The International Public Policy Forum Topic is, “Resolved: U.S. abdication of international leadership creates dangerous global instability.”
Political scientists and international relations scholars have been debating this topic for decades, but it has recently taken on new significance because of President Trump’s attitude toward the international institutions that the US helped create after World War II.
In a petition (and letter to the New York Times), some of the nation’s most prominent international relations theorists articulated the importance of US leadership and the international order.
Joseph Nye and more than 100 professors of international relations, July 23, 2018, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSesHdZWxpp13plS4nkLOSMHv4Dg1jaksBrCC6kWv6OfVAmO5g/viewform
The international order formed after World War II provides important benefits to the United States as well as other countries. The United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization, the European Union and other postwar institutions all help to provide economic stability and international security, contributing to unprecedented levels of prosperity and the longest period in modern history without war between major powers. U.S. leadership helped to create this system and U.S. leadership has long been critical for its success. Although the United States has paid a significant share of the costs of this order since its inception, it has greatly benefited from its rewards. Indeed, the U.S. has gained disproportionate influence on setting the rules of international exchange and security cooperation in ways that reflect its interests around the globe. Today, though, the international institutions supporting the postwar order are under attack by President Donald J. Trump. As scholars of international relations, we are alarmed by these attacks. We should reform but not destroy the system that has served the United States and its allies well for over seven decades. The global order is certainly in need of major changes, but absolutely not the reckless ones President Trump is pursuing. Institutions are much harder to build up than they are to destroy. Almost nobody benefits from a descent into the chaos of a world without effective institutions that encourage and organize cooperation.
While most theorists do not support Trump’s recent international actions, there is another side to the story. Some theorists argue that the US-led international order has not been all that conductive to international peace.
Stephen Walt, 8-1, 18, Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, ForeignPolicy.com, Why I didn’t sign up to defend the international order, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/01/why-i-didnt-sign-up-to-defend-the-international-order/
Last week, a group of prominent international relations scholars published an ad in the New York Times under the headline “Why We Should Preserve International Institutions and Order.” You can find the text and a list of signatories here. The scholars who drafted the ad are a who’s who of experts on international political economy, but the list of endorsers also includes many people who work on other aspects of international relations, including security, gender, and other topics. The ad is directed at U.S. President Donald Trump’s disregard for—if not outright hostility toward—the various institutions that have been prominent in world politics for the past 60-plus years. It argues that the “international order formed after World War II provides important benefits to the United States,” and declares that “U.S. leadership helped to create this system” and has “long been critical for its success.” It acknowledges that the United States has borne a “significant share of the costs” of this order but has also “greatly benefited from its rewards.” The signatories are “alarmed” by Trump’s repeated attacks on these arrangements, which they describe as “reckless.” While conceding that the “global order is certainly in need of major changes,” they nonetheless warn of a descent into chaos if today’s institutions are discarded. I was invited to sign the ad, and I gave serious thought to doing so. Its sponsors are scholars from whom I’ve learned much over the years, and some of the people who signed it are valued colleagues or personal friends. Having helped with two earlier public statements (one opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2002, and another endorsing the nuclear deal with Iran), I certainly think it is appropriate for scholars to make their views known to the public in this way. And I share the signatories’ dismay at Trump’s incompetent handling of foreign policy, which has done considerable damage to the U.S. position already and is likely to do more in the future. But in the end, I decided I could not put my name on the ad, despite my respect for its authors, sympathy for their aims, and agreement with some of what they had said. Let me explain why. For starters, the ad lumps together a set of disparate institutions that it says have characterized the post-World War II order, including the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization, and the European Union. Moreover, it credits them with the past 60 years of prosperity and the absence of war among the major powers. There is no doubt some basis for this claim (and one could add institutions such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty to the mix), but it is not obvious to that each of these institutions was equally important in producing these benefits. For a realist like me, for example, bipolarity and the existence of nuclear weapons did more to prevent major power war than any of the institutions cited in this ad. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Second, the ad reinforces the nostalgia for the “liberal international order” that is now an article of faith among Trump’s many critics. As Andrew Bacevich, Patrick Porter, Paul Staniland, Graham Allison, and others have noted, the so-called liberal order wasn’t quite the nirvana that people now suggest. It was never a global order, and there was an awful lot of illiberal behavior even by countries and leaders who constantly proclaimed liberal values. The United States propped up plenty of authoritarian rulers throughout the Cold War (and has continued to do so ever since), and Washington didn’t hesitate to break the rules of the liberal order whenever it saw fit, as it did when it dismantled the Bretton Woods system in 1971 and when it invaded Iraq in 2003. Third, the ad does not adequately acknowledge the degree to which some of the institutions it defends are in fact a source of much of the trouble we now face. NATO was an important and valuable institution during the Cold War, for example, and it clearly magnified U.S. influence. But a good case can be made that NATO has been a disruptive force since then, mostly by pursuing an open-ended and ill-conceived eastward expansion. Similarly, the creation of the WTO and the headlong pursuit of what my colleague Dani Rodrik calls “hyper-globalization” has clearly had deleterious economic effects for millions and played no small part in the populist avalanche that has been reshaping politics throughout the Western world and beyond. To be sure, the final text of the ad acknowledges the need for “major changes” in the current global order (a sentence that was not part of the original draft I was sent), and two prominent signatories of the ad—Robert Keohane and Jeff Colgan—have written a candid and powerful critique of the ways that the liberal order went astray. But the ad gives no indication of what reforms the signatories would support. On a more personal note, it would have been self-contradictory for me to put my name to the ad. Having written several articles calling for the United States to gradually reduce its security role in Europe, and having recently finished a forthcoming book that criticizes the bipartisan U.S. commitment to “liberal hegemony” and the fetishization of “U.S. leadership” on which it rests, it would have been odd to suddenly reverse course and join this particular enterprise, especially given its broad-brush view of the prior institutional order. Lastly, I have my doubts about the efficacy of this particular public statement, though I do not question the sincerity of those who wrote and signed it. Lord knows that the ads I signed in the past had little or no effect—our prescient statements didn’t stop President George W. Bush from invading Iraq or persuade Trump not to tear up the Iran deal—and I’d be astonished if any public statement by a group of scholars could persuade the president to alter course or his supporters to rethink their commitment to him. But that’s not a reason to remain silent; sometimes it is important to go on the record so that others will know later that objections were raised. Nor am I concerned is that the ad gave Trump and his minions at Fox News another fat liberal target to attack.
