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20150731 World Order



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The main idea of this book is to define meaning of world order and review history and parameters of most important world orders that existed so far:

  • Westphalian world order based on balance of powers created after 30 years war
  • Its metamorphosis after French revolution, Vienna Congress, and all the way to after the Cold war
  • Islamic world order as it was developed with initial conquests, decline and contemporary revival in form of Islamist movement
  • Asian, especially Chinese and Japanese historical development of world orders
  • American dominated world order and America strife to achieve universal principles of world order based on independency and trade

The main inference from all this is that we are at the beginning of dramatic change from current world order that become unsustainable to something new, but not yet known.


INTRODUCTION: The Question of World Order

Varieties of World Order; Legitimacy and Power

World order to the extent it exists today was established by victorious Western democracies after WWII. It did not take into account other cultures and other ideas of world order and consequently, due decrease of influence of western democracies, it started to unravel. When it happened, after Western retreat from colonialism and use of force to control the world, other cultures and countries like China, India, and Islamic world challenged existing order leading to its modification.

Author differentiates several world order models developed by humanity:

  • European world order created by Westphalian peace based of balance of powers with non-interference into internal affairs of states
  • Chinese world order based on supremacy of Chinese culture and state which is put in the center of universe with all other being barbarians practically non-relevant to overall development of humanity and not even worthy of conquest
  • Islamic world order based on supremacy of religion of Islam with all other world being subject to conquest, conversion to true religion or annihilation

Current world order of balance of power and noninterference is challenged from all sides including west, which challenges it in the name of human rights and environmentalism. Historically the world order could stand only if it is based on both power and legitimacy, which is very hard to achieve because of difference in values for different people causing them to question legitimacy, while changes in power causes rising countries to test their power.

CHAFFER 1: Europe: The Pluralistic International Order

The Uniqueness of the European Order; The Thirty Years’ War: What Is Legitimacy? The Peace of Westphalia; The Operation of the Westphalian System; The French Revolution and Its Aftermath;

This is about uniqueness of European world order born in Westphalia as result of 30 years war when nobody managed to win. It is based on balance of power when instead of winning all sides position themselves in such way that nobody has reasonable hope to win so the war is avoided. This system lasted until after French revolution when new method of mobilization of all country resources including mass conscription gave France upper hand in fight with all of Europe, at least for a while.

CHAFFER 2: The European Balance-of-Power System and Its End

The Russian Enigma; The Congress of Vienna; The Premises of International Order; Metternich and Bismarck; The Dilemmas of the Balance of Power; Legitimacy and Power Between the World Wars; The Postwar European Order; The Future of Europe;

This chapter is about restoration of Westphalian order by Vienna Congress and its extension for another hundred years up until WWI. It allocates special attention to Russia that was part of balance of power in both Europe and Asia, but then it continuously developed nationalistic narrative of being the third Rome destined to conquer and unify vast expanse of land from Europe to America. Another important part of this discussion about Vienna Congress is its redrawing of legitimacy landscape of Europe from dynastical lands of kings where marriages could lead to merge of countries as reliably as conquests, to ethno-linguistic map when legitimacy would come from ethnicity and language of people living on the land. It created potential for dissolution of multi ethnic empires like Austro-Hungary and merge of multiple principalities of Germany into one powerful state. Eventually this creation and consequent growth of nationalism led to another 31 years World War from 1914 to 1945 with intermission from 1919 to 1938. After that it was somewhat substituted with Ideological Cold War with intermediate actual wars testing continuing balance of power not only in geopolitical meaning, but also in military-technological meaning. At the end of this chapter author briefly discusses future of Europe and attempts to create European Union as tool for peaceful economic, cultural, and, on the long run, political unification.

CHAFFER 3: Islamism and the Middle East: A World in Disorder

The Islamic World Order; The Ottoman Empire: The Sick Man of Europe; The Westphalian System and the Islamic World; Islamism: The Revolutionary Tide-Two Philosophical Interpretations; The Arab Spring and the Syrian Cataclysm; The Palestinian Issue and International Order; Saudi Arabia; The Decline of the State?

This chapter is about Islamic world order as it was initially created and developed on the Arab – Sunni side. Contrary to Westphalian world order developed in Europe and based on balance of power, the Islamic world order is based on conquest and conversion of the world to Islamic faith by all means necessary. This idea worked fine initially and allowed Arabs to expand their religion into old Christian places in Middle East and all the way to India, but was eventually pushed back and stopped after 900 years of expansion. Eventually Islamic countries failed in competition with Western Europe leading to lose of power practically everywhere with the last Islamic Caliphate – Ottomans turning into semi-secular, semi-democratic and semi-European Turkey. Author looks at current resurgence of Islamic ideology, consequences of Arab Spring, Palestinian conflict, and position of rich monarchies of the region. He seems to be coming to conclusion that reenergized Islamic ideology of conquest not only rejects Westphalian ideas of peace with balance of power, but even legitimacy of contemporary states. For them the only acceptable future is complete victory of Islam and submission of everybody else.

