As the Trump juggernaut rolled across the US on election day, turning the political map red, anxious foreign leaders began to contemplate a new world order of a kind few had envisaged.
Could it be that Donald Trump, the quintessential change agent, would administer the last rites to Pax Americana, the US-led rules-based Western order that had prevailed since 1945, thereby achieving what China, Russia and legions of anti-American jihadists had failed to bring about?
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen believes Donald Trump’s shock win signals the end of Pax Americana. Many others agree, among them former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, who sees the failure of Barack Obama’s signature Trans-Pacific Partnership as ‘symbolic of the dismantling of the post-World War II order in which the US had sought a global leadership role’.
When US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Moscow in March, looming over his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin was a statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II (1855-81). Known as the ‘Tsar-Liberator’, Alexander freed the serfs, introduced trial by jury, relaxed press censorship and created elected regional assemblies that might, but for his assassination, have laid the foundation for bolder constitutional experiments.
But isn’t Alexander the wrong autocrat? Russia, we are told, is in the grip of Stalin-mania. Over the past 12 months, The New York Times, The New Statesman, The Independent and Foreign Policy have reported on an unspoken Kremlin policy to rehabilitate the Soviet tyrant.
Dubbed ‘re-Stalinisation’, its alleged aim is to return Russia to the fear and suspicion that characterised life until Stalin’s death in 1953 and to secure what are asserted as having ever been Putin’s twin goals: the consolidation of absolute personal power and restoration of the Soviet Union (or something like it) in Eastern Europe.
J. Ann Tickner is Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American University. She is also a Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California where she taught for fifteen years before coming to American University. Her principle areas of teaching and research include international theory, peace and security, and feminist approaches to international relations. She served as President of the International Studies Association from 2006-2007. Her books include, A Feminist Voyage Through International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2014), Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post-Cold War Era (Columbia University Press, 2001), Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving International Security (Columbia University Press, 1992), and Self-Reliance Versus Power Politics: American and Indian Experiences in Building Nation-States (Columbia University Press, 1987).
Where do you see the most exciting research and debates happening in your field?
I think the most exciting research is being done at the margins by scholars who are pushing the disciplinary boundaries of what we think of as IR into areas such as historical sociology, post-colonialism, race and gender. Although the mainstream US discipline is still quite hegemonic, I believe this hegemony is somewhat on the decline and there is more space for critical perspectives.
There are good revisionist histories that tell non-conventional stories about the origins of the discipline. And there is a great deal of exciting critical work being done by scholars in other parts of the world that attempts to construct an IR that reaches beyond geographical and disciplinary boundaries. The Worlding Beyond the West series edited by Ole Waever and Arlene Tickner and by Tickner and David Blaney is a good example. Other examples are recent work on race, empire and gender. It is quite astonishing how IR has erased imperialism and the anti-colonial struggles of the twentieth century from its historical memory. These are issues that are fueling so many of today’s conflicts.
A frequent rebuttal by apologists of Putin’s policies, in debates on Western approaches to Eastern Europe, is the allegation of Russophobia. Interpreters of contemporary Russian affairs, who present themselves as Putinversteher (German for “those who understand Putin”), accuse critics of Moscow’s recent foreign and domestic policies of a lack of empathy for, or even of xenophobia towards, the Russian nation, as well as its traditions, worries, and views. Such allegations are usually accompanied by a reference to Vladimir Putin’s impressive performance in Russian public opinion polls. These interpretations are often embedded in historical-philosophical deliberations about the role of Russia in Europe and the world – for example, about the history of, and lessons from, Russian-Western collaboration in the past.
Five years ago, the leaders of Egypt’s protest movement shocked themselves by successfully bringing down President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power since before many of them were born. In those days, it was not unusual to hear talk of a new dawn for Egyptian politics and the Arab world. It is difficult to find many leaders of that movement who are so cheerful today. And their disappointment is broadly shared in academic, policy, and media circles around the world. Young and disaffected Egyptians, the story goes, revolted against a stultified regime and demanded a democratic government, a freer society, and more economic rights. They won the battle but lost the war, as the military, initially along with the Muslim Brotherhood and later without it, gained the upper hand and defeated the revolutionaries.
But there is a very different way to tell the story of 2011. This tale is not one of high but disappointed hope, but one of threatened chaos and rescue. From the perspective of Egypt’s security institutions—its military, police, and intelligence forces—the uprising threatened to bring down not only Egypt’s president but its entire social and political order. Averting such an outcome was an arduous task, one that the Egyptian armed forces still see themselves as undertaking.