within a society with other means than physical violence. Following the end of the Cold War and the demise of the rivaling ideological model, the idea of global governance has gathered increasing momentum. The principle and structures of global governance and globalization are mutually supportive. In this picture, just as there is the issue of state control over economy, there has always been a comparable tension between state control and individual liberties. For at least a few generations it will not be realistic to expect China, Russia and scores of other countries to adopt a Western style liberal and pluralistic democratic political model.
That will have at least three implications: Firstly, an ideology is ultimately only as powerful as the body in which it can insert itself. Read in reverse, whatever ideological model powerful countries adopt will find its admirers in other countries. A state controlled market economy, global trade liberalism matched with enlightened illiberal policies at home may well be an alternative model for a significant portion of the world. Variations of this model is likely to compete with Western models around the world and especially in countries that are outside the inner ring of the global order. Secondly, the liberal model has an evangelical tendency which would add tension to relations with countries which resist political liberalization. The colored revolutions of the 2000’s have significantly soured the perceptions in Russia, Egypt and scores of other countries against the West which was suspected of instigating these popular movements. Thirdly, demands for liberal approaches will limit the reach of the West and ideas and values associated with it. The US has yet to invite the leader of Turkmenistan to Washington for an official visit despite the overwhelming interests in forging good relations with this key energy security player.
As I have explained, geopolitical shifts are underway both in terms of the configuration of the biggest powers that take leading roles in defining and upholding world order and those who remain outside the relatively stable order. At the same time, there are shifts that are ideational. This relates to a dynamic already unleashed that pulls away from the only remaining comprehensive and successful economic, political and social governance model, which finds its ideal form in neoliberalism. The “only course, no alternative” approach underlying the “end of history” thesis is now strongly contested around the world.
However, this reaction to neoliberal, pro-globalization and world governance policies remain sporadic, disorganized and incoherent both intellectually and organizationally. How long it would take for this underlying opposition to find its wholesome ideological voice and example can only be guessed not foreseen. There is every reason to believe that China’s economic success is already producing ripples that as long as China continues its rise will attract increasing proponents and advocates as well as theoreticians.
A process may already be underway in which liberal democracy-free market economy nexus supporting globalization is strongly contested at the popular level. The violent street protests are a common sideshow to the high level gatherings of the world’s prosperous and powerful nations. These however do not as yet form a coherent whole and include a diversity of viewpoints including nihilists and anarchists. As Paul Rogers notes: “The aspiration to what might be called the internationalisation of dissent has not yet been fully realised. But there are more than glimpses of the phenomenon in social, environmental and workers’ movements – reflecting the fact that one result of globalization is the much wider understanding of the transnational nature of marginalization and exclusion. There is every chance that the early 2010s will indeed see the rise of fully transnational anti-elite movements triggered by wholesale deprivation, fuelled by anger, and armed with the hunger for an inclusive and just world. In time, they may be as or even more potent than the anti-colonial movements of the 1950s and 1960s.”6 In fact, the very formula that is touted as the agent for the transformation of the world into prosperous, peaceful, liberal and civic minded global community may just not be working that way.
Amy Chua argues for example that “the global spread of markets and democracy is a principal aggravating cause of group hatred and ethnic violence throughout the non- Western world.”7 Scores of people who thrived within the system including such prominent names the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and George Soros criticize the process of globalization and seek to reform it. The idea of social justice and social security are once again in ascendancy. It remains to be seen whether the social democratic movements, long puzzled by the strength and vigor of neoliberalism, may regroup and find a discourse befitting the current realities. They would be in search of such a discourse that would channel some of the popular discontent into a positive and non-destructive political agenda that also safeguards democracy and economic opportunity. Obviously, these are not developments that China can inspire, but the message here is that the stuttering of neoliberalism is likely to challenge more liberalism as a panacea against all ills and create an ideational fracture.
