The myth of the liberal order

Just finished reading Professor Graham Allison’s ‘The myth of the liberal order’ in ‘Foreign Affairs’ (possibly behind a paywall). For the most part, Professor Allison has a very good essay on the antecednets of the liberal order that America supposedly constructed and it is now allegedly destroying.

He states categorically in one place:

Had there been no Soviet threat, there would have been no Marshall Plan and no NATO. The United States has never promoted liberalism abroad when it believed that doing so would pose a significant threat to its vital interests at home. Nor has it ever refrained from using military force to protect its interests when the use of force  violated international rules.

Similarly, in Europe, there would have been no peace and prosperity for seven decades but for the shock of the previous thirty-five years – a point I make in tomorow’s MINT column.

He is bang on target here:

Long before Trump, the political class that brought unending, unsuccessful wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, as well as the financial crisis and Great Recession, had discredited itself. These disasters have done more to diminish confidence in liberal
self-government than Trump could do in his critics’ wildest imaginings, short of a mistake that leads to a catastrophic war.

and here as well:

When, in 2017, members of the World Economic Forum in Davos crowned Chinese President Xi Jinping the leader of the liberal economic order—even though he heads the most protectionist, mercantilist, and predatory major economy in the world—they revealed that, at least in this context, the word “liberal” has come unhinged.

‘Unhinged’ – bravo!

But, when it comes to concluding the article, he stumbles. No big mistake that is. It s true for all of us. We are good at analysis, examination and diagnosis (ex-post) but we are remarkably poor at anticipating and proposing answers. Most of the time, answers are reactive and responses to crises that force us to confront the situation. Then, we come up with some responses. If we are lucky and if the  ontext is right, the response works out well and one is hailed as a great leader. Otherwise, history condemns us. That is the truth. So, no shame on not concluding his article well.

The reason why the article does not conclude well is that there is no ‘liberal order’ for the sake of it. It is a myth, as he puts it. There is only the ‘order of power’ and sometimes a liberal order may be its consequence and sometimes, an illiberal order may be its consequence because the ‘power order’ can feature the chaos and tussle of transitions and vacuums from time to time.

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