1 May 2019   Leave a comment

One of the pre-eminent analysts of international relations, John Mearsheimer, has written an essay for International Security entitled “Bound to Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Liberal International Order”. It is a theoretical piece that is deeply entrenched in some of the more arcane issues in international relations. But the essay is well-written and intelligent, and deserves close attention. Mearsheimer investigates the significance of the declining support globally for what we call the international liberal order, constructed after the end of World War II.

“Creating a liberal international order involved three main tasks. First, it was essential to expand the membership in the institutions that made up the Western order, as well as erect new institutions where necessary. In other words, it was important to build a web of international institutions with universal membership that wielded great influence over the behavior of the member states. Second, it was imperative to create an open and inclusive international economy that maximized free trade and fostered unfettered capital markets. This hyperglobalized world economy was intended to be much more ambitious in scope than the economic order that prevailed in the West during the Cold War. Third, it was crucial to vigorously spread liberal democracy around the world, a mission that was frequently shortchanged when the United States was competing for power with the Soviet Union. This goal was not the United States’ alone; its European allies generally embraced this undertaking as well.

“These three tasks, of course, are directly tied to the principal liberal theories of peace: liberal institutionalism, economic interdependence theory, and democratic peace theory. Thus, in the minds of its architects, constructing a robust, sustainable liberal international order was synonymous with creating a peaceful world. This deep-seated belief gave the United States and its allies a powerful incentive to work assiduously to create that new order. Integrating China and Russia into it was especially important for its success, because they were the most powerful states in the system after the United States. The goal was to embed them in as many institutions as possible, fully integrate them into the open international economy, and help turn them into liberal democracies.”

Mearsheimer argues that the liberal order created tensions in states that lead to the demise of the order: intense nationalism spawned by the economic inequalities created by globalization. It is a powerful observation, but one that sells short the resiliency of liberal institutions. The world faced the same pressures in the wake of World War I and it is true that liberal institutions failed to contain economic nationalism and the rise of fascism. But liberal institutions were revived in 1945 and proved to be quite effective. Perhaps we should focus on the cycles of international orders and not hold them to a static analysis.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the most explicit threat of US military intervention in Venezuela if Nicolas Maduro does not leave office. In an exchange with Maria Bartiromo on the Fox Business Network, Pompeo went further than any other American official on the matter.

“Bartiromo: Is the US support going to include troops? Are the military troops in the US going to head there and support Guaidó?

“Pompeo: The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do. We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid violence. We’ve asked all the parties involved not to engage in that kind of activity. We’d prefer a peaceful transition of government there where Maduro leaves and a new election is held, but the President has made clear in the event that there comes a moment — and we’ll all have to make decisions about when that moment is and the -resident will ultimately have to make that decision — he is prepared to do that if that’s what’s required.”

Protests continued in Venezuela and the situation remains fluid and uncertain. The Russians also made threats to the US on the issue of intervention. According to The Independent:

“The comments were quickly seized on by Russia, which warned the US not to become more directly involved in events in Venezuela, a situation that has rapidly turned into a proxy contest between Washington and Moscow.

“Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Mr Pompeo by phone on Wednesday that further ‘aggressive steps in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences’. Mr Lavrov also condemned US ‘interference’  in Venezuela’s internal affairs as a breach of international law.”

The tension between the US and Russia over Venezuela continues to rise but neither side seems to have shown any desire to defuse the situation.

Extinction Rebellion only began protesting inaction over climate change in October 2018 but it seems to be clear that its non-violent protests have ushered in a new phase of environmental protection.

“For 10 days in April, Extinction Rebellion occupied major junctions across London. It blocked traffic on Oxford Street, Marble Arch, and Waterloo Bridge. Some protestors painted graffiti on the headquarters of oil giant Shell, calling the company “climate criminals.” Others glued themselves to trains, delaying commuters’ journeys. Still others blocked the entrance to the London Stock Exchange, calling on the financial industry to act on climate change. Their tactics to disturb public order led to more than 1,000 arrests.”

The movement has made it clear that its actions have only just begun. It is unclear, however, whether those tactics will spread to other countries or whether there is a natural limit on how far the protests will go to disrupt daily life in various countries.

Posted May 1, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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