And others argue that we should not waste our time trying to revised it; instead, we should look for the best alternative.
Preble, 8-3, 16, Christopher A. Preble is vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute and the author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free , Is this the End of the Liberal World Order? https://nationalinterest.org/feature/end-liberal-world-order-27792?page=0%2C1
But we should question both propositions. The world order under American leadership always had its share of struggles. As Paul Staniland notes at Lawfare, “Proponents of the order . . . often present a narrow and highly selective reading of history” in which “problematic outcomes are treated as either aberrant exceptions or as not truly characterizing the order.” In short, we have reached this latest crisis in a crisis-filled Trump presidency mostly because the foreign-policy establishment has relied on nostalgia and myth to avoid reckoning with that order’s shortcomings. Kagan and Kirchick’s commentaries are a near perfect reflection of that mindset. Such nostalgia “impedes Washington from undertaking a needed reassessment of its grand strategy,” explains Patrick Porter in a recent paper for the Cato Institute. “Endless recall of the ‘liberal order’ . . . damages the intellectual capacity to diagnose the failures of the recent past” and “harms the effort to construct a workable design for the future.” Constructing this “workable design” begins with an accurate assessment of what the old order delivered, and failed to deliver, during its heyday. It also includes an honest accounting of what risks and burdens the American people will tolerate under a future order that is less dependent upon American power, and less deferential to the preferences of Americans. “Citizens seeking a better foreign policy ought to be engaged, not ignored,” Thomas Meaney and Stephen Wertheim write, but foreign-policy elites “rallying behind the lowest common denominator of ‘anything but Trump,’ . . . are disengaging the public’s discontent, [and] pulling up the drawbridge until the next election.” Thankfully, serious foreign-policy observers—including Bruce Jentleson , Graham Allison , Heather Hurlburt , Rebecca Friedman Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper , and Nick Danforth —are admitting that we can’t go back to the old ways, even if we wanted to. Kirchick suggests that Trumpism is a passing phenomenon, but he and other nostalgists ignore the dramatic geopolitical changes that have occurred since the order was first established. “In the LIO’s inception and for many decades,” Jentleson explains, “the United States had the power and wealth to sponsor and buttress the system. What it gave the world…and what it took…were generally seen as in balance. To the extent they weren’t, . . . others had limited power to do much about it.” But today “no one country has sufficient dominance to set the rules largely on its own and in its own image . . . More countries are actors, rather than acted upon.” For this and other reasons, “There is no going back to the role and system we reveled in before.” Lissner and Rapp-Hooper agree. “The erosion of American military, economic, and political power,” they write in a recent issue of The Washington Quarterly, undermines the order at its very foundation and, critically, “will not evaporate with Trump’s departure from the Oval Office.” One wouldn’t exactly characterize these musings as optimistic, but these authors admit to the need for solving a problem, as opposed to simply bemoaning our fate—or blithely assuming that all is well. Our focus should be on developing credible alternatives to the world order that served a good part of the planet reasonably well for most of the last seventy years. After all, even skeptics of that order concede that, as world orders go, it had a pretty good run. “At issue here is neither the legitimacy of American power in the world nor many of its benefits,” Porter admits. “If there was to be a superpower emerging from the rubble of world war in midcentury, we should be grateful it was the United States, given the totalitarian alternatives on offer.” But past performance is no guarantee of future results. Nostalgia for the old U.S.-dominated order based on a selective reading of history, and a willful ignorance of the present balance of political and economic power, cannot deal squarely with the order’s limitations and shortcomings. It makes it nearly impossible for us to construct a reasonable alternative for the future. Whereas Kagan and Kirchick despair that any such alternative exists, or is even needed, the wealth of informed commentary cited here gives one hope that the broader foreign-policy community is more willing than they to scrutinize the comfortable nostrums that have sustained American foreign policy for decades.
