Ivo H. Daalder, who is president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and who served as the US ambassador to NATO from 2009-2013, and James M. Lindsay, who is senior vice president, director of studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, have written a provocative essay , headlined, ‘The Committee to Save the World Order,’ in Foreign Affairs which deserves our attention.
“The order that has structured international politics since the end of World War II is fracturing,” the say, and “Many of the culprits are obvious. Revisionist powers, such as China and Russia, want to reshape global rules to their own advantage. Emerging powers, such as Brazil and India, embrace the perks of great-power status but shun the responsibilities that come with it. Rejectionist powers, such as Iran and North Korea, defy rules set by others. Meanwhile, international institutions, such as the UN, struggle to address problems that multiply faster than they can be resolved … [but, they, add] … The newest culprit … is a surprise: the United States, the very country that championed the order’s creation. Seventy years after U.S. President Harry Truman sketched the blueprint for a rules-based international order to prevent the dog-eat-dog geopolitical competition that triggered World War II, U.S. President Donald Trump has upended it. He has raised doubts about Washington’s security commitments to its allies, challenged the fundamentals of the global trading regime, abandoned the promotion of freedom and democracy as defining features of U.S. foreign policy, and abdicated global leadership.“
“The emergence of a rules-based order was not an inevitability but the result of deliberate choices,” Professors Daalder and Lindsay write, “Looking to avoid the mistakes the United States made after World War I, Truman and his successors built an order based on collective security, open markets, and democracy. It was a radical strategy that valued cooperation over competition: countries willing to follow the lead of the United States would flourish, and as they did, so, too, would the United States … [but] … “The world America made,” as the historian Robert Kagan has put it, was never perfect. During the Cold War, the reach of American influence was small. The United States at times ignored its own lofty rhetoric to pursue narrow interests or misguided policies. But for all its shortcomings, the postwar order was a historic success. Europe and Japan were rebuilt. The reach of freedom and democracy was extended. And with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S.-led postwar order was suddenly open to all … [however] … that success also created new stresses. The rapid growth in the movement of goods, money, people, and ideas across borders as more countries joined the rules-based order produced new problems, such as climate change and mass migration, that national governments have struggled to handle. Economic and political power dispersed as countries such as Brazil, China, and India embraced open markets, complicating efforts to find common ground on trade, terrorism, and a host of other issues. Iran and Russia recoiled as the U.S.-led order encroached on their traditional spheres of interest. And the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the global financial crisis of 2007–8 raised doubts about the quality and direction of U.S. leadership … [still] … Upon leaving office in 2017, U.S. President Barack Obama urged his successor to embrace the indispensability of U.S. leadership. “It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend,” he wrote in a note he left in the Oval Office. Trump took the opposite approach. He campaigned on a platform that global leadership was the source of the United States’ problems, not a solution to them. He argued that friends and allies had played Washington for a sucker, free-riding on its military might while using multilateral trade deals to steal American jobs.” Of course, there is some foundation for President Trump’s (generally) mistaken beliefs. Some countries, Canada since circa 1970 is a fine example, have been “free riding” on America’s military might … we want the protection but are unwilling to pay the price.
“Trump’s preference for competition over cooperation reflects his belief that the United States will fare better than other countries in a world in which the strong are free to do as they will,” the authors say, “But he fails to understand that doing better than others is not the same as doing well. In fact, he is forfeiting the many advantages the United States has derived from the world it created: the support of strong and capable allies that follow its lead, the ability to shape global rules to its advantage, and the admiration and trust that come from standing up for freedom, democracy, and human rights … [and] … Worse, by alienating allies and embracing adversaries, Trump is providing an opening for China to rewrite the rules of the global order in its favor. “As the U.S. retreats globally, China shows up,” Jin Yinan, a top Chinese military official, gloated last year. Beijing has positioned itself as a defender of the global trading system, the environment, and international law even as it exploits trade rules, builds more coal-burning power stations, and expands its control in the South China Sea. This bid to supplant the United States as the global leader is hardly destined to succeed. China has few friends and a lengthy list of internal challenges, including an aging work force, deep regional and economic inequalities, and a potentially brittle political system. But a world with no leader and multiple competing powers poses its own dangers, as Europe’s tragic history has demonstrated. The United States will not be the only country to pay the price for a return to such a world.“
What to do?
Ivo H Daalder and James M Lindsay suggest that “the story does not have to end that way. The major allies of the United States can leverage their collective economic and military might to save the liberal world order. France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the EU in Europe; Australia, Japan, and South Korea in Asia; and Canada in North America are the obvious candidates to supply the leadership that the Trump administration will not. Together, they represent the largest economic power in the world, and their collective military capabilities are surpassed only by those of the United States. This “G-9” should have two imperatives: maintain the rules-based order in the hope that Trump’s successor will reclaim Washington’s global leadership role and lay the groundwork to make it politically possible for that to happen. This holding action will require every member of the G-9 to take on greater global responsibilities. They all are capable of doing so; they need only summon the will.“
It’s an interesting idea but I wonder who might be the leader …
… I think that only one has the combination of personal stature and national economic and military power …
… and that is President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. All the others, including Abe of Japan, and Macron, May and Merkel of Europe, are seriously wounded or are like Conte and Trudeau lightweights; and I’m not sure that President Moon, estimable man though he is, has the political weight to lead the West, which includes much of Asia, in a quest to replace the USA as the guarantor of global peace and prosperity which is under direct and constant threat by e.g:
There are a handful of influential leaders missing from the proposed G9 …
.. including Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, who manages a delicate balancing act in Asia, especially between China and India, Narendra Modi of India, who presides over the world’s largest democracy, and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, the man who said “No!” to President Trump.
