The defenders of what’s called the “liberal international order” have recently suffered setbacks from adversaries inside and outside their home countries. But those who want to see the Western-led post-World War II system survive or even thrive are plotting its resurrection, the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin writes:
Some say that liberal democracy simply didn’t address the needs and desires of its populations. Others say the liberal international order was never truly liberal, international or orderly. The mission to defend it must include acknowledging and addressing those shortcomings.
Internationalists share a realization that the order is at grave risk, and along with it the seven decades of relative growth, prosperity and peace it provided. Nationalism and populism are ascendant in the United States and Europe. Authoritarianism led by Russia and China is on the march around the world.
|The United States built the order on three foundational propositions: that economic openness and integration lead to greater and more widely shared prosperity; that political openness, democratization, and the protection of human rights lead to stronger, more just societies and more effective international cooperation; and that economic and political openness are mutually reinforcing. All three propositions are now contested, notes Jake Sullivan, a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
There are new and urgent conversations in Western democracies not just about how to resist pressure from abroad but also about how to address social and economic dislocations at home and the distributional consequences of globalization and automation. Whether this brings about a genuine recovery of strength for liberal democracy over time remains to be seen. But there are promising signs, he writes for Foreign Affairs:
It is tempting to conclude that all hope is lost. That conclusion, however, is not only unproductive; it is also wrong. In every dimension—from technology to security, development to diplomacy, economic dynamism to human capital—the United States’ advantages are still significant. The opportunity remains to reconstitute the old consensus on new terms.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, charges the U.S. with giving up a “position of leadership in developing the rules and arrangements at the heart of any world order,” say Stephen Wertheim (@stephenwertheim), a lecturer in history at Birkbeck, University of London, and Thomas Meaney, a fellow at the American Council on Germany. Acknowledging that Mr. Trump is not retreating to isolation, the critics now advance a subtler case — that he is wrecking what they describe as the America-led “liberal international order,” they write for The New York Times:
Democracy requires experts but it also requires something from them: that they facilitate public debate and respect the ultimate power of the electorate to set the aims of the nation. ….As distributional conflicts surge in domestic politics, they are surging in foreign policy, too — and those who ignore them lose out to those who inflate them. Citizens seeking a better foreign policy ought to be engaged, not ignored. But recent events cast doubt on whether our current crop of experts is up to the job.