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Editorials for IAS March 10, 2017

Stability in the time of change – OPINION – The Hindu

  • The system that came into being after World War II and has since been led and shaped by the West under U.S.

    • While cracks in this ‘order’ have been showing up in recent years, it is after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President that a conviction has grown that the seven-decade-old ‘order’ is dead and change is now upon us.

  • Myth of the ‘liberal order’

      • While it is true that there is greater volatility and churning in the world today than before, it is equally true that parts of the world have been going through these changes for much longer.
      • West Asia has been in turmoil at least since the turn of the century when the growth of jihadist extremism seared itself on the global consciousness with 9/11 though its shoots were visible in the region a decade earlier. The reordering of Central Asia and Eastern Europe began with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and has now been unfolding for nearly a quarter century.
      • China’s rise started four decades ago and gathered steam after globalisation. It was facilitated by the U.S., initially justified as part of the Cold War logic which saw the USSR as the mortal enemy, and after the Cold War, on the hopeful myth that a prosperous China would gradually move towards a more plural political system, becoming part of the liberal order.
        • As the myth evaporated in recent years, President Barack Obama was placing China in the category of ‘free riders’, while announcing the ‘US pivot to Asia’!
      • China’s rise is accompanied by the rise of other emerging economies and a shift in the geopolitical centre of gravity from the Euro-Atlantic to Asia and the Indian and Pacific Oceans

  • Defining the characteristic of this change is a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers that predicts that by 2040, the E7 (emerging countries of China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Turkey) will be twice the economic size of G7, the seven major advanced economies!
  • Out of sync

      • The post-World War II order marked the end of colonialism and was intended to be based on the democratic principle of equality of sovereign states, but this idea quickly fell prey to the realities of the Cold War.

  • The UN became an arena for the power play between the two superpowers

      • By the time the Cold War ended, the institutional structures of the UN were out of sync with the new political reality. The U.S. became ‘the sole superpower’ but hubris and the decision to invade Iraq soon eroded the authority of its unipolar moment.
      • In hindsight, the liberal international order was not ‘global’ and consequently, ‘liberal and rule-based’ only in a small part of the world, the West.
      • It is here today that populism, nationalism and illiberalism have emerged, reflecting a decisive rejection of the status quo.
      • The rejection of the status quo is equally a cultural rejection, a rejection of globalisation that enriched Corporate America but not the average worker in Middle America.
      • It has contributed to the creation of a global elite and the backlash against it has taken the form of anti-immigration, nationalism and populism.

  • A post-West world

      • Populism breeds the politics of agitation often exploiting insecurities by distorting facts.

  • In today’s age of information overdose, this has taken the form of making everything into a half-truth.

      • A truth if questioned enough loses its shine and a lie if repeated enough times becomes a half-truth. Doing this in a 24/7 news cycle together with the echo chamber of social media has only become easier than before.
      • The biggest challenge of coping with this shift is absence of credible multilateral institutions. Greater normative damage is done when the gap between myth and reality becomes unmanageable. A classic example is NATO, a creation of the Cold War but even today described in the West as a central pillar of Western, liberal order!
      • The nuclear dimension cast a dark shadow over the Cold War but the equation in a bipolar world was relatively simpler.
      • with the focus on Asia and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the dyad has been replaced by nuclear chains with variable linkages.

  • Conventional precision-strike weapons can be as destructive and nuclear weapons can be designed for variable yields depending on the intended targets.

  • Therefore deterrence stability and crisis stability assume greater significance. Shifting from single-warhead missiles to MIRVed missiles and missile defence technologies impact deterrence stability which rests on mutual vulnerability.