A short guide to Salvaging Global Order

Written by André Ken Jakobsson, Ph.D.Candidate at Center for War Studies

Henry Kissingers’ book ”World Order” has recently been grabbing a lot of both attention and acclaim because it speaks to some of the most pressing issues of international relations today: How to understand and handle world order. Picking up on that line of thought, Richard Fontaine from Center for a New American Strategy (CNAS) has published a short and exact guide for the perplexed in his aptly titled piece: “Salvaging Global Order”.

While pondering the American role in the turmoil of ever growing challenges to the Western ordered world, Fontaine offers the reader a very useful tool for delineating the five prime set of principles governing the global system: “There exists a trade order, based on commercial reciprocity and non-discrimination, and a financial order that aims at monetary stability in a world of floating currencies. The maritime order is premised on territorial sovereignty and freedom of navigation, while the nonproliferation order aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. An emergent human rights order is rooted in respect for fundamental liberties and the democratic process.”

Following this dissection of orders, Fontaine locates fraying at the edges of all of these, especially because of the financial crises and new powers on the horizon while old powers like Russia are stirring the pot again. Fontaine recommends American action to avoid this fraying to turn into fragmentation and calls for American responsibility in updating the global arrangements for the new circumstances – i.e. reach out to India, Brazil and Indonesia while keeping a close watch on the uncertain intentions of China and Russia.

The take-home point is, that America as the indispensable nation in this will have to get its act together domestically so it can enforce the rules globally, meaning that self-inflicted wounds like sequestration that has meant defense cuts will only work to enhance the fragmentation. In this call, Fontaine is echoing the analysis of Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book “Second Chance” where he also locates the weakness of the Western world order in the dysfunction of the domestic American political system.