Current focus: Our Perspectives

Order and Change in Global Politics: Assessing the “Return of Geopolitics”

Hegel with Students. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by e-International Relations on 4 November, 2014.

The unfolding global international predicament, with a crescendo of tensions in recent months, has prompted a more upfront reflection on the kind of international order currently prevalent and what future order appears as desirable.

Contours of the Debate

In a piece published by Foreign Affairs entitled “The Return of Geopolitics: the Revenge of the Revisionist Powers,” Walter R. Mead (Mead, 2014) has articulated the view that, after a long interval following the end of the Cold War, the post-historical condition described by Francis Fukuyama in his famous book The End of History and the Last Man (Fukuyama, 1992) may be over for good. That post-historical condition entailed the dissolution of all major ideological conflicts, and consequently of major geopolitical struggles for the control of the planet, as mankind stepped firmly and irreversibly on the path of liberal representative democracy and free market capitalism. Professor Mead argues that both Russia and China, the two large illiberal powers, are now “pushing back against the political settlement of the Cold War.” Consequently, a new confrontation between great powers is looming, in the pretty familiar fashion of conflict over land, sea lanes, the control of continental masses and possibly the oceans. Russia and China are depicted as revisionist powers, whose march towards the final stage of liberal democracy and capitalistic economy can be long and tortuous, while in the meantime “such figures as Putin still stride the world stage.” » More

The Foreign Policy Essay: The Fault Lines in China’s New Empire

Cadets of the Peoples LIberation Army. Image: US Department of Defense/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Lawfare Blog on 9 November 2014.

Editor’s Note: Under President Xi Jinping, China appears more aggressive and dictatorial: a worrisome combination as China’s wealth makes it more influential and helps it build a stronger military. Drawing on her piece in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that Xi’s “China Dream” is not coming to pass: his attempt to transform the country is encountering resistance, and the resulting divisions and weaknesses are likely to limit Beijing’s influence in the years to come.

Chinese president Xi Jinping is attempting to reform—even revolutionize—political and economic relations within China as well as between China and the rest of the world. He has articulated a vision for China that is well encapsulated in his “China Dream,” or the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation. In practical terms, this means Xi Jinping himself is at the top of a strong Communist Party, at the forefront of the political system, in command of a robust and innovative Chinese economy, and fostering an expansive foreign policy in which all roads lead to Beijing. It is a Chinese empire with socialist characteristics. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Debating the Future of the German Arms Industry, Again

ILA 2010 – Eurocopter EC-665 Tiger. Image: yetdark/Flickr

This article was originally published by SIPRI on 7 November 2014. It is published as part of a collaborative partnership between SIPRI and Economists for Peace and Security (EPS).

As German industry is not at the top technological level in a number of areas of arms production—particularly in aerospace and electronics—preferential treatment for German companies has often led to German participation in co-production projects with companies from other countries. In terms of arms exports, while the 2000 policy guidelines on German arms exports (PDF) state that export decisions should be based on security policy rather than economic considerations, the latter continues to loom large in German arms export-licensing policy. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Five Minutes with Robert O. Keohane

Image: Michael Doherty/Flickr

This interview was originally published on 8 November 2014, by EUROPP, a blog hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

You’ve written on the problems associated with implementing democratic principles in global governance. What specifically prevents us from creating proper democratic structures at the global level?

It’s important to distinguish between liberal constitutionalism and democracy. There has in fact been a lot of progress made in global governance on the legal side. There are more regular adjudication arrangements – most notably in the World Trade Organization, but also in a number of other areas such as human rights – than there were 30 or 40 years ago, providing better ways to settle disputes. Strengthening the rule of law in this way is the liberal side of global governance and there has been remarkable progress in this respect over recent decades. » More

The Cold War Offset Strategy: Origins and Relevance

Reagan and Gorbachev. Image: U.S Federal Government/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 6 November, 2014.

Mark Twain reportedly quipped that history does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. For students of Cold War history, discussions of a “new offset strategy” certainly have a meter or cadence that resonates with a period of American defense strategy and military innovation that, until now, has been largely ignored. The history of American defense policy during the Cold War is often told by chronologically outlining the waxing and waning of defining ideas or concepts: containment, atoms for peace, open skies, massive retaliation, AirLand Battle, flexible response, détente, entente, various “doctrines” (e.g., Nixon, Carter, Reagan) and so on. Frequently, the idea or concept represents a complex strategy or policy that retains historic significance because of its influence on subordinate defense planning and force structure decisions. In a period replete with acronyms and nicknames, the relatively straightforward “offset strategy” concept has gone relatively unnoticed. » More

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