Huis clos

Henry Kissinger ended his latest book titled “World Order” with a paradox, which is perhaps suitable given that life is full of paradoxes which can only be resolved by a quest for truth and wisdom that never ends. Kissinger noted that although there is a need for world order, it does not really exist, and world order is perhaps something that needs to be socially constructed between different peoples and nations. In my view – and I could be wrong – global order and peace will result from one of two possible political outcomes. One could argue that strategies towards order and peace are ultimately political, although we cannot fully discount the military element in the way of establishing and maintaining global order. A political settlement through dialogue and negotiations between the United States and China is one of the two possible outcomes. There are Eastern and Western spheres of influence resulting from the rise of Russia and China, and these spheres of influence can come together or drift further apart depending on whether or not the two can engage in dialogue and negotiations aimed at establishing global order and peace.

Another political outcome in the way of global order and peace is a shift in the global balance of power in favor of China and the application of international laws, rules, and norms by international governing bodies after two or three decades of American global hegemony, which was a policy that led to the balance of power to tilt in favor of Russia and China in the first place. Recently, China has become more involved financially and socially in international governing bodies. Thus, in the long run, China can sustain its major power status by exercising its leverage over international governing bodies and applying international laws, rules, and norms that were flouted by the United States during its unipolar moment. The flouting of international laws, rules, and norms by the United States coincided with a policy of global hegemony. And it would be foolish for China to make the same mistakes as the United States. Through exercising leverage over international governing bodies and applying international laws, rules and norms, China can then garner the credibility and legitimacy which the United States lost in the eyes of the international community and international society due to a policy of global hegemony.

And in the absence of a political settlement with the United States through dialogue and negotiations based on a positive-sum paradigm of social interaction, China can engage with the conventional zero-sum paradigm of politics and international relations with the United States through the balance of power principle – which is based primarily upon psychology and spirit –and as of recently this balance of power principle favors China after decades of American global hegemony. Chinese strategy is shaped to a large extent by the ancient Chinese concepts of “Tai Chi” and “Wei Qi” as noted by Kissinger. The latter concept is grounded in strategic patience, and the former consists of three stages when applied in a strategic sense. First, “Tai Chi” requires the absorption of an attack from a bigger force. Second, after absorbing an attack from a bigger force, one is in a position to neutralize the attack from the bigger force. Finally, after neutralization comes the counterattack against the bigger force.

In turn, China can use the balance of power principle to apply international laws, rules, and norms through international governing bodies in response to an American foreign policy of global hegemony that contravened international law. After all, the intent behind the creation of international law is the prohibition of global hegemony after Europe’s religious wars, Napoleon, and Hitler. Moreover, to apply laws, rules, and norms can perhaps equate to accountability and transitional justice after the crimes and human rights abuses which occurred amidst a policy of American global hegemony over the course of the last two or three decades. Arguably, accountability and transitional justice are requirements for order and peace in the international community and international society.

The issue of accountability and transitional justice would not be as important as they are had it not been for the issue of credibility and legitimacy, which amounts to everything in international relations and international society. Credibility and legitimacy are the lifeblood of both interpersonal and international relations. Although power is the basic currency of interpersonal and international relations, power is ultimately derived from credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of both God and men. It takes a lot of time and effort to establish credibility and legitimacy, yet it can be lost instantaneously.

At the most basic level, credibility and legitimacy are built through transparency, truth, and trust-building. Essentially, trust is built through a combination of action and dialogue over a prolonged period of time. Communication and dialogue are crucial in developing relationships based on friendship, fellowship, and love. But communication and dialogue are paved by a two-way street. “It takes two to tango.” One-sided communication does not cultivate a credible and legitimate relationship between two entities or parties. When a hegemonic paradigm is applied – as has been the case for more than two decades of American global hegemony – diplomacy is cancelled because the hegemonic power perceives that there is no need to communicate and talk to the other side on a level playing field because of the power dynamics which allow for the hegemonic power to dominate the other side.

But once the balance of power shifts and there is more of a level playing field in terms of power dynamics between two opposing sides, then the hegemonic power reconsiders its strategy of cancelling diplomacy and in due time will come to the table to negotiate a political settlement in order to stop the daily and recurrent peaks and troughs which coincide with the overall swing of the balance of power pendulum. The goal of politics, after all, is balance and equilibrium in the power dynamics and a settlement of the pendular swing of the balance of power between two opposing sides.

In politics, one should always keep a channel of communication and dialogue open with the opposing side. But if one side leaves the channel open while the other side fails to utilize it, then the side that left the channel open will go elsewhere to have their interests accommodated. For instance, the combination of China’s rise and Western reluctance to see the Eastern bloc as a worthy interlocutor means Eastern countries will pull away from the United States to have their interests accommodated by China over time. Communication and dialogue usually break down when the two sides cannot accommodate each other’s interests. Yet, the entire goal of politics and international relations is the accommodation of everyone’s interests through diplomatic means. When all sides have their interests accommodated, there is peace. But if one side fails to have their interests accommodated by all involved parties, then the likelihood of war increases. Communication and dialogue occur when there is hope that two opposing sides can accommodate each other’s interests. If two sides cannot accommodate one another’s interests through communication and dialogue, then the two sides entrench themselves into two opposing blocs or camps and either a hot war or cold war ensues.

