BUDAPEST – When it comes to geopolitics, there is always a market for gloom. Business has been booming in this respect lately, with The Economist, Foreign Affairs, and many less exalted journals full of claims that the global order is crumbling, America’s ability (and willingness) to save it is in terminal decline, and the prospect of avoiding major conflict in the decade ahead is illusory.
Plenty of recent events – along with the ghosts of 1914 and 1939 – have boosted the reputations, royalties, and revenues of today’s doomsayers. There is Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine; China’s territorial assertiveness – and Japan’s new push-back nationalism – in East Asia; continuing catastrophe in Syria and disarray in the wider Middle East; the resurgence of atrocity crimes in South Sudan, Nigeria, and elsewhere in Africa; and anxiety about renewed communal strife in India after Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi’s stunning election victory.
But, though global political conditions are hardly as good as they could be – they never are – there are plenty of grounds for thinking that they are not nearly as bad as so many are claiming. Here are the five most important reasons not to lose as much sleep as some pundits say you should.
First, Cold War II is not at hand. Russia and China dislike the United States’ claim to global leadership, enjoy tweaking its tail whenever they can, want greater regional influence, and (like the US itself) periodically turn their back on cooperative multilateralism. But they are deeply integrated into the existing global order, and have neither the ideological drive, economic interest, physical capacity, nor allied support to challenge it. They want greater influence in international institutions, not to overturn them.