RAND BLOG: Taking Stock of a Shifting World Order
RAND came out with a study about the shifting World Order that did not get much play outside of policy circles. I raise it here because there are some really good insights that have impacts on the everyday person and the functioning of governance. The critical section that I think drives home the point on the differences of the past and the present is worth stating here. I think the comparison also helps bring into focus the political discord of today with policies that are of the past and do not take into account the
Here are some notable differences between the period of U.S.-Soviet competition and the present era of world affairs:SOURCE: RAND.ORG Title: “Taking Stock of a Shifting World Order
Then: The United States had one overarching antagonist that focused its mind: the Soviet Union.
Now: While the United States confronts a formidable long-term competitor in China, a nimble short-term spoiler in Russia, an ever-evolving jihadist threat, and an increasingly threatening North Korea, none of those challenges is comparably suited to mobilizing a shared national purpose.
Then: The United States classified the Soviet Union as an antagonist and adopted a policy, containment, that guided eight administrations.
Now: The United States does not know where exactly to locate China along the continuum between ally and adversary; nor, accordingly, does it know what policy to adopt towards its putative superpower successor.
Then: The United States and the Soviet Union each presided over blocs of ideologically aligned countries.
Now: There are few, if any, such blocs today; instead, smaller countries increasingly maneuver to benefit from great-power competition.
Then: The Cold War featured a struggle between two clearly defined ideologies.
Now: While liberalism has lost some of its luster, there is no clear successor in the offing.
Then: Ideological clashes and arms races were the defining characteristics of U.S.-Soviet relations.
Now: U.S.-China relations are grounded far more in economic competition.
Then: U.S.-Soviet rivalry provided a high-level prism through which to view world affairs for nearly a half-century.
Now: No comparable framework presently exists, a reality that is increasingly apparent with the ongoing erosion of the postwar (really, the post-Cold War) order.
Then: Despite its seeming stability, the Cold War was an exceptionally brutal period of human history: tens of millions died in civil wars, proxy wars, and genocides.
Now: The acceleration of disorder belies the reality that today’s world, on balance, is far less violent.
This last comparison is one of the reasons why nostalgia for the Cold War seems misguided: the world is less violent.