2024 will most likely be the year when the demise of the American unipolar moment and American relative decline vis-à-vis China will be most evident. Based on World Bank and International Monetary Fund analysis and projections, China will surpass the United States as the world’s biggest economy in the year 2024. America’s annual GDP stands at around 20 trillion dollars in terms of overall value. But by the year 2024, the overall value of China’s GDP will surpass America’s overall value in terms of GDP. This change will have political and social effects throughout the international system.

But arguably, this situation could have been avoided had it not been for a policy of American global hegemony that prompted Donald Trump, the resurgence of Russia, and the rise of China. This argument — namely, that the policy of American global hegemony led to the emergence of Donald Trump, the resurgence of Russia, and the rise of China — is augmented and built up by John Mearsheimer in his latest book titled “The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities.” What undergirds a policy of global hegemony is arrogance and hubris, and the primary consequences of an arrogant and hubristic policy is stagnation and decline.

Also, the political instability in the United States — as evinced by a disputed election in 2020 and the political violence which ensued (January 6) — have to be taken into account in addition to the rise of China. Thus, internal political instability and the rise of China are the two primary consequences of a decades-long policy of American global hegemony undergirded by arrogance and hubris, and in turn this policy of global hegemony directly contravenes international law because the intent behind the creation of international law is the prohibition of a policy of global hegemony. Arguably, the only remedies for these internal and external situations are accountability and transitional justice, which demand both transparency and truth as to how we got to this situation in addition to holding the individuals who in the year 2001 forged a government policy of global hegemony which prompted this situation accountable for their actions.

Although John Mearsheimer was one of the first of America’s foremost political theorists to concede and in fact argue that the policy of American global hegemony prompted the emergence of Donald Trump, the resurgence of Russia, and the rise of China, Mearsheimer contends nonetheless that America will go above and beyond to reverse these three trends and that America will perhaps succeed in reversing these trends. But Hugh White, a renowned Australian political strategist, argues that the reversal of these trends — particularly the trend which is the rise of China — is easier said than done. White is by no means convinced that the United States can stem the rise of China and reverse China’s rise, despite American efforts towards doing so. As the expression goes, the cat is already out of the bag.

Perhaps the best response that America can show to China’s rise is dialogue, negotiations, and a political settlement with China that encompasses a range of global affairs and issues. Coincidentally, the suggestion that America engage in dialogue, negotiations, and a political settlement with China was the foundational idea of both my book (which I published in January 2018) and my blog and essay writing over the course of the last couple of years. Absent of dialogue, negotiations, and a political settlement with China would be the continued shift of the global balance of power — with the balance of power principle being primarily psychological and spiritual in nature — in favor of China. And what will most likely occur through the balance of power principle shifting in favor of China is the rectification of international laws, rules, and norms, the consequences and repercussions of which are yet to be determined for certain American officials and policymakers both past and present for their instigation of war and social strife on a global scale after the Cold War came to an end.

All was relatively quiet in the international system after the Cold War, with the exception of a few pockets of instability such as Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Rwanda. Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea had also ended in a stalemate in the year 2000. Thus, war had essentially come to an end, and humanity was at a turning point towards evolution and peace at the end of the Cold War. But the Bush Administration in 2001 ignited the flames of war throughout the international system for no reason whatsoever. As Hugo Grotius – the founder of international law – once said: “Men rush to arms for slight causes, or no cause at all, and once taken up there is no longer any respect for law, divine or human.” Perhaps the intent was to defame and slander the religion of Islam. The intent is not fully clear as of yet. Discovering intent would require a certain degree of cross-examination of the handful of individuals who inaugurated a policy of global hegemony in the White House in 2001 either in an American court of law or in the courts at The Hague.

World system analysis — which is the pinnacle of the social sciences — shows that the two main pillars of the world system as shaped by Western powers such as the United States are unbridled capital accumulation and hegemony rivalry. Thus, in order to change and reform the world system, one must tame greed on one hand and abolish or prohibit war on the other hand. Accomplishing the goal of abolishing and prohibiting war is more of an art than a science, but over time, the goal may become more attainable as opposed to less attainable depending on the strategies employed towards the achievement of this goal. The hope of change, reform, and progress in the world system equates to the hope that one day, inequality can be mitigated and that war can be abolished once and for all.

Although many of the catastrophes that occurred over the course of the last two or three decades of American global hegemony could have been avoided, the focus from this point forward for the international community and international society is to create order and peace out of the manufactured chaos and manufactured war which came out of the White House in 2001. People from all over the world will have to get together and mobilize in the way of global order and peace, in addition to holding the handful of individuals who in 2001 manufactured global chaos and global war out of the White House to account. There are a range of issues that people need to collectively discuss and resolve, from ending war to overcoming climate change as well as fostering public health and improving the economy for all people and all social classes, in addition to providing educational opportunities for as many people as possible.

The issue of mental health is also ascendant in many economically advanced societies, and as a result people will have to address the issue of lifestyle in a growingly fast-paced world shaped by globalization, technology, and the internet. Perhaps the issue of lifestyle is the most important issue for economically advanced societies such as Europe and the United States. As Jean-Paul Sartre said: “Everything is figured out, except for how to live.” But the hope is that after decades of manufactured chaos and war stemming from an American government policy of global hegemony, people can come together and mobilize with a common aim and goal, namely, fostering order, peace, and stability in the international system and enabling people from all walks of life to attain happiness and to sustain happiness for the long haul.

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