by Mike Whitney
Credit: Jack E. Kightlinger
The liberal world order, which lasted from the end of World War 2
until today, is rapidly collapsing.
The center of gravity is
shifting from west to east where China and India are experiencing
explosive growth and where a revitalized Russia has restored its
former stature as a credible global superpower.
coupled with America's imperial overreach and chronic economic
stagnation, have severely hampered U.S. ability to shape events or
to successfully pursue its own strategic objectives.
As Washington's grip on
global affairs continues to loosen and more countries reject the
western development model, the current order will progressively
weaken clearing the way for a multipolar world badly in need of a
new security architecture.
Western elites, who are
unable to accept this new dynamic, continue to issue frenzied
statements expressing their fear of a future in which the United
States no longer dictates global policy.
At the 2019 Munich Security Conference, Chairman Wolfgang
Ischinger, underscored many of these same themes.
Here's an excerpt from
"The whole liberal
world order appears to be falling apart - nothing is as it once
Not only do war and
violence play a more prominent role again: a new great power
confrontation looms at the horizon. In contrast to the early
1990s, liberal democracy and the principle of open markets are
no longer uncontested….
In this international environment, the risk of an inter-state
war between great and middle powers has clearly increased…
What we had been
observing in many places around the world was a dramatic
increase in brinkmanship, that is, highly risky actions on the
abyss - the abyss of war….
No matter where you look, there are countless conflicts and
crises… the core pieces of the international order are breaking
apart, without it being clear whether anyone can pick them up -
or even wants to.
will pick up the pieces?"
- Munich Security Conference)
Ischinger is not alone in
his desperation nor are his feelings limited to elites and
By now, most people are
establishment and their neoliberal policies are being rejected by
the masses of working people who have only recently begun to wreak
havoc on a system that has ignored them for more than 30 years.
Trump's public approval
ratings have improved, not because he has "drained the swamp" as he
promised, but because he is still seen as a Washington outsider
despised by the political class, the foreign policy establishment
and the media.
His credibility rests on
the fact that he is hated by the coalition of elites who working
people now regard as their sworn enemy.
The president of the prestigious
Council on Foreign Relations (CFR),
Richard Haass, summed up his views on the "weakening of the
liberal world order" in an article that appeared on the CFR's
Here's what he said:
"Attempts to build
global frameworks are failing. Protectionism is on the rise; the
latest round of global trade talks never came to fruition…
At the same time,
great power rivalry is returning…
There are several reasons why all this is happening, and why
now. The rise of populism is in part a response to stagnating
incomes and job loss, owing mostly to new technologies but
widely attributed to imports and immigrants.
Nationalism is a tool
increasingly used by leaders to bolster their authority,
especially amid difficult economic and political conditions…
But the weakening of the liberal world order is due, more than
anything else, to the changed attitude of the U.S. Under
Donald Trump, the U.S.
decided against joining the
Trans-Pacific Partnership and
withdraw from the Paris climate
It has threatened to
leave the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iran
It has unilaterally
introduced steel and aluminum tariffs, relying on a
justification (national security) that others could use, in the
process placing the world at risk of a trade war…
"America First" and
the liberal world order seem incompatible."
World Order, R.I.P." -
Richard Haass, CFR)
What Haass is saying is
that the cure for globalization is more globalization, that the
greatest threat to the liberal world order is preventing the
behemoth corporations from getting more of what they want:
self-aggrandizing trade agreements
privatization of public assets and critical resources...
Trade liberalization is
not liberalization, it does not strengthen democracy or create an
environment where human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law
It's a policy that
focuses almost-exclusively on the free movement of capital in order
to enrich wealthy shareholders and fatten the bottom line.
The sporadic uprisings
around the world - Brexit, yellow vests, emergent right wing groups
- can all trace their roots back to these one-sided,
corporate-friendly trade deals that have precipitated the steady
slide in living standards, the shrinking of incomes, and the
curtailing of crucial benefits for the great mass of working people
across the U.S. and Europe.
