A Personal, Debatable and Timely View on World Order: Henry Kissinger

By Bonciu, Florin | Global Economic Observer, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Personal, Debatable and Timely View on World Order: Henry Kissinger


Bonciu, Florin, Global Economic Observer


A Personal, Debatable and Timely View on World Order: Henry Kissinger Henry Kissinger - World Order, Penguin Press, New York, 2014

The concept of World Order had been much more present in the scientific debates and mass-media before 1990 when the world economy were more or less bipolar and the ideas of a dynamic balance of power and of spheres of influence were logically justified. After 1990 at the end of the Cold War a rather false perception became prevalent, particularly in the Western countries, projecting a unipolar world gradually witnessing a universalization of the Western style liberal democracy. This was epitomized in Francis Fukuyama's book "The End of History and the Last Man".

According to this perception the concept of World Order disappeared to a large extent from the public debate. However, this approach was not validated by reality because a world order existed anyway and significant changes took place within it continuously, such as the dramatic events of September 11, 2001. During the 25 years that have passed since 1990 the world became truly multi-polar, with China a serious actor just reaching in October 2014, according to IMF, the status of first economy in PPP (purchasing power parity) terms2, while the recent developments in Ukraine suddenly remembered the rest of the world that the Russian Federation is a significant player for more reasons than one.

It is exactly under these circumstances that Hemy Kissinger published, in September 2014, his view on the World Order3 4 5 6 7 8. At 91, Hemy Kissinger has had an unparalleled direct experience related to World Order, a long term perspective, an US bias and a detachment that comes with the age. For all those reasons his view on World Order is personal, debatable and timely. As for the debatable side, some aspects may be helpful. His book generated a lot of comments, some of them very positive (like those belonging to Hillary Clinton4), some of them appreciating the perspective and personal experience of the author5 and some of them rather critical6,7. By coincidence or not, soon after the publishing of the book some information on Kissinger's position during the Cuban missiles crisis have been declassified and heavy criticism has been renewed on his support and advocacy for US military interventions8.Leaving these sometimes opposing views on Henry Kissinger's career and his most recent book we may focus our attention on the topics and the arguments, on the hypotheses and the possible outcomes that are suggested. And it is from this perspective that the reader discovers the book from some statements in its introduction (page 9): the Western world assumed that there is one model and one set of rules, but reality is far from this; the growing interdependences and instant communication determine implications that were difficult to foresee and requirements for instant reaction from the part of the leaders of nations that they can not fulfill in due time because they are weak or not prepared but because it may not be humanely possible. Despite these frightening and impressive conditions humanity needs a world order and Henry Kissinger attempts to provide some historical lessons and some prospects for the future.

An adept of real politik Kissinger stresses from the very beginning that "no truly global World Order has ever existed". This statement is important because a lot of the debates today are based on the assumption that there is a single world order (in the sense of a multilaterally accepted agreement) and that some actors are bending the rules or at least questioning them. The distinction between "world order" as a state of fact and "world order" as a multilaterally accepted agreement or system is extremely important not only for a better understanding of the world of today but also for the attempt to design a more stable and feasible world of tomorrow. Also at the beginning of his book Kissinger draws the limits of his approach: he is not writing about world order in itself, but about the regions of the world with different concepts of world order that inter-acted and shaped the world of today and will continue to do so with the world of tomorrow. …

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