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I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New World Order

In the run-up to the 2006 elections, strident calls to return to an multilateral international order based on Cold War institutions are on the increase. Columbia University Professor of International Politics Robert Jervis offers a quintessential argument that the twin goals of Bush’s hegemonic (his word) foreign policy, to encourage democracy around the globe and transform the international order, to defeat the threat of terrorism and bring peace is idealistically appealing but fundamentally flawed.

Current doctrine emphasizes that peace and cooperation can exist only when all important states are democratic [and asserts] it is an illusion to believe that [the international order of the Cold War] can be maintained. One way or another, world politics will change drastically. The questions are who will change it and whether it will be for better or worse. In a way that should shock Henry Kissinger and other students of the order established by the Congress of Vienna, U.S. foreign policy should be more closely modeled after Napoleon than after Talleyrand and Metternich. The United States simply cannot maintain its hegemonic position through the policies advocated by realists and followed before September 11, 2001, so current doctrine argues that the United States must instead be a revolutionary power.

As Gregory Gause has written, the connection between tyrants and terrorists is tenuous at best. The Palestinian semistate is democratic, but will it abandon its use of terrorism? The extent of Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in Kashmir and India has not ebbed and flowed with the extent to which Pakistan has been democratic. Iran sponsors some terrorism and yet is much more democratic than Saudi Arabia, which does not. Aside from killing their vocal opponents who have gone into exile, most nondemocracies shun terrorism, especially because terrorists are difficult to control.

Common sense and most academic thinking argue that a hegemon’s prime objective should seek to maintain the prevailing international system, but that is not the world in which we live today. Measured in any conceivable way, the United States has a greater share of world power than any other country in history. Whether it is referred to as the world leader by those who approve of its policies or an empire by those who oppose them, it is a hegemon in today’s unipolar world order. The irony is that Washington seeks to change the rules of that order. Why?
Jervis’ argument is flawed.

Using those sterling examples of democracy, Hamas, Iranian mullahs, the military coup of Pakistan, Jervis implicitly argues that elections make a democracy (Jervis also includes Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in that august group. Where, I ask, is Cromwell and Robespierre?) But to be a democracy, those elections must also encompass an electoral franchise that represents the people, there must be real choice (oops, Iran just fell off the radar screen), the process must be unencumbered by intimidation (again, Iran falls, as well as Pakistan and Venezuela), and the ruling party must still respect the rule of law and the rights and dignity of the individual (oops, there goes Hamas). The right to rule in a democratic society is not a blank check.

To claim any state is democratic whilst acknowledging it uses and sponsors terrorism is an oxymoron of the highest order!

Why indeed would Washington seek to change the rules of that order!

Arguing that the attempt by the Bush Administration to impose global hegemony is a hypocrisy (again, his word) of how a hegemon must behave, Jervis ignores simple common sense, and his own logic. “A hegemon’s prime objective should seek to maintain the prevailing international system, but that is not the world in which we live today.”

Exactly. Except the prevailing international system was designed, whether by intent or by consequence, to maintain a bipolar world. Jervis' title, The Remaking of a Unipolar World, deceives itself into believing that the "prevailing" international system is conducive to both a bipolar as well as a unipolar world. As Bush made abundantly clear, when calling the United Nations to task and live up to its chartered obligations, “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?”

Most of understood that was essentially a rhetorical question.

Jervis raises the strawman argument in asserting that 9/11 is the rationale for changing the world order, “The most simple and obvious explanation for this strategic shift is the September 11 attacks.” Using the above arguments, he goes on to show that 9/11 is not a sufficient reason.

Jervis gets it wrong.

9/11 did not change the world.

1989 did.


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