Below you can find some additional evidence that will help you tackle this topic, and you can access all of the evidence above by purchasing a Policy subscription ($69).
Trump has just committed geopolitical suicide
Zach Beauchamp, 7-16, 18, Vox.com, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and America’s “geopolitical suicide”, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/7/16/17577096/trump-putin-meeting-nato
The Trump-Putin summit was, by all accounts, a disgrace for the United States. President Trump kowtowed to Vladimir Putin, praising the Russian leader as a potential partner and casting doubt on accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But the thing that made it not just disgraceful but actively terrifying was the timing. Last week, Trump attended a NATO summit, where he met with America’s top allies in Western Europe to discuss (among other things) the threat from Putin’s Russia. Trump spent the meeting bashing American allies for not spending enough on their own defense, labeling the Western alliance “delinquent.” Shortly afterward, he gave interviews slamming the UK prime minister and labeling the European Union a ”foe.” The contrast with the Putin press conference, in which Trump vowed to build an “extraordinary relationship” with Russia, couldn’t be clearer. In fact, the same day as the fawning Putin presser, the Trump administration brought a World Trade Organization suit alleging that the bulk of NATO allies are engaging in unfair trade practices against the United States. We all kind of knew this is how Trump felt, since at least the campaign. But Monday’s Trump-Putin summit, and the NATO summit before it, showed that he was serious about turning those feelings into action. Trump has, in the past week, said and done several things that concretely undermine the US’s relationship with Western Europe while at the same time ingratiating himself with Putin. We must confront the reality that the world’s worst fears about a Trump presidency are starting to come true: that America under Trump is committing what Georgetown University professor Dan Nexon calls “geopolitical suicide.” The Trump administration is ending “America” as we know it — a country that basically works to maintain a relatively peaceful status quo — and replacing it with a kind of rogue superpower, one that is willing to advance what Donald Trump sees as its interests at any cost. The world is now going to come to terms with the Trump threat Within half an hour of arriving at the NATO summit last week, Trump insulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and forced NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to publicly sing his praises. Trump later derailed meetings with his complaints about allies not spending enough on defense, forcing Stoltenberg to call an emergency session to mediate between Trump and the rest of the alliance. Afterward, Trump claimed that NATO allies had capitulated to him and agreed to spend more on defense — a claim disputed by, among others, French President Emmanuel Macron. That’s an extremely contentious approach to allies, one that indicates Trump’s willingness to pursue his disagreements with them. The tariffs brought earlier this year, and the WTO case brought on Monday, shows that he’s willing, perhaps even eager, to back up these complaints with concrete action. The ultimate goal appears to be to change the way America’s relationship with its allies works, both militarily and economically. Yet during his press conference with Putin, Trump gave no indication that he was willing to pursue US grievances with Russia in a similar fashion. He didn’t mention the recent revelation that Russia had poisoned two UK civilians during a chemical weapons attack on Britain. He didn’t bring up the war in Ukraine, nor did he mention the hundreds of times NATO forces have had to scramble to meet Russian warplanes in Europe over the past several years. At times, it felt like Trump was actively running interference for the Russian president. When a reporter asked who was responsible for poor US-Russian relations of late, Trump suggested that both sides bore some blame and that it was time to let bygones be bygones: I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia. We’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things. So Trump is willing to publicly confront US allies on defense spending, humiliating the assembled heads of state at a NATO summit. He’s willing to hit the EU with tariffs and WTO suits over (allegedly) unfair trade practices. Yet when given a massive platform to confront Vladimir Putin over a series of very real attacks on the United States and its allies, Trump actually defended the Russian leader. There is, at least for now, no mismatch between Trump’s rhetoric and actions. The Trump administration’s policy is being brought in line with candidate Trump’s rhetoric. RELATED It’s time to take Trump both seriously and literally on Russia Trump the revisionist When scholars of international relations analyze the strategies of great powers like the United States, they typically describe these countries’ objectives as falling into one of two buckets. Either they are “status quo” powers, nations that largely want to keep the world working the way it already does, or they are “revisionist” powers that want to upend the balance of power. Nazi Germany is the classic revisionist power, as it sought to conquer all of Western Europe. Prewar Britain was a classic status quo power, trying to maintain its own empire and keep Hitler from gobbling up everyone else. For the past several decades, the United States has largely behaved like a status quo power. The US has long been the world’s richest, most militarily powerful, and most diplomatically influential country on Earth; the centerpiece of its global strategy has been to maintain this position of strength. That’s why the US didn’t tear up the NATO alliance after its original reason for existing, the threat from the Soviet Union, ended; being in a tight military alliance with a number of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful countries helped the US cement its dominance and deter potential rivals from challenging American power. Russia under Putin is perhaps the world’s most ambitious revisionist power. Putin’s goal is to make Russia the kind of world power it was during the Soviet era; he’s been willing to aggressively deploy the Russian military (in Ukraine and Syria) and intelligence services (in Western Europe and the United States) in service of this aim. This fundamental tension, between Moscow’s revisionism and Washington’s defense of the status quo, led to a collapse in US-Russia relations during the late Obama administration. But Trump thinks like a revisionist. When he looks at the NATO alliance, he doesn’t see a network of American allies; he sees a group of freeloaders exploiting American might to slack off on defending themselves. When he looks at the global economy, he doesn’t see America’s privileged position as the world’s largest economy; he sees a once-great country laid low by foreigners exploiting its generous trade practices. Trump doesn’t want to preserve the global status quo; he wants to revise it. This worldview puts him in objective alignment with Putin, who has similar — albeit more radical — feelings about the Western alliance. This is likely one reason Putin interfered in the US election to back Trump in the first place; it was plausible, even back in early 2016, to predict that a Trump presidency could destabilize the US-led global order in exactly the ways Putin hoped for. This notion, that the world’s most powerful country might actually try to shake up the global order that sustains its power, is deeply stupid, which is why Georgetown’s Nexon labeled it “geopolitical suicide” in the first place. It’s so stupid, in fact, that many observers predicted that Trump couldn’t possibly act on his anti-ally and pro-Russia rhetoric once in office. Yet the past week has shown that Trump is, in fact, serious about trying to commit superpower seppuku. The world must come to terms with the fact that for the next several years, the America they’ve come to depend on is gone — replaced with something that wants to attack everything it once stood for.
