Four ways the West can rebuild a crumbling international order
As NATO gets a strategic overhaul, Western allies must rebuild an international order that protects and promotes prosperity and security in the 21st century.
After eight months of reflection, the senior Group of Experts appointed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, issues its report today.Skip to next paragraph
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On this basis, the secretary general will prepare a new Strategic Concept for Allies to approve at a summit in Lisbon this November. But if this in-depth NATO process has revealed anything, it is that the challenges our societies must tackle today are far greater than what NATO itself can handle.
The Albright-led group has done excellent work on a new NATO concept. But we need more than that: We need to rebuild an international order that protects and promotes democratic values in the 21st century world, updating the order that emerged after World War II.
NATO was founded in 1949 as part of a broad slate of institutions designed to bring order to the post-war world. The leaders of Europe and America exhibited extraordinary vision, creating the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Court of Justice, European Coal and Steel Community (which grew into the European Union), and more. NATO was the security arm of a larger international order that protected and expanded the space for democratic values and security in the post-war world.
But in 2010, that world is largely gone – replaced by a more geographically, politically, and economically diverse world. And the international order that nurtured it is now fragmenting. This calls for a new approach to all of our assumptions and institutions, not just NATO.
What are our challenges?
First, globalization has brought the world into one space. What happens in a poor country in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East now can have a direct global impact in ways that were impossible a decade ago. We face more challenges from failed or failing states and extremists groups than from traditional powers.
Second, new powers are emerging well outside the transatlantic family.
Even among democracies, many have divergent national and regional interests in dealing with an international order that was created by others. Globalization with rising powers should not become a reversion to 19th century mercantilism and balance of power politics.
Third, market capitalism is again facing ideological challenges. The financial crisis, recession, Euro-crisis, and massive debt in the transatlantic economies have all created a lack of confidence, diminished discretionary resources, and engendered a broader perception of a failing capitalist system.
By contrast, the more authoritarian model of China is seen by others around the world to be delivering rapid growth and large surpluses.