THE PROBLEM OF ORDER
AT RARE historical junctures, states grapple with the fundamental problem of international relations: how to create and maintain order in a world of sovereign states. These junctures come at dramatic moments of upheaval and change within the international system, when the old order has been destroyed by war and newly powerful states try to reestablish basic organiz/ ing rules and arrangements. The end of the Cold War after 1989 is seen by many contemporary observers as the most recent of these great historical moments. With the dramatic collapse of the bipolar world order, the ques/ tion not asked since the 1940s has recently been posed anew: how do states build international order and make it last?
The great moments of international order building have tended to come after major wars, as winning states have undertaken to reconstruct the post/ war world. Certain years stand out as critical turning points: 1648, 1713, 1815, 1919, and 1945. At these junctures, newly powerful states have been given extraordinary opportunities to shape world politics. In the chaotic aftermath of war, leaders of these states have found themselves in unusually advantageous positions to put forward new rules and principles of interna/ tional relations and by so doing remake international order.1
This book raises three fundamental questions about order building at these great junctures. First, what is the essential logic of state choice at these postwar moments when the basic organization of international order is up for grabs? That is, what is the strategic circumstance common to these ordering moments, and what are the choices that the leading states face in rebuilding postwar order? Second, why has the specific “solution” to the problem of order changed or evolved across the great postwar settlements? In particular, what is the explanation for the growing resort to institutional strategies of order building, beginning with the 1815 settlement and most systematically pursued after 1945? Third, why has the 1945 postwar order among the advanced industrial countries been so durable, surviving the dramatic shifts in power that accompanied the end of the Cold War?
The great postwar junctures share a set of characteristics that make them unusually important in providing opportunities for leading states to shape international order. The most important characteristic of interstate relations after a major war is that a new distribution of power suddenly____________________