US Leadership critical to the international order and peace, the alternative is war
Hal Brands is a distinguished professor at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, February 16, 2018, His latest book is American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump. “Global leadership void stares us in the face” https://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/global-leadership-void-stares-us-in-the-face-1.2174641
From the time Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, his distaste for the international system the US shaped after World War II was obvious. Generations of previous presidents saw the promotion of a geopolitically stable, economically open, ideologically liberal world order as a form of enlightened self-interest — a strategy that would allow America to remain secure, prosperous and free by helping others become secure, prosperous and free. Trump, however, has long seen this order-building project as a geopolitical fool’s errand that allows other countries to freeride on American labours. Despite the best efforts of many of his advisers, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence James Mattis, Trump has thus taken dead aim at key aspects of America’s own international order. He has harangued US allies, and withdrawn or threatened to withdraw from numerous free trade agreements. He has derided the importance of human rights and democratic values. Not least, he has revived narrowly nationalistic rhetoric and ideas — encapsulated in his “America First” slogan — that sound to many observers like the very antithesis of inclusive, positive-sum global leadership. However, America’s closest partners have not simply stood still as US statecraft has taken this turn. Japan and Australia responded to the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership by launching a surprisingly effective bid to sustain that agreement without Washington’s participation. Likewise, Japan and the European Union (EU) agreed to negotiate a major free trade pact. In global security affairs, France and Japan are now reportedly planning naval exercises in the South China Sea to show support for freedom of navigation in the face of a continuing Chinese challenge. Meanwhile, the EU, led by Germany and France, has outlined ambitious plans to improve European defence cooperation, in part as a hedge against a future in which US commitments no longer seem so ironclad. Finally, the rest of the world is continuing to implement the Paris Accords on climate change, despite Trump’s decision to withdraw. That US allies are conducting a critical holding action — they are trying to keep the liberal order as healthy and stable as possible until Washington once again emerges as its chief defender. All this will help keep the positive dynamics that US leadership has traditionally fostered — openness, security, international cooperation — from being swamped by more negative trends like protectionism, instability and parochial nationalism, at least in the short term. Yet, neither the liberal order nor the US can thrive in the long term without stronger American engagement, for three key reasons. First, America’s allies may be defending the liberal order, but they are not necessarily doing so in the way that Americans might prefer. It is laudable that the EU, Japan and other countries are pushing back against protectionism, but the agreements they conclude will be far less favourable to US interests than they would be if Washington was at the table and setting the agenda. Second, Trump’s withdrawal is not just creating space for America’s democratic allies. It is also clearing the field for other actors — namely China — whose goals often run contrary to US interests. As I recount in my new book, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump, Chinese leaders have cleverly positioned themselves to benefit from Trump’s nationalistic turn. The have accelerated geopolitical and geo-economic projects, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Project and the Belt and Road Initiative, which are meant to weaken the US-led order by creating China-centric alternatives. They have also exploited Trump’s position by portraying China as the new world leader on issues such as climate and globalisation. Some of these claims are risible — Beijing’s foreign economic policy is mercantilist to its core, and China has long been adept at reaping the benefits of the liberal economic order without obeying its rules. But US withdrawal is nonetheless giving the global initiative to actors threatening as well as benign. Finally, although US allies have sometimes bristled at descriptions of America as the “indispensable nation”, the hard reality is that there are limits to what they can achieve without Washington. No one, not even most Europeans, expects great breakthroughs in European defence cooperation in the age of Trump. This is because EU military integration still suffers from its perpetual problem — it has all the liabilities of a complicated multilateral undertaking without the benefit of having the US there to plug the inevitable gaps. Likewise, the downsized Trans Pacific Partnership and the EU-Japan trade agreement are positive developments, but it is hard to imagine that a truly liberal international economy will long endure if the world’s two largest national economies — the US and China — take protectionist stances. In short, long-standing US allies can buy time for Washington to get back in the game — but they can’t do much beyond that. If Atlas doesn’t take up his burden again sometime soon, the world he formerly supported will surely start to crumble. Maintaining a military edge is key to global peace—it’s at risk now The Economist 18, 1-27-18, “The growing danger of great-power conflict,” https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21735586-how-shifts-technology-and-geopolitics-are-renewing-threat-growing-danger Even if China stays out of a second Korean war, both it and Russia are entering into a renewal of great-power competition with the West. Their ambitions will be even harder to deal with than North Korea’s. Three decades of unprecedented economic growth have provided China with the wealth to transform its armed forces, and given its leaders the sense that their moment has come. Russia, paradoxically, needs to assert itself now because it is in long-term decline. Its leaders have spent heavily to restore Russia’s hard power, and they are willing to take risks to prove they deserve respect and a seat at the table. Both countries have benefited from the international order that America did most to establish and guarantee. But they see its pillars—universal human rights, democracy