The Decay of the World Order As We Know It | A World on the Brink
Dee Smith: Everything is changing everywhere, and it's changing faster and faster. It's hard to keep up, and it's hard to see where it's going. We've built the most complex society in history. But increasingly, important parts of it are failing. And many people now feel that their voices count for nothing. They become angry or even desperate. There's conflict all over the world. Extreme political parties are gaining ground. Populism and nationalism are expanding. It feels like we're living on the brink, but on the brink of what? I'm Dee Smith. I run a global intelligence company and for over three decades, I've worked in more than 90 countries with leaders in politics and geopolitics, finance, culture, the military, diplomacy, and the intelligence world. I want to understand why our world has become so unpredictable, so volatile, and so dangerous, and what this may mean for us and for our future. In 2017, we find ourselves moving into an increasingly futuristic and technological society. But as we rush into this unknown future, we find ourselves increasingly in conflict. Scott Malcomson: Governments, political institutions, financial institutions are under tremendous pressure and duress right now. Edward Alden: I'm worried about the general breakdown of global order. Here you really do see a protracted crisis of public confidence. People do not believe that governments are able to deliver. DS: We seem to be facing a series of challenges unlike anything we've seen before, and we're seeing changes that no one anticipated. Roderick Grierson; The East has come West. We now live in a world that's very much more exotic than almost anyone had predicted. DS: Our world has never been more connected or more complex. And yet, across the world, we see people becoming more tribal, more territorial, and more fearful of outsiders. Jeremi Suri: Globalization has totally redefined what power means internationally. Unfortunately, our language has not kept up with the reality. Micah Zenko: The forces that we've seen throughout history of nationalism, of isolationism, of autocracy become more resonant politically. DS: Risk is increasing dramatically, and almost everyone seems to feel the weight of greater uncertainty. In this mood of panic, political decisions are increasingly driven by emotion rather than by reason. :I think there's a disconnect between this very complex society that we created and our decision-making process. DS: Voters have become disillusioned with the political establishment, and problems continue to grow in economics, as well as in politics. Huge sovereign debts have become even greater, and another recession looms, which in an ever more connected world, can affect both major powers and emerging nations. Stewart Patrick: They're sort of sucking off resources within those countries. There's just not enough to go around. And those folks are susceptible to a sense of hopelessness and despair and eventually radicalization. Conflict is spreading across the world, and conflicts are less contained even as war itself is evolving. The development of hybrid and asymmetrical warfare have placed real power in the hands of ever smaller groups. Devastating cyber-attacks can now be mounted by a handful of people. Wars and civil wars continue to displace millions of people, creating a full-scale crisis in many places. Desperate people flee their countries of birth in the hope of building a new life or simply escaping death, but many countries do not want them and their arrival is fueling the rise of nationalism and populism. Virginia Gerrard: Somewhere along the way, we lost our appreciation for the idea of the common good. DS: Social media has allowed people to connect in a way they never could before, but it's also become a tool for ISIS and other extremist groups to radicalize and recruit new members in a way that would have been inconceivable even 10 years ago. And the proliferation of communication through social media, and with it the phenomenon of fake news, means that alternative facts are often unchallenged. :There is an alarming tendency for people to have a disregard for the truth. DS: From within this fractured world, new powers are rising. Nations like China, Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea are all vying to find their place in a new world disorder. And astonishingly, many military leaders now look back to the time of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation as the simpler, less threatening time. The very fact that they do illustrates just how complex and dangerous our world has become. SM: To me, this particular period we're in right now has that feeling of a bit of whistling past the graveyard. DS: The only certainty is uncertainty. And the dominant emotions are fear and anger. If there's one thing everyone seems to agree on, it's that what we have is not working. So how did we reach this point? What has created this dangerous world we now live in? These are the questions I want to explore in this first episode of A World on the Brink. DS: To understand where we are, we first need to know where we came from. And to do that, we need to go back over 350 years to 1648 and the end of the 30 Years' War with the birth of the Westphalian order, a system few have heard about, yet one that still dominates so much of who we are and what we do today. James Hollifield: It is the basis for the world in which we have lived since roughly the 17th century. If you asked me why do we have the nation state system, it's because of the wars of religion in Europe. By the end of the 30 Years' War in Europe in 1648, about a third of the population of Europe had been killed or died of disease as a result of the wars of religion. So, something had to be done to put an end to these internecine conflicts. This, of course, was a result of the Protestant Reformation. Today, we look at the Shia-Sunni split in the Middle East. And a lot of people draw the direct analogy with the Reformation in Europe, that you've got this unresolvable conflict between two religious groups. Well, the way the Europeans solved was this cuius regio, eius religio, which is the Latin term-- each prince is going to be able to decide what the relationship will be between the church and state and religion and politics in his or her territorial unit, which would of course become the nation state. This was the order. And in a way, it was a cynical order, because you had created states