Whether the ideational fractures will lead to institutional consequences is a question worth asking. It is hardly so that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) led by China and Russia or the Collective Security Treaty Organization lead by Russia amount to an organized illiberal front or even aspire to that. Their main focus is security and although the CSTO occasionally makes rather exaggerated self comparisons to NATO it simply is not in the same league. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization deserves greater attention. Comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan the SCO dates back to 1996. Its original purpose was to establish confidence and help demilitarize China-Soviet Union border. Its focus and visibility have been increasing in recent years. The SCO has no economic dimension and its political dimension is currently secondary to its security focus. Even on the latter front the level of integration of the SCO is rather limited. The organization in 2005 openly called for US to end its military bases in Central Asia. The SCO is not an organization that can be overlooked and history is replete with examples of nucleus organizations eventually sprawling and assuming additional tasks and missions. However, the strength of the SCO, namely having China and Russia as members, is also its potential weakness. The real world may just be too complicated with these two giants to demonstrate a lasting common front.
On the other side, of course there are powerful and well established western led institutions already in place. The prime example is the NATO which is exclusively Europe and America and not global in membership. But, the idea is already out to develop an institutional framework that would transcend geographical limits and be based on ideological orientation. Although not the best example because of its different intention, Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute called for a United Democratic Nations, “an international organization of democracies, by democracies, and for democracies” to replace the ineffective United Nations.8 More to the point is the work by the Princeton Project on National Security under the lead of John Ikenberry and Anne Marie Slaughter, which called for the creation of a Concert of Democracies.
The proposed Concert of Democracies would work towards the institutionalization of democratic peace. Thus, “if the United Nations cannot be reformed, the Concert would provide an alternative forum for liberal democracies to authorize collective action, including the use of force, by a supermajority vote. Its membership would be selective, but self-selected. Members would have to pledge not to use or plan to use force against one another; commit to holding multiparty, free-and-fair elections at regular intervals; guarantee civil and political rights for their citizens enforceable by an independent judiciary; and accept the responsibility to protect.”9 Thus, the Princeton Project’s 2006 report Forging A World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century also argued that America would be safer, more prosperous and healthier if governments around the world were more popular, accountable, and rights regarding; if existing international institutions were reformed and new ones created to reflect liberal principles; and if the role of force was reconsidered in light of the threats of the 21st century. In the 2008 US elections Republican candidate John McCain also espoused a League of Democracies.
While not carrying much wind currently it should be seen totally within the realm of the probable that these ideas resurface also in the near future. They may even form the nucleus of the thinking behind the institutional makeup of the next world order either as a replacement to the United Nations, as the proponents on the left and right seem to suggest, or as a complement to it. Either way, another element of the senescent and the nascent world orders is again probably alive today.
This brings up the issue of the institutions of the current and next world order. The power, ideological and economic foundations of the world order are protected by a comprehensive network of international organizations, which have been updated in due course. This network has the UN and UNSC, Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO, NATO, and from another angle EU and ASEAN. All of those should be expected to remain beyond the horizon but go through minimal reform, minimal in the sense that barring complete disintegration, the necessary far reaching reforms will be politically unachievable.
Institutions obviously do shape the environment. However, more importantly international law and multinational structures are formed by the codification of what already exists or can exist. This codification is achieved in close proximity to the common denominators and under the lead of the dominant power or powers. For the future institutional makeup a number of questions about the future nature of international relations should first find their answers. These include whether the US is prepared to share power or resist; whether ascendant actors will engage in attritive and/or violent struggles among them or with others; how the medium and smaller size countries will relate to the regional major powers; how a possible anti-systemic “revolutionary circumstance” in a major power would impact on the global system and other major powers. Under an optimistic scenario, the current world order may expand beyond current overrepresentation of the West to bring China and India but also potentially Turkey and other key states more into the decision shaping and decision making positions within the international organizations. At any rate, there is little doubt the future global institutions would be based on much more power sharing between America, Europe and Eastern Eurasia.
This is certainly the case with regard to the so-called Bretton Woods institutions. Since the Nixon administration severed the dollar-gold parity in 1971, the biggest reform drive may actually be approaching the IMF and the World Bank. This should involve more appropriate representation of the emerging powers like China, India, Brazil and Turkey. Similarly, a new revenue model would be required to secure new lasting sources of revenues without levying additional burden on the indebted countries whose interest payments help sustain the IMF. But of equal importance may be the criticism that these institutions have failed to promote development. The recipes advanced by the IMF and the World Bank could be revised.
