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.
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By contrast, the more authoritarian model of China is seen by others around the world to be delivering rapid growth and large surpluses.Skip to next paragraph
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Likewise, Islamist extremists point to the unfairness of a world organized around a Christian West, and to secularism as a source of moral decay. These arguments are then used to justify the imposition of a harsh, antidemocratic system in place of open societies and market democracy.
Fourth, the drive by states like North Korea and Iran to acquire nuclear weapons – part of a growing problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – has replaced US and Russian nuclear arsenals as the preeminent mass destruction threat in the world today. Combined with the effects of globalization and ideological extremism, the prospects are chilling.
Fifth, energy supplies and energy-generated wealth have become the new tools of exercising regional and global power. Suppliers have the upper hand; net consuming nations are dependent.
Many major exporters are not fully democratic, and in the worst cases even contribute financially to sustaining these other global challenges. Democratic states must invest in diversifying sources, routes, and types of energy simply to retain their day-to-day freedom.
And sixth, our institutions are failing. The United Nations has been struggling for years. But today, we see a renationalization of politics and weak leadership within the EU, declining public faith in global financial institutions, and a lack of a commonly understood role for NATO.
Where we had counted on institutions such as these for global security and prosperity in the past, today they seem inadequate – unrepresentative, hesitant, ineffective, wasteful and yet under-resourced.
Western allies must come together
All this should trouble publics and leaders in our own democratic, values-based societies. The world that provided our current prosperity and security is rapidly shifting underneath us. We should invest now in the steps needed to strengthen the foundations of a values-based international order for the future.
Unfortunately, the opposite is happening. The global economic crisis has left democratic governments weak, cash-strapped, and focused mostly on political survival.
Anti-incumbent movements – whether the “tea party” in the US, the Purple People in Italy, or the voters in North-Rhine Westphalia, who just robbed Chancellor Angela Merkel of a majority in Germany’s upper house of parliament – are gaining strength.
Rather than pulling together, states within Europe, and the wider transatlantic community, are showing greater divisions. Europe remains deeply divided over Russia, and a wary partner of the United States in Afghanistan.
While the Euro-zone countries ultimately came forward with a $1 trillion stop-gap in their debt crisis, that decision was preceded by weeks of internal finger-pointing and emphasis on national interests within the EU. Whether this package is ultimately successful depends on tough fiscal measures yet to be taken in several EU states.
This is where we need good leaders more than ever. Here are four steps they can take to try to get our nations, and our world, back on the right course.
How to get back on the right track
First, leaders themselves must look above the day-to-day struggles to see these larger trends, and then talk to one another about them. Although each of our nations is going through a crisis of some kind, the fact is that they are all related to these bigger trends.