that were supposed to be-- where their territory was supposed to be inviolable. And you were not supposed to interfere in the internal affairs of another state. That was supposed to be off limits. And you let those states and those leaders sort out their own problems and bring peace and stability to their society. So, this is what the Westphalian system was about. It was about bringing peace and order to societies that were riven with ideological and religious conflict. And in spite of the cynicism here, it's a system that did bring some relative peace and stability. Christen Michel: The idea continued from that moment all the way until the end of the 1990s when it was replaced by a duty of interfering. In other words, when as for 300 years, you had this idea that a ruler is the boss at home. A ruler may do whatever they want with their people-- persecute their people, kill their people, and then so on. And other rulers, other governments, and so on had no reason or no motive to interfere. I think this concept more or less died at Auschwitz. DS: Auschwitz became a symbol of the horrors that can be visited by sovereign Westphalian states on their own citizens. So, the Western victors of the Second World War, led by the US, resolved to create a new system to prevent such conflicts and horrors from ever happening again. It was a system that served their self-interest, but it was also one driven by the desire to make the world a better place. This system was called the liberal international order. Its origins lie in the Latin word liber, meaning free, to refer to political and economic freedom rather than autocracy and to the unimpeded movement of capital. Today, it is also referred to as the rules-based international order, which actually may be a more accurate name for it, because the idea was to create a system of shared rules to which everyone subscribed and which could limit or even end economic and military confrontation. Edward Alden: There were a specific set of lessons learned in the aftermath of the protectionist legislation the 1920s, quotas on immigration, and tariffs on traded goods, the Great Depression, and World War II. And that lesson was, we're better off as a planet cooperating solving problems than we are trying beggar-thy-neighbor sorts of policies. And so I think what we saw in the wake of the war was probably the most successful institution building effort on a global scale in history. Micah Zenko: It's the belief that there are a series of binding rules and constraints that are formal and normative between states and the international system, a primarily state to state interaction. And it's things that allows the flows of capital, data, human beings, trade to go across the world. Americans like to tell ourselves that the global international order was formed with a series of agreements after World War II in San Francisco with the creation of United Nations and that the point of that was to spread democracy, markets, and well-being throughout the world. Of course, those were always competing interests. At the time, the United States was reducing the perception of communist threats in lots of governments. And so, where that contrasted with democracy promotion, democracy promotion took a backseat. Scott Malcomson: When people talk about the liberal international order, they're really talking about two things. One of which is pretty real, one of which I think is a good deal less real. The one that's pretty real is the post-World War II 1945 system with the Bretton Woods institutions, like the International Monetary Fund, setting up of the United Nations in San Francisco, agreeing on who's on the Security Council and who isn't and its powers, and those institutions dominated by particular Western powers. However, that system did not really take hold particularly. And this is where I think some of the conversation today about the liberal international system is a little bit misplaced. I mean, the structures were put into place in 1945, but they didn't really take hold particularly. UN Security Council, for example, has five veto powers-- Britain, France, China, Russia, and the United States. China, at that time, was represented by the Republic of China. That is to say, the Security Council had four Western powers in essence, and Russia on the other side. That's no one's idea of a rational order or even a liberal one. It's largely a coincidental order. MZ: It was the countries that won World War II still have veto power on the Security Council, which is a tremendous power. Because if you want UN mandate for a military intervention, for example, you can go to the Security Council and get them to approve your military intervention. But the problem is, the world does not just consist of the people who won World War II at the time. And so people have talked about reforming the Security Council, either removing the veto for the five permanent members of the Security Council for things like genocide or mass atrocities or introducing a permanent seat for rotating members of the African Union, or Brazil, or India, or other rising powers, because it was frozen in time in 1945. It is not representative of the world today. And when it becomes less and less representative of the power dynamics in the world, it has less authority. DS: Just after the end of the Second World War in 1945, the period of the Cold War began. The two global superpowers were the United States and the Soviet Union. And for more than 40 years, they maintained a tense and uneasy peace. However, all of this changed starting in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and culminated in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Suddenly, things looked very different. At this point, it looked like the West had won. CM: There was this optimism about the future of a world. We were living through a revolution in the with globalization, the internet, the spread of democracy, all these good things. EA: It looked like the US was on top of a world. It was the strongest economy. Its major competitor, the Soviet Union, had fallen apart. The Washington Consensus about the way to run global economies, free trade, private markets was everywhere. DS: The rise and dominance of the United States continued for the next 10 years. MZ: 1997 was the height of what they called the unipolar moment. This was when the United States was the unquestioned predominant power throughout the globe. It's a reach of military alliances, bases, friends, allies, no near peer