Thu, 03 Apr 2003

Is 'post-Kantian' order beginning to emerge?

Bantarto Bandoro, Editor, 'The Indonesian Quarterly', Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta,

In an article in this newspaper on March 20, Soedjati Djiwandono wrote that the war on Iraq could lead to a new world order, a multipolar one without a single major power occupying a dominant position. In this new world order, no single power would act unilaterally, especially in military terms.

While there is some truth in the argument, the Iraq war has instead strengthened the abandonment of nonintervention -- hence unilateralism might still be a characteristic of the new order.

As the war entered its second week, there were few signs that it would end shortly. The mid-war diplomatic maneuverings at the United Nations Security Council failed to yield to the wish of members of the international community that the U.S. stop the war immediately.

War and a breakdown in diplomacy are symptoms of a transformed political order struggling to emerge. We are in the transition period between the end of one order and the beginning of another, perhaps one that will be robust, flexible and interventionist. Such a new order has arisen as a consequence of the weakness of the United Nations.

The current war reflects the U.S. as a Hobbesian sovereign, providing security and protection to a world in need of conflict management and conflict resolution. Thomas Hobbes conceived sovereign power as justified, as it delivers security and safety to its people. But the U.S. policy and strategy do none of these things, endangering its citizens, especially abroad, further dividing and polarizing international affairs and weakening the international institutions of peace and justice.

Because of its war on Iraq, the Bush administration might be accused of being a "traitor" to its country, because it no longer respects its exclusive jurisdiction over its own territory and people. One might also see the Bush regime as being a sophisticated one, because it knows the ways of the world, cares for those outside its territory and is open to the customs and ideas of those outside its own nation.

In that sense, the U.S. regards the whole world, particularly Iraq, at least for the time being, as its native land and has no national prejudices. The current war has placed the U.S. at the center of new political arrangements. It is through such new political arrangements that we can witness a new alliance of neoconservatism and liberal interventionism.

The current war has indeed given birth to a new order, but one that depends heavily on the U.S. and like-minded states. The new order recognizes that the old international system has lost both salience and legitimacy. It is emerging amid the confusion caused by the dying institutions and systems inherited from the end of the Cold War. New coalitions of the willing have already stretched to near breaking points the more formal structures of the UN, NATO and the European Union.

These institutions are not witnessing an emergency phenomenon that can be resolved by adaptation. The combination of the "crisis" in those institutions points to a wider transformation in the entire political order, a transformation of which each is a part.

The new world order sees international institutions in crisis, because it failed to become an anchor for the international system. The UN is indeed the main concern of the international community.

Immanuel Kant wrote in 1795 that international peace was more likely between free states rather than between authoritarian ones.

The philosopher also favored a league of free nations rather than a world government that tried to impose rule and order upon nations. But now, with the war on Iraq, even the organizations of free nations are no longer enforcers of the rules, and have been weakened as a source of legitimacy for international action.

The additional US$75 billion that Bush requested from Congress for the war assumes that the war will last longer than expected, meaning that the world will see an order in which the development of rule and its enforcement is carried out by coalition only semi-attached to, or detached from, the UN system.

Such an order goes beyond Kant's league of free nations precisely because it is willing to intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries, and it relies on a framework of international rules of behavior and their enforcement. The coalition of the willing and able led by the U.S. seems to be central in such an order.

The "post-Kantian order" is characterized by flexibility and is anchored on a government system biased toward "peaceful relations" and a readiness to intervene if necessary. Such an order produces principles that will serve as some sort of guidance for its members to act internationally, and thus provide their own legitimacy.

The U.S.-led coalition in the war against Iraq has chosen not to prioritize the development of international law and UN institutional arrangements, and not to stress the urgency of building institutional bridges between its geoeconomic and geopolitical interests, and the priorities of political and social justice.

Now that the new order is emerging, the geographical factor no longer matters politically. What matters now are policy terms in which states view the world beyond their own frontiers. We will also see the replacement of rigid forms of military alliance with flexible and informal ones, thus moving away from exclusive and treaty-based clubs with fixed membership rules to a flexible "coalition of the willing".

The new world order will also see international laws being replaced by the informality of coordinated national laws, and principles of nonintervention will no longer be upheld.

The rush to war on Iraq gives priority to a narrow security agenda which is at the heart of the new U.S. security doctrine of unilateral and preemptive war. This agenda contradicts most core tenets of international agreements. It threw out of the window respect for open political and diplomatic negotiations.

Because such a world order cannot ignore the importance of the factor of force, it will operate on the basis of forceful enforcement to support international rules, thus degrading and eroding further the role of international institutions.

The crisis in the UN is extremely serious. It could set back the cause of global governance for many years. The question now is, can the new world order later open up the possibility of a new era of multilateral institutions based not on U.S. hegemony -- but on much more solid international support?