A process holding particular institutional promise is the G-20 which represents the world’s leading economies. The Group was established in 1999 with the purpose of promoting the integration of the major emerging economies into dialogue with the G-7 countries comprising the most developed, namely the US, Germany, Japan, UK, France, Italy and Canada. The G-20 format thus includes all the G-7 countries, Russia (which is a member of G-8 for broader political interactions), and Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey, as well as the EU. The G-20 between 1999 and 2008 met annually at the level and within the mandate areas of the national finance ministers as well as central bank representatives. This group of twenty leading economies has been energized at the Heads of State and Government level by the US in November 2008 in order to create a broad global platform to tackle the current economic crisis. The G-20 did indeed make a good start in that regard when it pulled together a trillion dollars in support of the IMF when it met for the second time at the Summit level in London in April 2009. The Group also led the way to reform global financial management by calling for the regulation of hedge funds and other means of shadow banking system that defied any control despite the trillions of dollars under their belt.
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However, for the G-20 to reach its full potential it needs to be conceived not only as a financial gathering but as a global political-economic forum that supports minimum world order and helps harmonize national policies of the twenty leading powers in the world. The G-20 rather than G-8 or any version of it is the institution of the future. However, in the meantime there will be reactionary inertia to hold on to the obsolescent G-8 or circumspect G-7 plus 5 (BRIC) frameworks as agreed at the G-7’s Heiligendam meeting. Here again the rule of redundancy until death is likely to apply because of the lack of zeal to end what is outdated and put in place that whose time has come.
On the international security side, a critical question is whether it is possible to return from the current point where the erosion of the nuclear non proliferation regimes is a reality. Henry Kissinger at a speech referred to this question: “If proliferation is not stopped now, it will project us into a world that will become morally and strategically unmanageable. There will be too many countries with nuclear weapons with too many varied incentives. We are reaching a point where we are running out of time, and we have to be honest with ourselves. What price are we willing to pay to stop an Iranian nuclear weapons program? Failing that, how do we propose to organize a world of rampant proliferation?”10 Although the emphasis on Iran is obvious, the question is more diffuse and profound. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is actually premised on the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons and President Obama has referred to the zero option. That is probably not achievable. There is a realistic chance that a gradual if long slide may occur towards a world where nuclear proliferation is accepted and regulated to the extent possible by potentially new instruments. However, it is also likely that in the process several countries which have nuclear weapon ambitions face serious problems, one or two even military interventions.
The Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty is already continuing its existence thanks to the life support it receives from numerous other nuclear non proliferation agreements, such as the Nuclear Supplier Group and several others. It is also around because it is basically impossible to negotiate anything new that would adequately answer the call with regard to how the nuclear monster is to be restrained.
NATO is the most impressive military alliance in history. If the US is the predominant military hyperpower that is unique in history, NATO is even more than that. It is among the the most successful post-World War II constructs. This organization is however perennially mired in debate about its relevancy. Since the 1960’s when this questioning first began, NATO has continued its existence and even expanded its base of operations. This is an alliance which binds the first and the second ranking economies of the world together in a one for all, all for one treaty. There is no other defence community and organization that fulfils that function. Whatever the possible scenarios for the future of global governance and the place of cooperative security arrangements within world order, NATO’s alternative does not as yet exist. The same cannot be said for the EU foreign and security policy whose meaningful existence is strictly contingent upon its liaison to NATO. That said EU’s civilian crisis management capabilities are form niche and the most important security contributions to the world. One would be safe to assume that NATO will undergo reforms and transformations, but these will fall short of what is
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necessary and instead will reflect what is politically and bureaucratically possible. But, it will stick around into the next world order although the currently faltering mission to stabilize Afghanistan, obviously in which NATO is just one player along others and particularly the UN, poses a further risk to how the Alliance is perceived among its constituent peoples.
The main natural resources supporting world order are hydrocarbons, mainly oil but increasingly natural gas; as well as uranium that is needed for nuclear energy. This is likely to continue for at least two more human generations. In the meantime, alternative energy resources will rapidly enter the field. The transition will not be abrupt but gradual. A new divide will emerge between the states which lead and fall behind in investing in the development of future energy resources and generation means. It is now widely accepted that the next world order’s energy and production base will have to be green (and blue). The future energy base will also be more technology intensive and distributed and utilized through more integrated and efficient networks. At any rate, as Jared Diamond explains in Collapse and Thomas Friedman in Hot, Flat and Crowded, the American model of development that is ecologically destructive is now implemented in China but it is not globally sustainable. The efforts to detract attention and focus from the impending global environmental catastrophes are not only counter factual but also inexcusably immoral.