and the rule of law—as an imposition that excuses foreign meddling and undermines their own legitimacy. They are now revisionist states that want to challenge the status quo and look at their regions as spheres of influence to be dominated. For China, that means East Asia; for Russia, eastern Europe and Central Asia. Neither China nor Russia wants a direct military confrontation with America that they would surely lose. But they are using their growing hard power in other ways, in particular by exploiting a “grey zone” where aggression and coercion work just below the level that would risk military confrontation with the West. In Ukraine Russia has blended force, misinformation, infiltration, cyberwar and economic blackmail in ways that democratic societies cannot copy and find hard to rebuff. China is more cautious, but it has claimed, occupied and garrisoned reefs and shoals in disputed waters. China and Russia have harnessed military technologies invented by America, such as long-range precision-strike and electromagnetic-spectrum warfare, to raise the cost of intervention against them dramatically. Both have used asymmetric-warfare strategies to create “anti-access/area denial” networks. China aims to push American naval forces far out into the Pacific where they can no longer safely project power into the East and South China Seas. Russia wants the world to know that, from the Arctic to the Black Sea, it can call on greater firepower than its foes–and that it will not hesitate to do so. If America allows China and Russia to establish regional hegemonies, either consciously or because its politics are too dysfunctional to muster a response, it will have given them a green light to pursue their interests by brute force. When that was last tried, the result was the first world war. Nuclear weapons, largely a source of stability since 1945, may add to the danger. Their command-and-control systems are becoming vulnerable to hacking by new cyber-weapons or “blinding” of the satellites they depend on. A country under such an attack could find itself under pressure to choose between losing control of its nuclear weapons or using them. Vain citadels What should America do? Almost 20 years of strategic drift has played into the hands of Russia and China. George W. Bush’s unsuccessful wars were a distraction and sapped support at home for America’s global role. Barack Obama pursued a foreign policy of retrenchment, and was openly sceptical about the value of hard power. Today, Mr Trump says he wants to make America great again, but is going about it in exactly the wrong way. He shuns multilateral organisations, treats alliances as unwanted baggage and openly admires the authoritarian leaders of America’s adversaries. It is as if Mr Trump wants America to give up defending the system it created and to join Russia and China as just another truculent revisionist power instead. America needs to accept that it is a prime beneficiary of the international system and that it is the only power with the ability and the resources to protect it from sustained attack. The soft power of patient and consistent diplomacy is vital, but must be backed by the hard power that China and Russia respect. America retains plenty of that hard power, but it is fast losing the edge in military technology that inspired confidence in its allies and fear in its foes. To match its diplomacy, America needs to invest in new systems based on robotics, artificial intelligence, big data and directed-energy weapons. Belatedly, Mr Obama realised that America required a concerted effort to regain its technological lead, yet there is no guarantee that it will be the first to innovate. Mr Trump and his successors need to redouble the effort. The best guarantor of world peace is a strong America. Fortunately, it still enjoys advantages. It has rich and capable allies, still by far the world’s most powerful armed forces, unrivalled war-fighting experience, the best systems engineers and the world’s leading tech firms. Yet those advantages could all too easily be squandered. Without America’s commitment to the international order and the hard power to defend it against determined and able challengers, the dangers will grow. If they do, the future of war could be closer than you think.
Global order will endure the loss of US leadership
Duedney & Ikenberry, July/August 2018, Foreign Affairs, Daniel Deudney is Associate Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University FoG. John Ikenberry is Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Foreign Affairs, Liberal World, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-06-14/liberal-world
The order will endure, too. Even though the United States’ relative power is waning, the international system that the country has sustained for seven decades is remarkably durable. As long as interdependence—economic, security-related, and environmental—continues to grow, peoples and governments everywhere will be compelled to work together to solve problems or suffer grievous harm. By necessity, these efforts will build on and strengthen the institutions of the liberal order. THE LIBERAL VISION Modern liberalism holds that world politics requires new levels of political integration in response to relentlessly rising interdependence. But political orders do not arise spontaneously, and liberals argue that a world with more liberal democratic capitalist states will be more peaceful, prosperous, and respectful of human rights. It is not inevitable that history will end with the triumph of liberalism, but it is inevitable that a decent world order will be liberal. The recent rise of illiberal forces and the apparent recession of the liberal international order may seem to call this school of thought into question. But despite some notable exceptions, states still mostly interact through well-worn institutions and in the spirit of self-interested, pragmatic accommodation. Moreover, part of the reason liberalism may look unsuited to the times is that many of its critics assail a strawman version of the theory. Liberals are often portrayed as having overly optimistic—even utopian—assumptions about the path of human history. In reality, they have a much more conditional and tempered optimism that recognizes tragic tradeoffs, and they are keenly attentive to the possibilities for large-scale catastrophes. Like realists, they recognize that it is often human nature to seek power, which is why they advocate constitutional and legal restraints. But unlike realists, who see history as cyclical, liberals are heirs to the Enlightenment project of technological innovation, which opens new possibilities both for human progress and for disaster.
