The Cacophony of the World

Can something like the Concert of Europe, which produced a century of peace between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, be globalized? Unfortunately, in today's rapidly fragmenting world, global cacophony seems more probable.

PARIS – In his masterpiece Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger describes, probably too idyllically, the international balance-of-power system that, following the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815, produced what came to be called the “Concert of Europe.” As Kissinger describes it, after the Napoleonic Wars, “There was not only a physical equilibrium, but a moral one. Power and justice were in substantial harmony.” Of course, the concert ended in cacophony with the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914.

Today, after the brutality of the first half of the twentieth century, the temporary bipolarity of the Cold War, and America’s brief post-1989 hyperpower status, the world is once again searching for a new international order. Can something like the Concert of Europe be globalized?

Unfortunately, global cacophony seems more probable. One obvious reason is the absence of a recognized and accepted international referee. The United States, which best embodies ultimate power, is less willing – and less able – to exercise it. And the United Nations, which best embodies the principles of international order, is as divided and impotent as ever.

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