President Trump is not
responsible for the outbreak of populism and social unrest, he is
merely an expression of the peoples rage.
triumph was a clear rejection of the thoroughly-rigged elitist
system that continues to transfer the bulk of the nation's wealth to
tiniest layer of people at the top.
Haass's critique illustrates the level of denial among elites who
are now gripped by fear of an uncertain future.
As we noted earlier, the center of gravity has shifted from west to
east, which is the one incontrovertible fact that cannot be denied.
unipolar moment - following the breakup of the Soviet Union in
December, 1991 - has already passed and new centers of industrial
and financial power are gaining pace and gradually overtaking the
U.S. in areas that are vital to America's primacy.
This rapidly changing
economic environment is accompanied by widespread social discontent,
seething class-based resentment, and ever-more radical forms of
The liberal order is
collapsing, not because the values espoused in the 60s and 70s have
lost their appeal, but because inequality is widening, the political
system has become unresponsive to the demands of the people, and
because U.S. can no longer arbitrarily impose its will on the world.
Globalization has fueled the rise
of populism, it has helped to exacerbate ethnic and racial tensions,
and it is largely responsible for the hollowing out of America's
would only throw more gas on the fire and hasten the day when
liberals and conservatives form into rival camps and join in a
bloody battle to the end.
Someone has to stop the
madness before the country descends into
a second Civil War...
What Haass fails to discuss, is Washington's perverse reliance
on force to preserve the liberal world order, after
all, it's not like the U.S. assumed its current dominant role by
merely competing more effectively in global markets.
Oh, no. Behind the silk
glove lies the iron fist, which has been used in over 50 regime
change operations since the end of WW2.
The U.S. has over 800
military bases scattered across the planet and has laid to waste one
country after the other in successive interventions, invasions and
occupations for as long as anyone can remember.
This penchant for
violence has been sharply criticized by other members of the United
only Russia has had the courage to
openly oppose Washington where it really counts, on the battlefield.
Russia is presently engaged in military operations that have either
prevented Washington from achieving its strategic objectives (like
Ukraine) or rolled back Washington's proxy-war
Naturally, liberal elites
like Haass feel threatened by these developments since they are
accustomed to a situation in which ‘the world is their oyster'.
But, alas, oysters have
been removed from the menu, and the United States is going to have
to make the adjustment or risk a third world war.
What Russian President Vladimir Putin objects to, is
Washington's unilateralism, the cavalier breaking of international
law to pursue its own imperial ambitions.
Ironically, Putin has
become the greatest defender of the international system and, in
particular, the United Nations which is a point he drove home in his
presentation at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New
York on September 28, 2015, just two days before Russian warplanes
began their bombing missions in Syria.
Here's part of what he
"The United Nations
is unique in terms of legitimacy, representation and
We consider any
attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations as
extremely dangerous. It may result in the collapse of the entire
architecture of international relations, leaving no rules except
the rule of force.
The world will be
dominated by selfishness rather than collective effort, by
dictate rather than equality and liberty, and instead of truly
sovereign nations we will have colonies controlled from
(Russian President Vladimir Putin
at the 70th session of the UN General
Putin's speech, followed
by the launching of the Russian operation in Syria, was a clear
warning to the foreign policy establishment that they would no
longer be allowed to topple governments and destroy countries with
Just as Putin was willing
to put Russian military personnel at risk in Syria, so too, he will
probably put them at risk in,
...and other locations
where they might be needed.
And while Russia does not
have anywhere near the raw power of the U.S. military, Putin seems
to be saying that he will put his troops in the line of fire to
defend international law and the sovereignty of nations.
