Heiko Maas, the foreign minister of Germany, in his address to ambassadors reported to have said that “the rule-based international order” is fast eroding in a world where “nothing can be taken for granted any more in foreign policy”, and hence vehemently argued for a stronger European foreign and defence policy to face the uncertain future. It is also reported that in the said meeting he had drawn the attention of his audience to The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World, an elegantly written book by the conservative American thinker, Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, about geopolitics, security and the role of the US in upholding human rights and democracy.
Intriguingly, Kagan, stating that “World order is one of those things people don’t think about until it is gone”, argued in his book that “the liberal order is like a garden, artificial and forever threatened by the forces of nature” and asserted that it can only be preserved by a “persistent, unending struggle against the veins and weeds that are constantly working to undermine it from within and overwhelm it from without.” According to him, the “veins and weeds” that threaten liberalism in the world today are countries such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. He also opines that ‘authoritarianism’ is a greater threat to the survival of democracy than communism, for unenlightened authoritarianism is more consistent with human nature.
Stating that “the liberal world order established by the United States a little over seven decades ago is collapsing”, Kagan incisively argues against what is being currently pursued by the US and the Western Europe: regressing to nationalism and tribalism from the earlier enlightened universalism which has all along supported liberal world order. He is also equally critical of the policy of “restraint” practiced by the earlier Obama administration and the “America First” policy of the current regime of the US.
Drawing the readers’ attention to the disturbing developments around the globe and to the America’s leaning towards withdrawal from its global responsibilities, Kagan observing that the struggle for power being a permanent feature of international relations, forewarns that if America pulls back, Russia, China, Germany, or another nation might rush to fill the vacuum. He categorically states that peace is not a given, and neither is democracy and therefore asserts that the US should not withdraw from its commitment to guard and defend democracy in the world.
Kagan also opines that a rising China poses the greatest geopolitical challenge to the US in the 21st century. Indeed, scholars of international relations predict that the 2000s will be a “Chinese century”, for China, with 45% of the gain in world GDP since global meltdown in 2008, has indeed become the world’s “economic centre of gravity”. China has also steadily beefed up its military investment: People’s Liberation Army accounts for over 60% of the total increase in global defence spending since 1990.
The recent large-scale military exercise with Russia is an indication of its rising military and economic power. Today, Russia and China with their known obsession with America are increasingly sharing a view of how the world ought to be reordered—work towards reasserting the role of states over civil societies, break American alliances and establish ‘harmonious’ arrangements with countries that are in their orbits. This growing relationship between China and Russia, in the eyes of international relations experts, is no good for liberal democracies.
There is a growing fear among the analysts that there is “a possibility of the shift of power to the East”, for the ongoing projection of soft power by China is all set to pose multifaceted challenges to the world order, particularly in areas such as energy security and environment. It is also feared that being a great power, China, aspiring to become a superpower, will first achieve the status of regional hegemony by controlling the region that is close to its neighbourhood. All this projects China as a nation eager to counter the current hegemon of the world, the US.
Hence, the international relations experts argue that America along with other democracies must organize a collective defence of liberal values. As against this demand America, unfortunately is today witnessing a kind of resurgence of malign nationalism. Nationalism, in its benign form perhaps works more as a foundation stone for the world’s most successful political entities but in its malign form could function as an enemy of peace and cooperation among the nations. America should therefore wriggle out of these shackles and once again take the reins of world order into its hands and work with like-minded nations to restore liberalism across the globe. But the real worry is: Are there any takers of this philosophy in the present setup?