Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

World Order

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

World Order

Article excerpt

World Order

By Henry Kissinger

Penguin Press, 2014

432 pp. $36

ISBN: 978-1594206146

Henry Kissinger, the scholar, statesman, and philosopher, writes a fascinating, insightful, and thought-provoking history of the concept of the state, statecraft, grand strategy, and international cooperation in the pursuit of order and stability among nations. Although no true universal arrangement among states has ever existed, he asserts the order that does exist is at risk because of developing forces beyond the control of states themselves. So we must ask whether collective state order can be achieved while maintaining individual state freedom in an increasingly intricate and turbulent global environment.

The author sets the stage by addressing evolution of the state as a permanent and fundamental entity in conducting international intercourse. He notably highlights the significance of the Peace of Westphalia (1648) in first institutionalizing international order among states. The state became the impetus in establishing foreign policy and the representative strategy for protecting and promoting the best interests of its people, free of foreign intervention based on religion or otherwise. Kissinger smartly details the role of the state in developing European relations and its enduring legacy in shaping the dealings between and among states to this day. Along the way, he draws upon classic philosophers including Immanuel Kant and Thomas Hobbes who have shaped our understanding of the role of the state.

Kissinger painstakingly details the breakdown of international order over time due to imbalances of power and ambitions between and among states. He then examines the collective pursuit by nations to reestablish order through agreements, such as the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) that spoke to the post-Napoleonic era in Europe. He describes how difficult such agreements became over time owing to varying state historical experiences, perspectives, and interests. As effective as the Congress of Vienna was in bringing stability to Europe, it was no panacea for peace in the long run. Russia in essence ignored it, expanding its borders every year until 1917, while it ultimately provoked a unified Germany into eventual war in 1914. Further exemplifying the difficulty of rebuilding international order resulting from imbalance of power is the disaster known as the Treaty of Versailles, which set the terms for peace at the end of the First World War that eventually led to World War II. Unfortunately, U.S. isolationism ultimately won out over President Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations concept to restore international order. Without U.S. leadership in such an organization, another major war in Europe was inevitable.

In spite of efforts to promote post-World War II international order by establishing organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and International Monetary Fund, a Cold War of differing philosophies supported by military might broke out, pitting U.S. democracy against Soviet communism. The Cold War left both countries vying for the dominant position to dictate and lead international order. Competing multilateral balance of power initiatives such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Warsaw Pact subsequently soon followed. …

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