The new global politics


by Sunny
28th January, 2008 at 3:11 pm    

Writing in the New York Times magazine, Parag Khanna has an interesting view on the future of global politics.

At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing — and losing — in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules — their own rules — without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.

The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.

The whole article is quite long but I plan to read it soon. I love this kind of crystal ball-gazing. Saying that, it’s hardly a controversial view is it?


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  1. Leon — on 28th January, 2008 at 4:21 pm  

    It being hardly controversial I guess depends on your frame of reference. To us on here and indeed in the UK it probably isn’t; I reckon there’s a lot of people in the US who are going to get a big shock in the next 20 years when they wake up and discover they’re no longer a hyper power or even possibly a super power…

  2. Dhanush — on 28th January, 2008 at 4:50 pm  

    India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite.

    Isn’t that the truth. India a new global superpower? Do me a favour.

  3. Desi Italiana — on 28th January, 2008 at 7:27 pm  

    Jesus Christ, the article IS long.

    Having said that, I feel like it SEEMS to be saying something but in reality, not a whole lot. Apart from a few facts thrown in there (like the EU expanding, pipelines being built, etc)it feels like it’s an opinion based on…well, opinion. It reads like a lot of realpolitik analyses.

  4. Desi Italiana — on 28th January, 2008 at 8:00 pm  

    Ok, just finished reading it (most of it, anyway)..

    Here are some of the main problems with his piece:

    1. Essentialism (for example, “The more we appreciate differences among the American, European, and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game”).

    2. Assumption that every single state acts the way the US presumably does (ie realpolitikish)

    3. Though he claims that the world currently is fragmented and multi-whatevers, a presumption that seems to be driving his piece is that in fact it IS a zero-sum game (US vs. Europe vs. China).

    4. Assumption that in 2016, realpolitik doctrine of the “Great Game” is going to continue in its present form, driven by the same needs, desires, etc which are of course, themselves based on a set of assumptions that are really a result of not hard facts but rather a type of school of thought.

    5. Oddly, his article argues for this great change under way, but his piece is based on a statist viewpiont (and state-centric, I might add).

    And who knows, maybe “realpolitik” will still rule because everyone, including Khanna, continues with the same kind of analysis, and it doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon.

    Another quibble:

    Attribution of phenomenon to things like the waning power of the US and its supposed binary- that the EU. Many migrants are going to Europe over the US just because it’s freaking closer (and facilitated by human trafficking), and its economy requires and needs migrant labor. People in the Middle East might want parliamentary elections rather than presidential rule not because they loathe America and want to cozy up to European models, but probably because it fits their system better, and it will probably make governance and representation is bit better in light of multiple interests and peoples within one nation state.

  5. douglas clark — on 28th January, 2008 at 9:43 pm  

    As a fan of the EU, I was a little surprised that he thought it would have 50 member states by 2016. But, he may well be right. Unfortunately, from my point of view, this is partly a tidying up exercise based around the former Yugoslavia, and it’s component parts. Hopefully, the likes of Croatia will be absorbed without too much stress or strain. (Personal note, it is a smashing wee country, if you want to see what Europe used to look like go soon!)

    What is more problematic is the next but one phase of expansion, as the ‘European’ part of the ‘Union’ will have been largely fulfilled. And I’d like to see Turkey getting it’s due.

    For it to continue on it’s own terms means that there will be more difficult cases confronting it. I’d suspect, with the possible exception of Russia, that that would be a far slower process.

    Or, as I’ve said before, you scrap the European identity and let in anyone that meets the membership criteria. I think that that is the best way forward, but I do realize that many folk would be very very nervous. But a genuine democratic club, with a solid Human Rights Declaration, commitment to democratic institutions – you get chucked out if you become a dictatorship – ought to be attractive to lots of other nations, I think. And it ought to be attractive to us too. For instance, I’d have no problem whatsoever with India seeking admission.

