Friday, February 17, 2012

The New World Order

I am currently enrolled in a class called International Business Fellows. This class has a mix of MBA's, students from the law school, the school of public affairs, middle eastern studies and foreign policy. Each week we discuss current international affairs topics and we have super renowed speakers, ex militia, [ 2 weeks ago, the head of the national security and advisor to the President of the United States, a retd Admiral spoke to us. ] I love this class even though it goes 3 hours. One of our assignments is to write a 4 page paper each week on the topics we discussed. I love this class and find that I am learning so much that I will occasionally put up my papers [ condensed, removing speaker references and external opinions and just leaving mine ] for posterity and for me to come back to years from now. The topic of this paper was to critique the theories of International politics and come up with a world order, if possible. I got an A for this paper :) 

"This week the topic under consideration is the new world order and how the international community should interact and also how the US should feature in the new scheme of things.
I found this class particularly interesting – firstly because it taught me many new concepts and made me think about things I would usually not consider. I will briefly touch upon topics like ‘Wilsonianism’ and ‘Global Zero’ which are concepts I spent time understanding even after the class was over.

In thinking of the new world and how dynamics of international policy will, or should evolve in this century, it is important to first consider the unit of importance and Prof. touched on this as well- Is it the country that matters? Civilizations? Non-public actors? Geographical boundaries? Who and what should be accountable to whom? Determining this ‘hierarchy’ in the system would enable us to find a starting point in International politics, since it is the ‘system’ that provides incentives for human economic and political behavior. I think I would uphold countries as the sovereign entity as a ‘unit’ in the system – only because it would make the most sense in a political, social and economic context.

The readings speak of different theories of world dynamics. While I agree with some aspects of all of them, I could not bring myself to wholly commit to any one school of thought. For instance, while I do believe that world politics is driven by competitive self-interest which is a part of the theory of realists, I also think that in today’s converging economic and political situation we would evolve a better world if nations behaved not only in their own, but also in global interest. In short, realists believe that mankind’s basic nature is not to behave in an ethical and benevolent manner always, but is rather driven by an aggressive, competitive spirit.  I agree in part, but at the same time, there is a part of me who is an idealist who believes that man can be trusted to be good, and do good, unless provoked otherwise.

This is where the ‘security dilemma’ that the Prof. speaks of comes into play. The perception of power (actual or perceived) can upset political and trade balance between countries.  Breaking this example down into easy to understand terms I believe idealism will work until there is a perception of balance of power and the existence of an ethical and fair playing ground. So long as everyone trusts everyone else and is given no reason to think otherwise, free trade, market liberalization, political goodwill will exist, which will breakdown the minute there is a disruption in the balance of power. Therefore, I am wary of both theories, but probably argue that components of both would work in different circumstances.

In todays converging world of increasing global context where countries are wound together economically, politically, where no one part of the world can be buffered by goings’on in another part of the world, I think liberalism is definitely imperative to further impetus to world growth. I agree with three main policies of liberalism – the support of democracy to emerge globally, free trade, liberal economies and politics. Democracy is inherently a people’s system – and therefore probably more peace promoting than other political system. I have mixed feelings about the interventionist policy that liberalism promotes – of more powerful sovereign states interfering in the domestic affairs of other smaller sovereign states in order to pursue liberalist objectives.

On the same lines, thinking about China’s foreign policy as stated in the readings which says that Beijing argued that national governments should be the sole legitimate users of force within their boundaries. Even to this day, if we look at Chinese investments in politically and economicaly unstable Africa, they’re solely driven by energy and other economically driven objectives. China does not expect to exert any political will on Africa, nor does it hold Africa to any standards of imposing political stability in its own country. In other words, it’s not being the moral policeman that the west would try to be with developing countries. A few years ago when the US was not reeling in economic debt, and had the option to, it opted out of investing in Africa citing stability as an issue. China had no such moral concerns, and it continues wide scale investment as well as deeper penetration and (in my opinion) exploitation of Africa.

Which segways nicely into the new emerging world order – the rise of the east. I recently read both Friedman books – The world is flat, as well as ‘The way we used to be’ and I firmly believe that both capture in essence, what’s happening today, and why.

The end of the cold war freed up 2 billion new consumers for America – but on the flip side, it created new competitors. New countries which saw the American life, and with their new open markets and technological exchange learned to make things better and faster and cheaper while America was playing the part of ‘Too big to fail’. The reading where we exploit the myth of American exceptionalism was extremely accurate in my opinion, where one of the biggest mistakes America has made is thinking it does not have to work as hard as other countries to stay competitive stay innovative and that its power is permanent. Complacency has been the downfall of the west – with emerging markets fighting hard to stimulate their economy and evolve into serious competitors.

Today we live in a world where nothing and no country is too big to fail. We’re inheriting a world of debt and crisis and it is truly the survival of the fittest. Look at the Eurozone – once hailed a brilliant master move to promote free trade and create a new superpower almost, we see how just bringing currencies into one euro has led to the breakdown of this new system. The imbalance in debt and economic policies between member countries has led to the disintegration of all things good about this system in the first place.

A few decades ago, jobs all moved east – to China, India. Now we see jobs moving centrally – to Africa – at some point in this century or the next, we will be saturated – no country will have competitive advantage over the other in terms of manufacturing with the scarcity of resources making things equally expensive. I believe we will reach a point in time where most of the population of the world’s poor will move into the middle class, and no country will have competitive advantage of having a burgeoning middle class to offer as consumers to woo bigger companies to invest in FDI’s. At that point, I think the world order and the balance of power will lie with the countries willing to be tough, aggressive, inflective, competitive, and innovative. It will lie with the countries willing to continuously strive to be better than itself and not believe in its established credentials.


Snow said...

hello hello... been long since i visited your place, just wanna say hi and good to see you're still around! :)

shirin goel said...


sridhar said...

i've been following ur bolg since long and wat i wanted to say is, i love it..gud luck :)