Global liberal order not essential to peace and hasn’t restrained major power aggression
Graham Allison, Harvard JFK School, July-August 2018, The Myth of the Liberal Order Graham Allison, Foreign Affairs.com, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-06-14/myth-liberal-order
Among the debates that have swept the U.S. foreign policy community since the beginning of the Trump administration, alarm about the fate of the liberal international rules-based order has emerged as one of the few fixed points. From the international relations scholar G. John Ikenberry’s claim that “for seven decades the world has been dominated by a western liberal order” to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s call in the final days of the Obama administration to “act urgently to defend the liberal international order,” this banner waves atop most discussions of the United States’ role in the world. About this order, the reigning consensus makes three core claims. First, that the liberal order has been the principal cause of the so-called long peace among great powers for the past seven decades. Second, that constructing this order has been the main driver of U.S. engagement in the world over that period. And third, that U.S. President Donald Trump is the primary threat to the liberal order—and thus to world peace. The political scientist Joseph Nye, for example, has written, “The demonstrable success of the order in helping secure and stabilize the world over the past seven decades has led to a strong consensus that defending, deepening, and extending this system has been and continues to be the central task of U.S. foreign policy.” Nye has gone so far as to assert: “I am not worried by the rise of China. I am more worried by the rise of Trump.” Although all these propositions contain some truth, each is more wrong than right. The “long peace” was the not the result of a liberal order but the byproduct of the dangerous balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States during the four and a half decades of the Cold War and then of a brief period of U.S. dominance. U.S. engagement in the world has been driven not by the desire to advance liberalism abroad or to build an international order but by the need to do what was necessary to preserve liberal democracy at home. And although Trump is undermining key elements of the current order, he is far from the biggest threat to global stability. These misconceptions about the liberal order’s causes and consequences lead its advocates to call for the United States to strengthen the order by clinging to pillars from the past and rolling back authoritarianism around the globe. Yet rather than seek to return to an imagined past in which the United States molded the world in its image, Washington should limit its efforts to ensuring sufficient order abroad to allow it to concentrate on reconstructing a viable liberal democracy at home. Illiberal disorder: a U.S. military police officer in Karbala, Iraq, July 2003. Faleh Kheiber / Reuters Illiberal disorder: a U.S. military police officer in Karbala, Iraq, July 2003. CONCEPTUAL JELL-O The ambiguity of each of the terms in the phrase “liberal international rules-based order” creates a slipperiness that allows the concept to be applied to almost any situation. When, in 2017, members of the World Economic Forum in Davos crowned Chinese President Xi Jinping the leader of the liberal economic order—even though he heads the most protectionist, mercantilist, and predatory major economy in the world—they revealed that, at least in this context, the word “liberal” has come unhinged. What is more, “rules-based order” is redundant. Order is a condition created by rules and regularity. What proponents of the liberal international rules-based order really mean is an order that embodies good rules, ones that are equal or fair. The United States is said to have designed an order that others willingly embrace and sustain. Many forget, however, that even the UN Charter, which prohibits nations from using military force against other nations or intervening in their internal affairs, privileges the strong over the weak. Enforcement of the charter’s prohibitions is the preserve of the UN Security Council, on which each of the five great powers has a permanent seat—and a veto. As the Indian strategist C. Raja Mohan has observed, superpowers are “exceptional”; that is, when they decide it suits their purpose, they make exceptions for themselves. The fact that in the first 17 years of this century, the self-proclaimed leader of the liberal order invaded two countries, conducted air strikes and Special Forces raids to kill hundreds of people it unilaterally deemed to be terrorists, and subjected scores of others to “extraordinary rendition,” often without any international legal authority (and sometimes without even national legal authority), speaks for itself. COLD WAR ORDER The claim that the liberal order produced the last seven decades of peace overlooks a major fact: the first four of those decades were defined not by a liberal order but by a cold war between two polar opposites. As the historian who named this “long peace” has explained, the international system that prevented great-power war during that time was the unintended consequence of the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States. In John Lewis Gaddis’ words, “Without anyone’s having designed it, and without any attempt whatever to consider the requirements of justice, the nations of the postwar era lucked into a system of international relations that, because it has been based upon realities of power, has served the cause of order—if not justice—better than one might have expected.” During the Cold War, both superpowers enlisted allies and clients around the globe, creating what came to be known as a bipolar world. Within each alliance or bloc, order was enforced by the superpower (as Hungarians and Czechs discovered when they tried to defect in 1956 and 1968, respectively, and as the British and French learned when they defied U.S. wishes in 1956, during the Suez crisis). Order emerged from a balance of power, which allowed the two superpowers to develop the constraints that preserved what U.S. President John F. Kennedy called, in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the “precarious status quo.” What moved a country that had for almost two centuries assiduously avoided entangling military alliances, refused to maintain a large standing military during peacetime, left international economics to others, and rejected the League of Nations to use its soldiers, diplomats, and money to reshape half the world? In a word, fear. The strategists revered by modern U.S. scholars