    There is the potential for ‘old Europe’ to sort out the world for the better through ‘soft power’. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.

  6. sonia — on 28th January, 2008 at 10:34 pm  

    LEON – 20 YEARS?!! are you kidding me – its going to be a lot sooner than that buddy – have you seen the markets? where is the dollar? at an all time low.

    Soon Gordon Brown is going to be very sorry ( and the rest of us) that we’re still stuck with the pound. that’s slipping too.

    the US economy is built on debt – and the interesting thing is about who has been underwriting that debt.

    that’s the real story to the geopolitical situation – of course, economists seem to be too brain-washed for the most part to see the collapse and how our global economy is teeteering around.

    and how are they going to survive the energy crisis? given the attitudes towards public transport and the huge lack in many cities. Of course we’re all going to have to think really hard about this one, and we’re going to have to take a leaf out of the Cuban’s books

  7. sonia — on 28th January, 2008 at 10:37 pm  

    “..for the most part to see the “impending” collapse..

    and worryingly we’re all interconnected. i wish we’d see the situation with the debt and the banks, and the money system for what it is and see our global economy for the sham that it is, till then, we’re not going to be able to work together to formulate any alternatives any time soon.

  8. Sunny — on 29th January, 2008 at 12:22 am  

    2. Assumption that every single state acts the way the US presumably does (ie realpolitikish)

    That’s a good assumption to make given that mostly, they do.

  9. Desi Italiana — on 29th January, 2008 at 1:21 am  

    “That’s a good assumption to make given that mostly, they do.”

    Sourcing for this? I’m not being facetious when I ask…

  10. Boyo — on 29th January, 2008 at 8:35 am  

    It’s not about states, it’s about assumptions. The “assumption” for example, that “western” values will prevail I think looks increasingly shaky: the rise of Chinese and Russian (why dismiss Russia, just because its turned into Gazprom – quite the contrary) totalitarian corporatism; the (essentially) anti-democratic drift of the decadent EU; the rise of Islamism.

    Judging by the exert I would say on the contrary it’s a remarkably complacent and near-sighted persepctive.

    Dismiss India if you like, but it remains one of the few emereging beacons of democracy.

  11. Sofia — on 29th January, 2008 at 10:10 am  

    Boyo…have you been to India?

  12. Leon — on 29th January, 2008 at 10:24 am  

    20 YEARS?!! are you kidding me – its going to be a lot sooner than that buddy – have you seen the markets? where is the dollar? at an all time low.

    And? They still have the worlds biggest arms dealing, the biggest military budget, huge corporate influence etc. It’ll take longer than a few months to bring that country back down to earth and more than a slowdown in the economy too.

  13. Boyo — on 29th January, 2008 at 1:27 pm  

    Sofia… yes, I’ve worked in India, although I would not claim to have an expert understanding of the country. For the broad-brush purposes of this discussion though, I think my point is valid.

  14. Sofia — on 29th January, 2008 at 2:32 pm  

    Boyo…i would disagree..i would not call it a “beacon”..just like i wouldn’t describe Turkey as a “beacon”…it’s funny when you see indian “democracy” working in rural areas..i’m not saying that india isn’t trying..just how you present indian politics

  15. Boyo — on 29th January, 2008 at 5:35 pm  

    You’re quite right I’m sure, but India’s consistently democratic direction since independence seems to me a positive, in comparison to its neighbouring states, as are its (relative) freedoms.

    There will always be problems with relation to poor areas – of the UK as well as India, and you’re right Turkey but also the US.

    Comparitively-speaking I just meant to imply India was moving in the right direction.

  16. Sid — on 29th January, 2008 at 5:48 pm  

    it’s funny when you see indian “democracy” working in rural areas

    What exactly is funny about empowerment? You have to remmeber that it the votes from rural areas that was behind the removal of the BJP in the last Indian elections. Do you think people in rural areas in other parts of South Asia, barring Nepal, have that much power to be able to change their despotic leaders?

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