This article belongs to With a Grain of Piquant Salt column.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending an event, which had one of the highest concentrations of international relations intellectual horsepower that I have ever seen.
The luminaries were discussing a very fundamental topic recently arising after the Iraq War fiasco, namely, "After the Unipolar Moment: How Fragile is the World Order?" As you know, the words hyperpower and unipolar world were used for the
The event was chaired by Dr. John Chipman, Director General & Chief Executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies,
As one can see, I wasn't exaggerating when I said that the lecture theatre was fronted by a huge concentration of intellectual horsepower. The questions that were posed to the panel related to (1) What is the world order? (2) How fragile is it? (3) Which countries take the lead in preserving order? The world order has been defined as the group of rules, regulations, rights and institutions, etc. which all together make up the world's political system. Also, people and countries will intervene to defend this world order. One additional aspect which was brought out was that this is primarily based around the Anglo Saxon framework, where individual rights are paramount over community rights. An example of community rights is the Islamic one with a single Ummah concept, where the ideal state means all Muslims in the world are under a caliphate ruling over them all. Edward Luttwak mentioned that after the fall of Communism, even
As for fragility, there was agreement that the world order is pretty much okay at this moment, despite
From a long term perspective, the long term impacts of colonisation and imperialism are still working its way through the system. Some element of disorder is actually good, competition is good and political change is good, because order taken to extreme is status quo. There was some debate about who will get to intervene to preserve the world order. It depended upon the issue, such as
But interventions are getting very dangerous and difficult. So the world is no longer US-centric unipolar as people tend to think, but it is multi-polar with
Now it is the use of soft power along the lines of how the EU operates. Professor Freedman talked about the fact that non-state-actors, ranging from NGO's to terrorist groups are unable to live with collegiate polarity and don't really like it. So to summarise what the worthies said, the world is not unipolar, it's not really fragile, and people will defend the world order even though intervention is difficult. Also, the idea of intervention is changing from hard military efforts to soft economic (trade) and legal (ICC, etc.) efforts.
I agree with most of what was said, but I believe that there is more unipolarity than they think. I want to pick up on one point which David Calleo mentioned, but did not explore fully due to the format of the event. He said that interventions need to be judged on the basis of who wants an intervention and who can intervene. In other words, it is important for us to know who has the capability to intervene. A further point is, who is against the intervention?
At this moment, there are only very few countries who are capable of intervening in situations which are either morally driven or are very large in magnitude. For example, at this current situation with the
This is where the inconsistencies come out. The same groups in the
For example, there are only very few countries which have the ability to move say a light infantry battalion of soldiers at short notice, even if we don't talk about the availability of the soldiers. Countries such as