On the other hand, although the initial American experience with oil and the propelling effect it had on American takeoff tells otherwise, ultimately it is more essential to have access to energy resources and technologies than to own them. This is particularly true for countries which are vulnerable to foreign interventions and have feeble political structures. Oil is now the curse of a good deal of countries. Nuclear energy should also be expected to see a boost despite the potential negative implications for non proliferation. Even in the optimistic scenario of the world order’s transformation without a major war, the turmoil will continue within and with regard to areas that will not be able to adjust to globalization. This also means that fierce struggles will continue over natural resources including water. Areas that have been intentionally left outside contest, such as Antarctica, space, oceans and their beds are likely to face increasing competition.
Geopolitics is therefore back with a vengeance. As Robert Kaplan aptly describes: “rather than eliminating the relevance of geography, globalization is reinforcing it. Mass communications and economic integration are weakening many states, exposing a Hobbesian world of small, fractious regions. Within them, local, ethnic, and religious sources of identity are reasserting themselves, and because they are anchored to specific terrains, they are best explained by reference to geography. Like the faults that determine earthquakes, the political future will be defined by conflict and instability with a similar geographic logic. The upheaval spawned by the ongoing economic crisis is increasing the relevance of geography even further, by weakening social orders and other creations of humankind, leaving the natural frontiers of the globe as the only restraint.” At any rate the order of globalization is expanding inexorably towards the areas it has little touched. Globalization with its economic, political, social and institutional precepts must to expand. And, that expansion is not a bad thing. However the transition is not easy.
Akçapar ! Aging and Rising World Orders
Remaining out of the system is the default position the inertia of which is hard to beat. However, the cost of staying out is far too heavier for the countries concerned and the world at large. The geopolitics of world order expansion will have significantly diverse effects on the countries involved. Some will successfully adapt and prosper, while several others will likely be squeezed under failing state structures, economic and social backwardness, and external interventions. Overall, as before, also in the future, staying out will be significantly more costly than accomplishing transfer towards the center. However, this geopolitics can also be tricky for the major powers. India and China are already competing in the Indian Ocean. Other races should be expected around the world. Historically, the process of pulling in China into the global economic market and the US- Japanese competition around 1917 produced deep shocks, even entry of the US into a World War.
In our day and age, four regions in particular will be subject to strong currents and potentially shocks of globalization. These are Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan; former Soviet Union’s non-EU territories; former Ottoman Empire’s Middle Eastern territories; Africa.
Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan are situated in between major powers of the future and straddle key strategic resources or geo-strategic junctures. They are also grappling with anti-systemic movements that obstruct their change of tack towards the tight jacket of globalization and face significant violence potential. Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state, whereas Iran is progressing on that path. Although the dynamics in Afghanistan and Pakistan have come to show significant convergence, Iran is a separate issue in its own right. The future position of these three countries in any global or regional order will be the result of a major and trend setting struggle.
The countries that broke away from the Soviet Union were once part of a bloc that aspired to shape the world order in its own image. Since the demise of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union those that were lucky to be the neighbors of the European Union were pulled into the Union and the tranquility of the globalized world order. This involved speedy enactment of reforms to make their governance more compatible with the rest of the Union. Europe acted decisively and rapidly to tie them in within both the EU and NATO, thus ensuring American guarantee over their place within the West, which Europe alone could not and would not venture. The small size of these countries also helped significantly in dissolving the ancien regime and adoption of a completely new set of political and economic fabric.
Those farther away from the EU and those which could not show the necessary resolve and sense of direction were not that lucky. Russia as the center of the old regional order also could not carry through its own reforms and maintained a half in and half out presence on the margins of both the EU and China. The Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia as well as all Central Asian Republics will be facing strong currents pulling them in all directions. Given the strong interests of Russia, Turkey, EU, US and China, including in terms of energy security, the future positioning of the countries of this basin stretching from Ukraine to Kazakhstan will be shaped by strong tremors.
