Where Do We Go From Here?

As mentioned before, the catch to establishing a novel global order which Henry Kissinger highlighted, is that establishing order in one regional unit of the new order could lead to instability in another regional unit. Essentially, there are tradeoffs which will need to be made. Therefore, if the United States no longer has the capabilities or the means to establish order throughout all the regions of the world, and if one regional unit has to be prioritized over all the others, it means that the likelihood is that America’s focus will shift to the regional unit which is right under its nose, namely, the Western Hemisphere. 

It is also worth noting that the likely winners of a novel global order will be Russia and China, whereas America’s traditional allies like Europe and Japan who were the beneficiaries of the old order will lose out as a result of a novel order one way or another. Thus, and as Peter Zeihan argued, there will be winners and losers as a result of a transition from the old order to the new order, and the losers will be the beneficiaries of the old order, whereas the winners of the new order will be the ones who were shut out of the benefits and perks of the old order. Not only will the United States have to drop the ball in Asia to a certain extent, but the United States will have to drop the ball to a certain extent in Europe as well amidst the transition from the old order towards the new order. And in the Middle East, Iran will most likely benefit more than all other Middle Eastern states as a result of a transition from an old order to a new order. 

Yet, while it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for the United States to keep up with all of its global commitments amidst such a “Catch-22” situation, Kissinger contends that the United States cannot set aside its global commitments, which in a sense contradicts his suggestion that America must recognize the “reality” of the other regional units, in addition to contradicting the reality that a tradeoff has to be made. 

Kissinger wrote: “For the United States, the quest for world order functions on two levels: the celebration of universal principles needs to be paired with a recognition of the reality of other regions’ histories and cultures.” But the contradiction sets in when Kissinger added: “Even as the lessons of challenging decades are examined, the affirmation of America’s exceptional nature must be sustained. History offers no respite to countries that set aside their commitments or sense of identity in favor of a seemingly less arduous course.” He added: “America – as the modern world’s decisive articulation of the human quest for freedom, and an indispensable geopolitical force for the vindication of humane values – must retain its sense of direction.” 

Relief for the United States would come if it were possible to “translate divergent cultures into a common system” in addition to bringing about a ‘meeting of the minds’ between such different kinds of people with such different kinds of worldviews. The perceived goal, as has been argued by the likes of Kissinger, is ‘equilibrium’ between these different regional units, with equilibrium amounting to a “balance between opposites” per se. And as Kissinger wrote: “The goal of our era must be to achieve that equilibrium while restraining the dogs of war. And we have to do so among the rushing stream of history.” 

But despite his intellectual greatness and prowess, it could be possible that Kissinger ran into a dilemma or paradox which cannot be resolved, namely, the dilemma or paradox of reconciling America’s broad-ranging and global commitments with the diminishing capabilities and means of keeping up with those commitments. Add to this dilemma and paradox the issue of democratic accountability and American public opinion, and Kissinger’s appeal to pathos may simply amount to just that, namely, an appeal to pathos which may not go anywhere, in addition to amounting to a rhetorical flourish with an aloofness from reality that is characteristic of an ivory tower outlook. 

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