Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Brookings Out'Chere Pushing Clever Together As Controlled Opposition To The Lockstep Scenario

brookings |  The coronavirus crisis will be over at some point in the next few years. Attention will turn to whether the international community can use this moment of shared pain to build a better future. Perhaps, but a necessary first step is to realize that world order has come to an end and is not coming back any time soon. 

World order is rare. It occurs only when there is a shared understanding among the major powers about what constitutes a legitimate action and how to enforce the rules when they break down. Such a moment occurred in 1648 when the European powers agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty, and again after the Napoleonic Wars when they agreed to resist revolution and consult with each other on international crises.

Most recently, signs of world order were evident in the 1990s and early 2000s. U.S. allies in Europe and Asia as well as future rivals like Russia and China and unaligned powers like Brazil and India largely acquiesced in the American-led international order. They went along with innovations like humanitarian intervention and they did not use force to thwart American plans, even if they disagreed with them as in the case of the 2003 invasion of Iraq or the expansion of NATO. Many Americans believed that all major powers would eventually become responsible stakeholders in a shared liberal order.

Unfortunately, it was an illusion. The most important driver of this shared order was not that the rest of the world decided they were happy with American leadership. It was the indisputable fact that the United States was much more powerful than its adversaries.

This period is now over. Rivals like China and Russia took an even more authoritarian turn. They grew more powerful and acquired more strategic options. And they grew more ambitious, coveting their own spheres of influence.

This trend was well underway by 2016. It has accelerated since. China has become more repressive and totalitarian, using new technologies to advance this agenda. It challenges liberal norms internationally and seeks to bend smaller powers to its will using the tools of geoeconomic coercion. Russia has brazenly interfered in the domestic politics of the United States and the European Union and is at the vanguard of challenging the principles of the U.S.-led order.