The Overstretched West

BERLIN – The chaotic consequences of the gradual disintegration of Pax Americana are becoming increasingly clear. For seven decades, the United States safeguarded a global framework, which – however imperfect, and regardless of how many mistakes the superpower made – generally guaranteed a minimum level of stability. At the very least, Pax Americana was an essential component of Western security. But the US is no longer willing or able to be the world’s policeman.

The staggering accumulation of crises and conflicts facing the world today – in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Libya – are linked to America’s new stance. Should matters come to a head in another seismic zone of world politics – namely, East Asia – the world would confront a global catastrophe stemming from the synchronicity of numerous regional crises. Obviously, it would be a crisis that no one could control or contain.

The bipolar world of the Cold War is history; George W. Bush squandered America’s brief moment as the only true superpower. Economic globalization has so far not given rise to a framework for global governance. Perhaps we are in the middle of a chaotic process that will lead to a new international order – or, more likely, we are only at the beginning of that process.

The debate about a future global order is taking place primarily in the West – specifically, North America and Europe. With the emerging powers largely trying to adapt their strategic positions to their national aspirations and interests, they are unwilling or unable to articulate the ideas and binding rules that should underpin a new international order.