as “the wise men” believed that the Soviet Union posed a greater threat to the United States than Nazism had. As the diplomat George Kennan wrote in his legendary “Long Telegram,” the Soviet Union was “a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with US there can be no permanent modus vivendi.” Soviet Communists, Kennan wrote, believed it was necessary that “our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power [was] to be secure.” Before the nuclear age, such a threat would have required a hot war as intense as the one the United States and its allies had just fought against Nazi Germany. But after the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb, in 1949, American statesmen began wrestling with the thought that total war as they had known it was becoming obsolete. In the greatest leap of strategic imagination in the history of U.S. foreign policy, they developed a strategy for a form of combat never previously seen, the conduct of war by every means short of physical conflict between the principal combatants. To prevent a cold conflict from turning hot, they accepted—for the time being—many otherwise unacceptable facts, such as the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. They modulated their competition with mutual constraints that included three noes: no use of nuclear weapons, no overt killing of each other’s soldiers, and no military intervention in the other’s recognized sphere of influence. Soviet soldiers in Prague, May 1968. Libor Hajsky / Reuters Soviet soldiers in Prague, May 1968. American strategists incorporated Western Europe and Japan into this war effort because they saw them as centers of economic and strategic gravity. To this end, the United States launched the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe, founded the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and negotiated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to promote global prosperity. And to ensure that Western Europe and Japan remained in active cooperation with the United States, it established NATO and the U.S.-Japanese alliance. Each initiative served as a building block in an order designed first and foremost to defeat the Soviet adversary. Had there been no Soviet threat, there would have been no Marshall Plan and no NATO. The United States has never promoted liberalism abroad when it believed that doing so would pose a significant threat to its vital interests at home. Nor has it ever refrained from using military force to protect its interests when the use of force violated international rules. Had there been no Soviet threat, there would have been no Marshall Plan and no Nato. Nonetheless, when the United States has had the opportunity to advance freedom for others—again, with the important caveat that doing so would involve little risk to itself—it has acted. From the founding of the republic, the nation has embraced radical, universalistic ideals. In proclaiming that “all” people “are created equal,” the Declaration of Independence did not mean just those living in the 13 colonies. It was no accident that in reconstructing its defeated adversaries Germany and Japan and shoring up its allies in Western Europe, the United States sought to build liberal democracies that would embrace shared values as well as shared interests. The ideological campaign against the Soviet Union hammered home fundamental, if exaggerated, differences between “the free world” and “the evil empire.” Moreover, American policymakers knew that in mobilizing and sustaining support in Congress and among the public, appeals to values are as persuasive as arguments about interests. In his memoir, Present at the Creation, former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, an architect of the postwar effort, explained the thinking that motivated U.S. foreign policy. The prospect of Europe falling under Soviet control through a series of “‘settlements by default’ to Soviet pressure” required the “creation of strength throughout the free world” that would “show the Soviet leaders by successful containment that they could not hope to expand their influence throughout the world.” Persuading Congress and the American public to support this undertaking, Acheson acknowledged, sometimes required making the case “clearer than truth.” UNIPOLAR ORDER In the aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s campaign to “bury communism,” Americans were understandably caught up in a surge of triumphalism. The adversary on which they had focused for over 40 years stood by as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and Germany reunified. It then joined with the United States in a unanimous UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to throw the Iraqi military out of Kuwait. As the iron fist of Soviet oppression withdrew, free people in Eastern Europe embraced market economies and democracy. U.S. President George H. W. Bush declared a “new world order.” Hereafter, under a banner of “engage and enlarge,” the United States would welcome a world clamoring to join a growing liberal order. Writing about the power of ideas, the economist John Maynard Keynes noted, “Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.” In this case, American politicians were following a script offered by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama in his best-selling 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama argued that millennia of conflict among ideologies were over. From this point on, all nations would embrace free-market economics to make their citizens rich and democratic governments to make them free. “What we may be witnessing,” he wrote, “is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” In 1996, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman went even further by proclaiming the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”: “When a country reaches a certain level of economic development, when it has a middle class big enough to support a McDonald’s, it becomes a McDonald’s country, and people in McDonald’s countries don’t like to fight wars; they like to wait in line for burgers.” This vision led to an odd coupling of neoconservative crusaders on the right and liberal interventionists on the left. Together, they persuaded a succession of U.S. presidents to try to advance the spread of capitalism and liberal democracy through the barrel of a gun. In 1999, Bill Clinton bombed Belgrade to force it to free Kosovo. In 2003, George W. Bush invaded Iraq to topple its president, Saddam Hussein. When his stated rationale for the invasion collapsed after U.S. forces were unable to find weapons of mass destruction, Bush declared a new mission: “to build a lasting democracy