A ’second wave’ of global analysis grips international relations inquiry. The first wave appeared after 1993 and could be characterized as the ‘Unipolar Moment.’ Analysts woke up and recognized that the comfortable world of Superpowers and bipolarity had evaporated and in its stead there stood the United States. Much of the analysis including from such luminaries as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor (under Jimmy Carter) Zbigniew Brezinski sallied forth to declare the US hegomony as a brief moment with the system destined to revert to more traditional Great power multipolarity - soon.
The new wave of analysis has emerged in the light of the horrendous failures of the Bush Adminstration in Iraq and with some qualification equally dismal results in Afghanistan. The new analysis starts with American decline and the emergence of the ‘Other’. Let me just raise two fascinating analyses. The first is from Parag Khanna (I had the good fortune of spending some time with Parag here in Toronto as he toured around to the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto hosted by Munk Centre director, Janice Gross Stein and entrepeneur Jim de Wilde). His grand architectural analysis is entitled, “The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order.” Parag is the director of the Global Governance Initiative at the New America Foundation. The second examination of global architecture is provided by Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and soon to be a host of a new international news program to air on CNN and CNN International. Fareed is about to release a new book entitled, “The Post American World” Both works open then with American decline but narrate significantly different international relations structures and paths to the future.
Each analysis examines the underlying dynamics of global international relations - strategic geopolitical behavior and globalization. But they quickly part company. Fareed focuses on the ‘rise of the rest’ (a rather smart turn of phrase onthe ‘Rising China’ theme). Fareed focused particuraly on rising economic growth in the rest of the world and argues that the US will no longer dominate the global economy. He then apparently focuses on tis rise of the rest which in fact is principally but not only the BRICSAM. In his narrative globalization is the dog’s head that wags the geopolitical tail.
Parag in his analysis narrates a world of empire and the globalization that the empire permits. In his case Parag sees the emergence of three empires - the United States, the EU and China. Thus one of the BRICSAM - China has become a post unipolar empire in the global system vying with the other two geopolitical heavy weights - the diminshed but still powerful United States, the newly emergent European Union. In this narrative global geopolitics consists of the three empires contesting for the rest - or a good part of it - the ‘Second World’ of most of the BRICSAM, the developing and in some cases developed world. In this politics the Second World is where, “geopolitics and globalization clash and merge.”
Both these perspectives on the future of global system warrant deeper individual examination but let me just start here with a focus on the BRICSAM. While it is true that there is broad-based significant growth across a wide swath of countries in what was traditionally the developing world for Fareed to subsume the BRICSAM in the ‘rise of the rest’ diminshes what is otherwise a startling growth of major large economies. Even within the BRICSAM or the BRICs there is an honest debate over whether South Africa or Mexico should be included. But ‘big’ is a distinguishing feature for the BRICSAM and Fareed’s broader examintaion of the ‘rise of the rest’ confuses the evolving structural elements of the global economy.
Parag does not suffer from failing to understand the dimension ‘big.’ As Parag states in the book’s introduction - “Big is back. It is imperial relations - not international or inter-civizational - that shapes the world.” So the superpower map has been altered, according to Parag. But the notion of empire seems confusing and oddly seems to favor the geopolitical over global and economic. And in favoring the geopolitical there is much in the book that evokes conflict and traditional power balancing. It both overestimates traditional power notions in contemporary international relations but also signficantly underestimating the unique character of today’s globalization. Not just trade but direct foreign investment; global reach but through the internet and media as much or more than traitional power notions. Rosecrance’s ‘Rise of the Trading State,’ fails to inform Parag’s analysis adequately on a quick reading of the book. Further, the use of the term ‘Empire’ seems quaint and dated and the frequent referencing to Toynbee, Mackinder and Spykman doesn’t help. Finally, Parag’s analysis which hives off China and separates it from the BRICSAM and then constructs a three-empire world of the US, EU and China also is problematic. How is China an empire and not India? How to compare China today as opposed to 20 or 30 years from now with the EU and the United States. It’s rather too jarring. That may be Parag’s desire but it leaves the analyst grasping to understand the global architecture envisioned and the consequences for international relations behavior in the contemporary setting.