Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Full piece here.

The gist: Trump’s apparent defining of America’s interests more narrowly and nationally, transactionally even (quid pro quo), will further re-shuffle a deck already being re-shuffled by many forces outside American control (I still think America is uniquely positioned to adapt to many changes afoot).

American relative power has been declining, and we have some serious fractures within our body politic. Arguably, there’s less appetite for the soft and hard power reach of the America experienced during the past few generations.

Trump’s potential withdrawal from the international order the United States has been upholding with blood and treasure will likely signal significant change, and perhaps not always change for the better, Kagan argues.

What to change and what to keep?

What direction might Trump give on what to change and what to keep?

Kagan from his intro:

‘In recent years, the liberal world order that has held sway over international affairs for the past seven decades has been fragmenting under the pressure of systemic economic stresses, growing tribalism and nationalism, and a general loss of confidence in established international and national institutions. The incoming U.S. administration faces a grave challenge in determining whether it wishes to continue to uphold this liberal order, which has helped to maintain a stable international system in the face of challenges from regional powers and other potential threats, or whether it is willing to accept the consequences that may result if it chooses to abandon America’s key role as a guarantor of the system it helped to found and sustain.’

Repost-From Bloggingheads: Robert Kagan Discusses The U.N. Security Council…Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy…Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Here’s an interview with Trump on Donahue from 1987:  Back then, it was the Japanese who were poised for imminent takeover, buying up New York City real-estate before the 1992 recession (both the Japanese and Chinese are looking at serious demographic challenges).

His appeal to national pride and trade protectionism was apparent then…as well as the self-promotion:


As previously posted:  Some other models to possibly use:

Interesting article here on Samuel Huntington.

It’s likely you won’t agree with all of Huntington’s ideas, but he maintained a deeply learned understanding of the animating ideas behind Western/American political organization with keen observation of what was happening on the ground in foreign countries.  Here’s a brief summation from Robert Kaplan’s article:

“• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples’ everywhere thinking as we do.

• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.

• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.

• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.

• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.”

See Also:  Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews)available.

Huntington’s page at Harvard here.


That train may have already left the station:  Which organizations/allies/partners do we back with our military?  Which alliances do we form to protect and advance trade/security/national/broader interests?

Which ideas are universal, or should be aimed for as universal in the world of practical policy and decision-making?

Which kinds of contracts do we enter into? With whom and for what ends?

I’d like to see how this has held up:

A quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s then new book on Syria as discussed in the video:

“[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘

Both men wanted to see more leadership out of the Obama administration. They both argued that there needed American led involvement of some sort in Syria. It’s a bad neighborhood, and we’ve got to provide leadership and side with the rebels as best we can.

Hill pushed further to suggest that if America doesn’t lead onto a new set of challenges that now face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either. If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism. If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

I wanted to contrast this vision with Francis Fukuyama’s then new piece, entitled ‘Life In A G-Zero World,‘ where if I’m not mistaken, Fukuyama is ok with such a diminished role for the U.S:

‘It is clear that no other power is going to step in to fill this role of structuring world politics on a grand scale. It does not necessarily imply, however, that the world will turn into a chaotic free-for-all. What occurs after the retreat of US hegemony will depend critically on the behavior of American partners and their willingness to invest in new multilateral structures. The dominant role of the US in years past relieved American allies of the need to invest in their own capabilities or to take the lead in solving regional problems. They now need to step up to the plate.’

and:

‘The regional military balance has already shifted toward China more than many American allies would like to admit. Moreover, while the basic American commitment to Tokyo under the US-Japan Security Agreement remains sound, the willingness of the Obama administration to risk military conflict with China over some uninhabited islands in the middle of the Pacific is not at all clear.’

————————–

To some degree, I think both analyses are right, in that we either renew our ideals and pursue exceptionalism, confronting and pushing against those who don’t share our ideals and interests as we have in the past (including the threat and potential use of military force), and/or we re-adjust and recognize the roles of others, but also recognize that they don’t necessarily share our ideals and interests and we can’t necessarily trust anyone to look out for our interests.

This requires us to cooperate and rely on international institutions to some extent, but also institutions which have serious design flaws, poor incentives, and can bind us in treaties and obligations for which our interests can be poorly served.

What I don’t want to see is a continued squandering of our leverage and our strength, mainly at the hands of what I see as a rather utopian and naive worldview, held aloft by tempered, but still rather Left-leaning democratic radicals and activists, who claim peace but see many of their own worst enemies in the West itself, and who still must deal with the world and its political base as it is.

What’s the best way forward?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

***Addition: I’d also prefer not to see the continued squandering of American resources that came about with the promise of military action to remove Saddam Hussein.  The promise was democracy in the Middle-East, the results are apparently much less, with many serious consequences likely still to come.  Hubris and overreach is easy. Strategy and good policy is hard.

Right now, I tend to favor ordered liberty at home, a reduced role for the Executive branch, and the aim of strategic re-alignment based on a more realist understanding of alliance-making abroad.  Trade and sovereignty, patriotism tempered with patience, humility, and moral decency would be better than some of what I fear may be in the cards.

Let the math, science, trade, study and friendships form as much as possible without the silly seriousness of politics entering into daily lives, and the issues of potential conflict handled with courage and wisdom.

—————-

Addition: Walter Russell Mead thinks Fukuyama gets Japan right.

Related On This Site: From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Charles Hill: The Empire Strikes Back’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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