The State of the International Order

A broad and basic understanding of the world is probably necessary to comprehend a lot of what I’ll be writing here, at least up to the end of this year.

We are living in a very interesting and complicated time for the global system: a realist reality governed by a liberal paradigm.

Since 1648 we’ve had a structured world based on sovereign states, with the most powerful of these (almost always five, throughout history) determining what does and does not fly, usually called a “Great Powers” system.   As Otto von Clausewitz perceived and prescribed, war was simply an extension of politics by other means, and virtually no one (Grotius, Kant and Hume are examples of rare exceptions) thought that there was anything wrong with open violent conflict being completely unrestricted.

This paradigm shifted in the 20th century, with advents like heavily armoured tanks which could fire building-leveling shells, bomber airplanes which could destroy cities at an eagle’s view, and of course, nuclear bombs capable of annihilating countries from an underground bunker.  Our reactions to these were the League of Nations, a widely-recognized failure but important beginning, the Kellogg-Briand pact, an impotent but tangible agreement of peace, and the United Nations, which is only moderately better than the League of Nations at the best of times and in many ways a very dangerous and damaging institution (this will probably be addressed as opinioa later), though it is still critical for this paradigm.

These institutions and treaties are collectively, however, much greater than the sum of their parts; they represent, constitute and engender a liberal ideological shift.  We still have five Great Powers (Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States) in the United Nations Security Council, represented by their veto privilege which is basically a stop/go button for every political issue on the planet, but they are not as free to do what they would as they were a century ago.

There is a reason why George Dubya came before the General Secretary to beg permission for attacking Iraq, why China has taken moderate measures to scale back, or at least hide their human rights abuses, why NATO undertook a massive propaganda campaign to justify bombing Kosovo, and why Russia had to defend itself for the recent Georgian invasion; the criteria for international prestige and popularity has changed, even if the reality has not yet adhered to it.

The most fundamental question that this systematic circumstance raises is whether strong enough collective belief in an idea can make it real, and this remains to be seen.  But currently, this situation is very much a double-edged blade; while on one side, we see a decline in open violence and the imperative for states to behave themselves, at the same time the UN and these institutions of the liberal paradigm serve to wrongly legitimize the indiscretions of Great Powers, such as the Iraq invasion and including economically criminal and openly genocidal organizations such as the World bank, not unlike the slightly scolding forgiveness of a mother who is terrified of their sociopathic child.

That should be enough of a basis for later entries, such as Why and How we are about to see the End of States, Why Just War Laws are Bullshit, and Why the Initiation of Violence can and should be Categorically Opposed.

Pura vida.

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Published in: on 2 December 2009 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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