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The broader Middle East is mostly the parts of the former Ottoman Empire that have remained behind in adapting to a regional and world order. The region displays the scars of the fact that the Major Powers failed to agree on what regional order would best reflect their interests. The design failed miserably also thanks to the fact that the Turkish War of Independence and the ensuing Ataturk reforms disrupted the model where a subservient and much weakened regional foreman would maintain a pithy minimum order subject to the direction and manipulation of the stronger external powers. Lausanne Treaty of 1923 defeated this design mainly pushed by the earlier Treaty of Sevres. What Ankara proved then was that no viable regional order can be established that would not take Turkey into account. But, Turkey itself could not impose an order either. Oil complicated the efforts to establish a benign order as did the failure to incorporate the reality of Israel into regional thinking.
Initially the League of Nations, in the wake of the failure of the Sevres design, struggled to regulate the competition of the World War I victors through mandates. In the wake of World War II, the countries of this region ran about without any coherent sense of direction behind different politico-economic models. They could not overcome the fractures among them. They developed a pattern of vacillation between authoritative regimes and opposition movements either detached from local realities or bereft of comprehensive and viable governance models.
The US primacy also could not translate into a substantive US control of regional dynamics and did not engender a transformation that would help the region embark on a journey towards adopting the precepts of globalization. In nearly a century since the collapse of Pax Ottomanica, no stable order could have been established to replace the Ottoman order. Instead, the region is mired in conflict, backwardness, authoritarianism, extremism, and external manipulation and intervention. The US efforts since 1990’s to apply the example of Eastern Europe in this region intensified in the wake of September 11 terrorist attacks and produced ventures such as the invasion of Iraq and the Broader Middle East initiatives, which are different in content and approach. In fact, the victory of Hamas in 2006 Palestinian elections has resulted in an upset for the US-led efforts. A new status has been created in Iraq the future of which is yet uncertain. And, Iran has been isolated as the only remaining point of resistance, except of course the resilient non state actors, and tightly put in a bind or potentially on a collision course. That said there is currently no lasting dynamic that would force liberalization and democratization of politics and economy and modernization of the social structures; except the example of Turkey. This region which has been resisting all change expects strong quakes in the near future.
Post-colonial Africa is almost entirely out of step with globalization. It is instead enmeshed all in but name within a deal that is but a leftover of their colonial past. However, the fact of the matter is that these are now independent countries with resources and the continent has new players including China and the US entering the field in addition to the lingering Europeans. The strongest naval power in the Indian Ocean and an emerging major power India should also be seen within this context. The
Akçapar ! Aging and Rising World Orders
competition over Africa will be more intense in comparison to the colonization experience of the last two centuries. Difficult times may indeed be ahead for the continent whose local progressive dynamics are scattered and as yet underdeveloped.
The current economic crisis is unlikely to force a wholesale world order change. It may even reinforce the position of the central players simultaneously while bringing in more powers from the periphery to the center of globalization. Several regions will experience significant volatility. However, as the saying goes, the news of the demise of American dominance is grossly exaggerated. Similarly, neoliberal economic model is neither triumphant nor dead. But it is significantly challenged. The axis of contention will be between state capitalism and illiberal democracy on the one side versus free market economy -as mitigated by renewed vigor of social state- and pluralistic democracy on the other. Both sides in the above equation would be contained within the system and will stand separate from those failing state structures that will not be able to adjust and take part in globalization. In terms of institutions, no major institutional structure is likely to disappear in this crisis. The current economic shock is great enough to stimulate the growth of a new order; but not strong enough to obliterate the old/existing one.
However, this should not obscure the fact that a new set of arrangements which future generations will call world order are already in development and incubation. Until the old is replaced by the new, there is a coming positive redundancy of world orders. It is realistic to expect the current system to linger while the elements of the new order take stronger hold.
The rise of new players may be inevitable and mostly irreversible. But economic strength does not automatically translate into actual political, military, cultural or even economic power and influence. In terms of the global systemic order and the architecture of influence among its power players the jury is still out.
At any rate though, there are new and capable potential actors including representative international groupings like the G-20 which can make significant contributions to maintaining a minimum world order and fulfilling universal human aspirations. The world should benefit from the fact that interconnectedness is a source of strength in a world where human wrongs cannot be hidden and a global conscience and consciousness could well be in the making.
Dr. Burak Akçapar is Head of Strategic Planning Department Directorate General for Policy Planning at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.