The liberal world order appeared to be more robust than ever with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. But today, a quarter-century later, its future is in doubt, argues Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. Indeed, its three components – liberalism, universality, and the preservation of order itself – are being challenged as never before in its 70-year history, he writes for Project Syndicate:
Liberalism is in retreat. Democracies are feeling the effects of growing populism. Parties of the political extremes have gained ground in Europe. The vote in the United Kingdom in favor of leaving the EU attested to the loss of elite influence. Even the US is experiencing unprecedented attacks from its own president on the country’s media, courts, and law-enforcement institutions. Authoritarian systems, including China, Russia, and Turkey, have become even more top-heavy. Countries such as Hungary and Poland seem uninterested in the fate of their young democracies.
The rise of populism is in part a response to stagnating incomes and job loss, owing mostly to new technologies but widely attributed to imports and immigrants. Nationalism is a tool increasingly used by leaders to bolster their authority, especially amid difficult economic and political conditions. And global institutions have failed to adapt to new power balances and technologies. But the weakening of the liberal world order is due, more than anything else, to the changed attitude of the US.