Here's Putin again:
"We all know that
after the end of the Cold War the world was left with one center
of dominance, and those who found themselves at the top of the
pyramid were tempted to think that, since they are so powerful
and exceptional, they know best what needs to be done and thus
they don't need to reckon with the UN, which, instead of
rubber-stamping the decisions they need, often stands in their
We should all remember the lessons of the past.
For example, we
remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union
exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other
countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic
consequences and caused degradation instead of progress.
It seems, however, that instead of learning from other people's
mistakes, some prefer to repeat them and continue to export
revolutions, only now these are "democratic" revolutions.
Just look at the
situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa already
mentioned by the previous speaker...
Instead of bringing
about reforms, aggressive intervention indiscriminately
destroyed government institutions and the local way of life.
Instead of democracy
and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters
and total disregard for human rights, including even the right
I'm urged to ask those who created this situation:
do you at least
realize now what you've done?"
(Russian President Vladimir Putin
at the 70th session of the UN General
Here Putin openly
challenges the concept of a ‘liberal world order' which in fact is a
sobriquet used to conceal Washington's relentless plundering of the
There's nothing liberal
about toppling regimes and plunging millions of people into anarchy,
poverty and desperation.
Putin is simply trying to
communicate to U.S. leaders that the world is changing, that nations
in Asia are gaining strength and momentum, and that Washington will
have to abandon the idea that any constraint on its behavior is a
threat to its national security interests.
Former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter,
Zbigniew Brzezinski, appears to
agree on this point and suggests that the U.S. begin to rethink its
approach to foreign policy now that the world has fundamentally
changed and other countries are demanding a bigger place at the
What most people don't realize about Brzezinski, is that he
dramatically changed his views on global hegemony a few years after
he published his 1997 masterpiece
The Grand Chessboard - American
Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives.
In his 2012 book,
Strategic Vision - America and the Crisis of
Global Power, Brzezinski recommended a more thoughtful
and cooperative approach that would ease America's unavoidable
transition (decline?) without creating a power vacuum that could
lead to global chaos.
Here's a short excerpt
from an article he wrote in 2016 for the American Interest
titled "Toward a Global Realignment":
"The fact is that
there has never been a truly "dominant" global power until the
emergence of America on the world scene…
That era is now
ending….As its era of global dominance ends, the United States
needs to take the lead in realigning the global power
The United States is
still the world's politically, economically, and militarily most
powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in
regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power.
America can only be effective in dealing with the current Middle
Eastern violence if it forges a coalition that involves, in
varying degrees, also Russia and China…
A constructive U.S. policy must be patiently guided by a
long-range vision. It must seek outcomes that promote the
gradual realization in Russia… that its only place as an
influential world power is ultimately within Europe.
China's increasing role in the
Middle East should reflect the reciprocal American and Chinese
realization that a growing U.S.-PRC partnership in coping with
the Middle Eastern crisis is an historically significant test of
their ability to shape and enhance together wider global
The alternative to a constructive vision, and especially the
quest for a one-sided militarily and ideologically imposed
outcome, can only result in prolonged and self-destructive
Since the next twenty years may well be the last phase of the
more traditional and familiar political alignments with which we
have grown comfortable, the response needs to be shaped now…
accommodation has to be based on a strategic vision that
recognizes the urgent need for a new geopolitical framework."
a Global Realignment" - Zbigniew Brzezinski, The
This strikes me as a
particularly well-reasoned and insightful article.
It shows that Brzezinski
understood that the world had changed, that power had shifted
eastward, and that the only path forward for America was
cooperation, accommodation, integration and partnership.
Tragically, there is no
base of support for these ideas on Capital Hill, the White House or
among the U.S. foreign policy establishment.
The entire political
class and their allies
in the media unanimously support a
policy of belligerence, confrontation and war. The United States
will not prevail in a confrontation with Russia and China any more
than it will be able to turn back the clock to the post war era when
America, the Superpower, reigned supreme.
Confrontation will only
accelerate the pace of U.S. decline and
the final collapse of the liberal world order...