The Next World Order.
March 27, 2002 10:52 AM   Subscribe

The Next World Order. A fascinating article suggesting that the new guiding principle of American foreign policy, originally formulated by Cheney and Wolfowitz during the first Bush administration, is the prevention of the rise of any other great power which could rival the U.S.
posted by homunculus (10 comments total)
Wow...almost makes me miss the Cold War. (deep sigh)
posted by gutenberg at 10:59 AM on March 27, 2002

I found this fascinating for a number of reasons, not the least of which was hearing State Dept. thinker Richard Haas say we're seeing a "revival of great-power politics", which is something I was saying even before September 11. (That is to say, in the Cold War, there was a clash of Western ideologies about organizing society: liberal democracy on the one side, and totalitarian communism on the other. In great-power politics, as in the 19th century, there was no great struggle of political systems, only of what one might call morally equivalent national interests. With Russia embracing democracy, more or less, and China embracing Asian-style statist capitalism, that ideological basis for rivalry has withered, yet we still find reasons to consider both formidable rivals.)

It's simplisme to suggest that the prevention of the rise of any other power is the sole organizing principle of this doctrine, though. This is simply the entrenchment of a means; the organizing principle is what the Wolfowitz group called "expanding the democratic zone of peace", i.e. happy coexistence of democratic, economically successful regimes with open borders. This is really the central argument, because Haas is more pessimistic; he's not sure we can successfully pressure everybody to become like Europe. Essentially you are seeing the Fukuyama "end of history" crowd -- who believe that free-market democracy is the ultimate evolution of political systems, and the Cold War was the last roadblock to its universal acceptance -- duking it out with the Huntington "clash of civilizations" crowd -- who believe that democracy and human or especially individual rights are to some extent seen through a cultural prism and may be adopted in quite different forms by other societies (though their names are not mentioned in the piece, this is the clear intellectual basis for these objections). Even so, Haas throws out the term "integration" which seems to be shorthand for the same sort of things, perhaps more closely thought out, and suggests they need to be institutionalized, which would grate on some of the Wolfowitz camp, but still dovetail neatly with the rethink of sovereignty as suggested in the article.

The second half of the article is all about applying these theoretical, nascent doctrinal ideas to the most pressing international problem, Iraq.
posted by dhartung at 11:25 AM on March 27, 2002

the organizing principle is what the Wolfowitz group called "expanding the democratic zone of peace"

I see your point. I caught part of an interview with the author on Charlie Rose earlier this week and he seemed to be saying there that the prevention of the rise of other powers was an end in itself. From the article though I think you're right.

An interesting complementary read on these topics from this week is this interview with Singapore's ambassador to the U.N.
posted by homunculus at 12:55 PM on March 27, 2002

One can certainly say that the preservation of American security, in the long run, depends on preventing any and all threats, and it's a short leap to say that means preventing even friendly polities -- say, a unified federal Europe -- from becoming equivalent military powers. The trouble with phrasing it that way, even though it may be true in a shorthand sense, is that it makes you reactive; it doesn't let you create long-term goals or deeply evaluate multivalent choices. At the same time, it makes it difficult or impossible to recruit allies -- if you're simply a suspicious hulk, there's nothing but expediency to create a relationship. At worst this could devolve into paranoid imperialism, or slightly less than worst, the long slow decline of Rome attributable to inattention and complacency. Hence the desire for a larger, lusher set of goals at the human scale. In a more hopeful sense, we can consider that even if the American polity should fracture or fail, we had done our part to create similarly free, flexible societies around the world.

Compare this article in Air Power critiquing a Clinton-era policy as reactive and therefore necessarily limited and ultimately unpredictable. (These are, of course, the flip side of classical Realism, which tries to define a persistent set of national interests: by knowing them decision-making becomes easier for both the polity in question and its opposite number.)