There is, also, one too many in the Daalder~Lindsay group: Jean-Claude Juncker, the man who doesn’t much like democracy, speaks for a large group of countries that do not have ~ and I would argue cannot have a coherent foreign policy. The EU is too large and its own rules make it too easy for “cherry pick” one vote, all that is needed, to kill off any policy decision. I agree that any group that wants to ‘lead’ the West must have sound European economies like e.g. Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden in the ranks but it doesn’t need (and maybe doesn’t want) the likes of Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and, therefore, it doesn’t need the EU.
So, maybe a G-9+, with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom in the core group and, say, the Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Sweden, as “associate members” would make mores sense.
To do what?
Professors Daalder and Lindsay say that “This “G-9” should have two imperatives:
- maintain the rules-based order in the hope that Trump’s successor will reclaim Washington’s global leadership role; and
- lay the groundwork to make it politically possible for that to happen.
This holding action,” they say “will require every member of the G-9 to take on greater global responsibilities. They all are capable of doing so; they need only summon the will.” They explain that “Economic cooperation is a good place to start, and G-9 members are already creating alternatives to the trade deals Trump is abandoning. But they will have to go further, increasing military cooperation and defense spending and using a variety of tools at their disposal to take over the U.S. role as the defender and promoter of democracy, freedom, and human rights across the globe. If they seize this opportunity, the G-9 countries will not just slow the erosion of an order that has served them and the world well for decades; they will also set the stage for the return of the kind of American leadership they want and that the long-term survival of the order demands. Indeed, by acting now, the G-9 will lay the basis for a more stable and enduring world order—one that is better suited to the power relations of today and tomorrow than to those of yesterday, when the United States was the undisputed global power.”
Now, I’m not going to do justice to a long and thought provoking essay which is chock full of analysis and ideas; I’m going to cherry pick one or two notions and run with them. It’s a length article and all good libraries have subscriptions to Foreign Affairs so you can read it there. If your library doesn’t subscribe then elect a new, better, literate mayor and council.
This, of course, is going to be anathema to progressive Canadians like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his inner circle … as much as they may hate the humiliation that Donald J Trump has heaped on them, personally, and on Canada, they are quite simply unable to understand that there might be an alternative that involves Canada acting more like it did in the 1960s, before Pierre Trudeau decided to abandon international leadership and focus on French language rights in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
But we need to remember that being isolationist, protectionist and, generally, greedy, smug and irresponsible is not, solely, a Liberal failing. Many conservatives, including quite a few Conservatives, believe that Donald Trump is on the right track, that he is, somehow, making America ‘great’ again and that we should follow suit. Many Conservatives, for example, oppose free(er) trade with China and, equally incomprehensibly, support supply management. Neither policy position makes any economic or strategic sense at all.
Not all Liberals favour the Team Trudeau approach … I’m pretty sure that some front bench Liberals, those who have seen the worst of our world, up close, and those who have seen the world from afar, understand that the green, feminist, First Nation friendly, progressive and sunny ways policies that Butts, Telford and Trudeau propose are arrant nonsense, but they, being 50something white men don’t count for much in 2018. The problem is not partisan … it is a Canadian syndrome ~ shared, I suspect by Germans and Italians, and, and, and … ~ that says “let someone else do all the hard, expensive, dirty work, we just want to watch and reap the benefits.” Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay and I wish, hope that nations, including Canada, will shake off that attitude and reach for a higher standard. But it swill take more than just a deep distaste for Donald Trump to change many minds.
I don’t know if it will be one of the villains ~ Arab/Islamist terrorists, China, Iran, mass migration, North Korea or Putin’s Russia ~ that I discussed above or some other actor who will cause the crisis that will, I am 99% certain provoke exactly the wrong reaction from President Donald Trump, but someone or something will be the cause and Trump will make mistake after mistake and the world will be plunged into a crisis and someone will have to lead … I don’t know if it will be Macron, May, Merkel, Modi, Moon or Morrison, but I am 100% sure it will not be Trudeau or Trump. Prudence and good judgement suggest that the eight countries the two scholars mention, plus India, and maybe an equal number of others, need to be talking, soon, about what they can do to foresee and, perhaps, forestall or, at worst, react to a crisis. But I doubt we can expect to see a G9 or a G9+ any time soon … I fear that we will need a crisis first.
For now, responsible leaders, from across the political spectrum and from around the world should be considering what Professors Daalder and Lindsay have to say … so should ordinary Canadians.