that is peaceful and prosperous.” In the words of Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser at the time, “Iraq and Afghanistan are vanguards of this effort to spread democracy and tolerance and freedom throughout the Greater Middle East.” And in 2011, Barack Obama embraced the Arab Spring’s promise to bring democracy to the nations of the Middle East and sought to advance it by bombing Libya and deposing its brutal leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi. Few in Washington paused to note that in each case, the unipolar power was using military force to impose liberalism on countries whose governments could not strike back. Since the world had entered a new chapter of history, lessons from the past about the likely consequences of such behavior were ignored. The end of the Cold War produced a unipolar moment, not a unipolar era. As is now clear, the end of the Cold War produced a unipolar moment, not a unipolar era. Today, foreign policy elites have woken up to the meteoric rise of an authoritarian China, which now rivals or even surpasses the United States in many domains, and the resurgence of an assertive, illiberal Russian nuclear superpower, which is willing to use its military to change both borders in Europe and the balance of power in the Middle East. More slowly and more painfully, they are discovering that the United States’ share of global power has shrunk. When measured by the yardstick of purchasing power parity, the U.S. economy, which accounted for half of the world’s GDP after World War II, had fallen to less than a quarter of global GDP by the end of the Cold War and stands at just one-seventh today. For a nation whose core strategy has been to overwhelm challenges with resources, this decline calls into question the terms of U.S. leadership. This rude awakening to the return of history jumps out in the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, released at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, respectively. The NDS notes that in the unipolar decades, “the United States has enjoyed uncontested or dominant superiority in every operating domain.” As a consequence, “we could generally deploy our forces when we wanted, assemble them where we wanted, and operate how we wanted.” But today, as the NSS observes, China and Russia “are fielding military capabilities designed to deny America access in times of crisis and to contest our ability to operate freely.” Revisionist powers, it concludes, are “trying to change the international order in their favor.”
international order is not lost. Through renewed US leadership we can revitalize the international order
John Ikenberry, January 2018, International Affairs, January 2018, The end of the liberal order? Pp. 7-23 Gilford John Ikenberry is a theorist of international relations and United States foreign policy, and a professor of Politics and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
For the past 70 years, liberal internationalism has been embedded in the postwar American hegemonic order. It is an order that has been marked by economic openness and security cooperation as well as collective efforts to keep the peace, promote the rule of law, and sustain an array of international institutions organized to manage the modern problems of interdependence. This expansive version of liberal order emerged in fits and starts during the twentieth century as the United States and Europe struggled with the great dangers and catastrophes that shocked and shook the world—world war, economic depression, trade wars, fascism, totalitarianism and vast social injustices. Today this American-led era of liberal internationalism looks increasingly beleaguered. To bet on the future of the global liberal order is a little bit like a second marriage—a triumph of hope over experience. But it is important to take the long view. The liberal international project has travelled from the eighteenth century to our own time through repeated crises, upheavals, disasters and breakdowns—almost all of them worse than those appearing today. Indeed, it might be useful to think about liberal international order the way John Dewey thought about democracy—as a framework for coping with the inevitable problems of modern society. It is not a blueprint
The US needs to engage the world to solve global problems. An America First that supports isolationism simply leaves us out and will destroy our economy and It impossible to solve global security threats, including nuclear threats
John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, July/August 2018, Reclaiming Global Leadership, Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-06-06/reclaiming-global-leadership
In the face of these challenges, we have a choice between two options: shut the blinds and withdraw from the world or engage with allies old and new to jump-start a new era of opportunity and security. Although American leaders should always put American interests first, that does not mean that we have to build walls, close off markets, or isolate the United States by acting in ways that alienate our allies. Continuing to do that will not insulate us from external challenges; it will simply turn us into bystanders with less and less influence. I choose cooperation and engagement. Only those who have forgotten the lessons of history can credibly contend that peace and prosperity await us inside “Fortress America.” Yet as evergreen as this debate is—retreat or engage—reaching for set-piece answers to the problems facing the country will not work. New times require new answers, even to old questions. The way forward is not to retreat but to renew our commitment to supporting those who share our values, to reboot our capacity to collaborate, and to forge a new consensus on how to adapt our policies and institutions to the new era. Having served on the Armed Services Committee and chaired the Budget Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives when the U.S. government enjoyed the only balanced budget in living memory, I am no stranger to the pessimism of those who say, “It can’t be done.” But I am also no stranger to the hope that comes from remembering past accomplishments. Leaders must now draw on that hope to rediscover open-mindedness, civility, mutual respect, and compromise. On challenge after challenge, we are better off working together than going it alone. To secure our economic future, we must prepare our workers for the future rather than retreat into protectionism. To deal with global threats—from Russian aggression to nuclear proliferation to cyberattacks—we need to harden our defenses and reinvigorate our alliances. To fight terrorism, we must be more discerning about when to com