The MGI Project, begun in 2007, is the joint initiative of the Brookings Institution Foreign Policy section - led by Carlos Pascaul,  the Center on International Cooperation at New York University - led by Bruce Jones, and the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University - led by Stephen Stedman.  The Project has recently produced it’s major Report - A Plan for Action: A New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World: 2009, 2010, and Beyond.  This Report will be followed by a book from the three directors, out sometime this year, entitled, Power and Responsibility: International Order in an Era of Transnational Threats.  The Report and the Project is directed to, as the Plan suggests, “[to] build international support for global institutions partnerships that can foster international peace and security - and the prosperity they enable - for the next 50 years.”  It will take a number of blog posts to do justice to this highly developed global governance reform initiative.

An examination of the Plan reveals how developed the analysis in the Plan is and how serious the Project effort is to build better global governance. The consultations and discussions have been extensive including a panel review with former US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, former US Ambassador to the UN, Thomas Pickering, UN Development Program Administrator, Kemal Dervis and Brookings President, Strobe Talbott.  This is, needless to say, a very serious effort.  No doubt this Plan will be presented to the new US Administration if not the new President, himself.

Let me in this first post on the Plan just describe the ’skeleton’ of the Plan and make a single point.  The Plan identifies 5 prerequisites required to build a new international order: (1) effective US policy and leadership; (2) institutionalized cooperation between the US and the traditional and emerging powers; (3) an understanding of the application of ‘responsible sovereignty’ across threat areas; (4) effective and legitimate international institutions; and (5) states capable of carrying out their responsibilities to their own people and the international community. In turn the Project has incorporated these prerequisites into the Plan with 4 parallel tracks: (1) restoring US credible American leadership; (2) revitalizing international institutions; (3) tackling shared and now transnational threats; and (4) managing crises.  All the tracks are worth exploring but let me grapple with just one track - this the first track:  restoring credible American leadership.

The Report suggests that domestic and international interests are aligned in their efforts to build greater international collaboration: “We must capitalize on momentum generated from a convergence of global and US domestic interests to build an international security system for the 21st century.”  The outstanding question, however, is whether the idea of US leadership is a key desire and moreover a necessary requirement for contemporary global governance reform?

Underlying this question for the renewal of US leadership is a structural question:  Is the US seeking to reassert its leadership with at best limited revisions to hierarchical rights (maintaining US hegemony)?; or is the US prepared to build a largely non-hierarchical, more robust multilateralism?  Notwithstanding the Plan’s view that there is a convergence of global and US domestic interests to build a renewed international security system, the vision, or the motivation for renewed collaboration may not represent an attractive future for the US public, and more particularly political leadership, unless the multilateralism sustains US hegemony.  It may also not represent an acceptable outcome for the emerging great powers or even the traditional powers unless the multilateralism is non-hierarchical.

With respect to such renewed American leadership the MGI Project suggests that the new Obama Administration can, “feature international cooperation as the centerpiece of a strategy to restore America’s global leadership.”  So, what MGI hopes for is renewed US leadership but with the principal motivator - international cooperation. It is evident that the US public wants to share the current burden of leadership - at least the security burden.  Iraq and Afghanistan have focused Americans on the cost of global security leadership.  What isn’t so evident is whether the US public, including its elected representatives, are prepared as well to accept policy that is not just in America’s interest but part of a broader collective outcome.  As the Report points out, “The belief that the United States does not take into account the interests of other countries in formulating its foreign policy is extensive even among US allies…”  A revitalized US leadership that relinquishes only limited hierarchical rights is unlikely to be greeted with enthusiasm by traditional or by emerging powers.  And there is little yet (though much hope is expressed for the new Obama Administration) that would suggest that US political leadership is likely to offer a more multilateral international cooperation as opposed to, ’same-old, same-old’.

Looking at the second element of the equation, for just a moment, this the exclusion of emerging powers from decision-making processes, and therefore the need for increasing representation ultimately to the UN Security Council but immediately to the G8.  The Plan calls for a much more representative G16 - the G8 plus the G5 (Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Mexico - the O5 of the Heiligendamm Process) plus Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt or Nigeria. It is evident that the US (the Bush Administration) has been less than enthusiastic about enlargements of the G7/8 up till now.  This is just one element of greater emerging power representation where US views have not been enthusiastically supported. While the new Obama administration may become an advocate for enlargement, there is little to identify, or signal this, at this moment.  And there is little detail - no roadmap - in the Plan for enlargement for the global governance institutions.  This conclusion may be judged speculative at this moment, yet without greater detail, an underlying rationale and a path of advocacy for enlargement in the Plan, the suspicion arises that what is being proposed in this Plan is a reversion to the same old US leadership.

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