By the way, people should know that Jeffrey Goldberg's Kurdistan article, the much-discussed The Great Terror is unemargoed. Two years in the making, he reports on the Halabja gas massacres and the fate of the Kurds in and after the Gulf War.
posted by dhartung at 1:53 PM on March 27, 2002

One can certainly say that the preservation of American security, in the long run, depends on preventing any and all threats, and it's a short leap to say that means preventing even friendly polities -- say, a unified federal Europe -- from becoming equivalent military powers.

a policy which will, inevitably, make a united Europe an UNfriendly polity in the end, but will not prevent it from becoming equivalent -- and greater -- in power.

dhartung: i read that article, and just heard an interview with the author on fresh air . tell what you know about it being embargoed.
posted by milkman at 2:38 PM on March 27, 2002

Wow. A country's military thinkers trying to maintain and extend it's current power to keep itself secure. Shocking.
posted by MidasMulligan at 3:19 PM on March 27, 2002

just to sum up in three quotable paragraphs, two from huntington and one from haass:

"The West in effect is using international institutions, military power and economic resources to run the world in ways that will maintain Western predominance, protect Western interests and promote Western political and economic values."

"In the politics of civilizations, the peoples and governments of non-Western civilization no longer remain the objects of history as targets of Western colonization but join the West as movers and shapers of history."

"Is there a successor idea to containment? I think there is... It is the idea of integration. The goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to persuade the other major powers to sign on to certain key ideas as to how the world should operate: opposition to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, support for free trade, democracy, markets. Integration is about locking them into these policies and then building institutions that lock them in even more."
posted by kliuless at 8:49 PM on March 27, 2002

Judging from the other New Yorker article linked and quoted here, it would seem that there seems to be some foot dragging among some of our military leaders over the true costs and possible consequences of mounting an invasion of Iraq versus the enthusiasms of the civilian conservative chickenhawks for doing so.

In the article above, there were these telling quotes:

Attempts by Congress in 1988 to impose sanctions on Iraq were stifled by the Reagan and Bush Administrations, and the story of Saddam's surviving victims might have vanished completely had it not been for the reporting of people like Randal and the work of a British documentary filmmaker named Gwynne Roberts, who, after hearing stories about a sudden spike in the incidence of birth defects and cancers, not only in Halabja but also in other parts of Kurdistan, had made some disturbing films on the subject. However, no Western government or United Nations agency took up the cause.

Of course, that was when we were backing Iraq in its war against Iran. And then there is this, emphasis mine in both quotes, of course...

The Kurdish safe haven, in northern Iraq, was born of another American betrayal. In 1991, after the United States helped drive Iraq out of Kuwait, President George Bush ignored an uprising that he himself had stoked, and Kurds and Shiites in Iraq were slaughtered by the thousands. Thousands more fled the country, the Kurds going to Turkey, and almost immediately creating a humanitarian disaster. The Bush Administration, faced with a televised catastrophe, declared northern Iraq a no-fly zone and thus a safe haven, a tactic that allowed the refugees to return home. And so, under the protective shield of the United States and British Air Forces, the unplanned Kurdish experiment in self-government began. Although the Kurdish safe haven is only a virtual state, it is an incipient democracy, a home of progressive Islamic thought and pro-American feeling.

Lofty discussions of theoretical geopolitics aside, given the necessity of having Turkey as part of any anti-Iraqi alliance, and the Turks' views towards an independent Kurdistan, and our own track record in Iraq--coughBasracough--I don't quite like that home of progressive Isamic thought and pro-American feeling, that incipient democracy's chances.

Not that removal of Saddam Hussein isn't such a bad idea, but just sayin'...
posted by y2karl at 10:37 PM on March 27, 2002

The article above being the much embargoed Jeffery Goldberg article on the Hajaba massacre, of course.
posted by y2karl at 10:39 PM on March 27, 2002

milkman and y2karl: the article was not available online -- i.e. embargoed -- until the new issue of the New Yorker hit the stands; that is all. It was being discussed last week several places, but was not linkable until now.
posted by dhartung at 11:27 PM on March 27, 2002

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