CHAFFER 4: The United States and Iran: Approaches to Order

The Tradition of Iranian Statecraft; The Khomeini Revolution; Nuclear Proliferation and Iran; Vision and Reality;

This chapter is about other side of Islam – Iranian Shia republic closely linked to tradition and history of Persian Empire. It discusses Iranian objectives of becoming dominant initially in Middle East and eventually supreme Islamic power conquering the world. Author believes that such objectives are overreaching and eventually they will have to decide whether they will be country or cause.

CHAPTER 5: The Multiplicity of Asia

Asia and Europe: Different Concepts of Balance of Power;

Japan; India; What Is an Asian Regional Order?

This chapter is about non China Asia, primarily Japan and India. It briefly reviews history, especially period of European dominance and attitudes in these countries that appeared as result. Overall the estimate here is that they are mainly open for Westphalian approach with a covenant that balance of power includes external power like USA, contrary to traditional balance inside of region.

CHAFFER 6: Toward an Asian Order: Confrontation or Partnership? Asia’s International Order and China; China and World Order; A Longer Perspective;

This chapter dedicated to China and its newly acquired dynamism and power. It is now coming out from centuries of isolation initially self-imposed by arrogance and contempt for barbarians that eventually led to humiliations of XIX century, and then by communist dictatorship with its unrealistic pretenses for Big jump ahead. Author believes that the best approach is skillful combination of balance of powers with partnership needed to avoid confrontation and fears of hegemony. Alternative would be a disaster.

CHAPTER 7: “Acting for All Mankind”: The United States and Its Concept of Order

America on the World Stage; Theodore Roosevelt: America as a World Power; Woodrow Wilson: America as the World’s Conscience; Franklin Roosevelt and the New World Order

This chapter is the first part of discussion about America and its reluctant role on the world stage as superpower. American culture and traditions are not very conductive to ideas of balance of power, it has strong messianic trait with believe that everybody in the world wants to live like Americans and continuously revived attempts to promote itself, albeit not via conquest, but via typical American process of marketing. This chapter also looks at the weak attempts of Teddy Roosevelt to initiate building of Empire, which were given up rather quickly and substituted by abortive attempts by Woodrow Wilson to promote democracy.

CHAPTER 8: The United States: Ambivalent Superpower

The Beginning of the Cold War; Strategies of a Cold War Order; The Korean War; Vietnam and the Breakdown of the National Consensus; Richard Nixon and International Order; The Beginning of Renewal; Ronald Reagan and the End of the Cold War; The Afghanistan and Iraq Wars; The Purpose and the Possible;

This is review of American wars and politics after WWII to present. It includes some history of Cold War, its hot outbursts, and change in attitudes of American population to foreign involvements. The results are dismal with only one out of five wars (First Iraq) America achieving its objectives. Author provides a wonderful quote from George Shultz: “Americans, being a moral people, want their foreign policy to reflect their values. But Americans as practical people want their policy to be effective.” Author believes that this contest between idealism and realism is not going away as key feature of American politics.

CHAFFER 9: Technology. Equilibrium, and Human Consciousness World Order in the Nuclear Age; The Challenge of Nuclear Proliferation; Cyber Technology and World Order; The Human Factor; Foreign Policy in the Digital Era;

This final chapter is about new technologies and how they would influence world politics. It contains some interesting points, but in reality nobody knows.

CONCLUSION: World Order in Our Time?

The Evolution of International Order; Where Do We Go from Here?

The current world order as it was established after WWII and end of Cold war is going to change because economic and military powers of different countries had changed with raise of Asia especially China and relative decline of Europe. The change will have to occur in one of two ways either it will be redefinition of legitimacy or shift in balance of power. The former would be similar to initial raise of Islam or consequences of French revolution and the latter would be like end of Cold War with dissolution of USSR. It is up to United States to find way to support this change in such way as to avoid confrontation and hopefully arrive to general acceptance by powerful players universal principles, while retaining and recognizing reality of diversity of cultures and histories.


I found this book highly consistent with what I know about history and international relations and I fully agree that it all going to change and pretty soon. I also agree that “The Meaning of History” should be discovered, not declared. However I do not put lots of meaning into search for meaning for anything, so I take it as “Let’s wait and see what will happen”. On other hand I do not think that decline of the West, even if relative, is such inevitability. On contrary, I do not believe that current economic raise of Chinese autocracy is sustainable because it is mainly based on attachment to western markets as supplier of cheap labor with no environmental limitations in exchange for flow of investment and technology. This flow is bound to stop due to decrease in need for cheap labor because of automation and coming dramatic interruption of technology flow due to Chinese use of newly acquired technological ability for military purposes and massive violation of intellectual property rights. I expect massive automation to concentrate western attention on remodeling society on a new basis that would resolve problems of disappearing need in low quality labor and unsustainable welfare state. Result of this would be rejuvenation of Western, especially American civilization and the new World Order reestablished on the basis of core values of this civilization: individual freedoms, property rights, and free markets.

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