competitors at the time, in the case of China or Russia. Russia, at the time, was a very weakened country demographically militarily, economically. SM: If you look at the globe, if you look at it in terms of overall global population or even productive capacity now, not most but a lot of the main players, China most spectacularly, never really entered into the liberal international order in the first place. MZ: At the end of the Cold War, certainly Russia and China were upset with the unipolar moment, where the United States was the predominant global actor and had the greatest amount of power, had the greatest amount of military access, had the greatest number of partners and alliances throughout the world. They care about events in their quote, "political sphere," which is the countries that surround them or are near to them, countries that they might have historical connections to. And they didn't like that the United States, both militarily, politically, economically, were what they were perceived as interfering in their own sphere of influence. So I think the Chinese and the Russians in particular wanted to push back against the United States at that moment. They used the tools of the global international order to do so, just as the US uses the tools of the global international order to achieve its own effect. DS: At the height this unipolar moment, there were three major schools of thought in US foreign policy-- the liberal internationalist, the neoconservative, and the realist. Stewart Patrick: For liberal internationalists, it's not simply enough that countries behave themselves in terms of their interactions with one another. It's also important as to what their actual regime type is. Liberal internationalists, in their hearts, believe that you're only really legitimate if your country is a democracy that's based on the consent of the governed. Neoconservatism is a brand of American internationalism that has some things in common with liberal internationalist in that it believes in democratic governance and that countries around the world should be democracies, and actually thinks that if countries aren't democracies, it's going to be hard to get along with them. The difference with neoconservatives is that they believe that democracy should not simply be modeled. It shouldn't even simply be promoted, but in many cases, it can be imposed. Realists believe that the United States foreign policy should be geared strongly towards the pursuit of American interests, defined quite narrowly in material terms. They're much less interested in promoting American values, including democracy, including human rights around the world, than in ensuring that the major centers of world power have stable relationships with one another. CM: When the Soviet Union collapsed, then the democracy said, well, we can now interfere anywhere in the world, because we have the power to interfere in the world and we have a moral authority to do it. And that concept evolved in a way that is, of course, limited by the power of interference. So, where it is easy and it seems riskless to interfere, then democratic nations, so-called democratic nations, powerful nations, did interfere. They did in Iraq. They did in Afghanistan. They did in Libya. DS: In the US and Europe, in the post-war era, even die hard will still believe that all nations should and ultimately would be members of the liberal international order. But if you create a membership-based system, you always have non-members, those who are excluded or those who choose to exclude themselves. The children dressed up, eager, anticipating, all except Chief Mickey Miller. Edward Goldberg: Russia is a great example of this, that has nothing to lose by destabilizing the system. In fact, we could even say Russia is the one major country not part of the global order system. Russia became-- when the wall fell, Russia had one major product to sell to the world, energy. Helima Croft: Think about what happened when the wall came down in '89. People thought, this is it. And now we have-- we're talking once again about the Russian foreign policy, aggression, their hybrid warfare. I mean, what I think is so interesting is that now I think a lot of people more senior in the defense establishment and the intelligence community almost long for the Cold War. They long for when you're dealing with a Russian adversary with defined rules of the road. I mean, I think what's so interesting about Vladimir Putin is that he's essentially been far savvier in finding new ways to project power and influence, and we're playing catch up with him. Samuel Cherap: In terms of Russia's relations with the West, the story is a very complicated one. In 1997, as it happens, the NATO Russia Founding Act was signed. And there was a sense that Russia and NATO were overcoming their historical differences and perhaps even forging a new kind of relationship. But today, we're back to NATO's primary mission being defined as deterring Russia, Russia having invaded one of its sovereign neighbor. I mean, the story of how we got here from there is a complicated one. A lot of it has to do with a failed attempt to make that relationship work on both sides and of course, the leadership of Vladimir Putin who took the country in a direction that we in 1997 probably couldn't have foreseen. At the time, if you recall, Yeltsin was president. He himself was in poor health. The country was increasingly becoming an oligarchy, as it was called back then. And Putin came to power and in the beginning, largely represented a broader elite consensus that something needed to be done to rein in the chaos. And he initially did rein in the chaos. And then, I think, reined in too far, to the point now where we have a degree of over-centralization and assertion of the state beyond that which is healthy for Russia's politics and economy. DS: The end of the Cold War ushered in an age of economic, political, and social integration, where nations had the right to intervene in order to stop human rights violations in other countries. This was named in international law as the responsibility to protect. It was the age of the liberal international order, and some people said it was the end of history, but things did not progress as expected. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union were the beginning of this era. The 9/11 attacks were the beginning of its end. Mohammad Bazzi: From 2001 onward, the United States getting involved in two very costly and long wars in Afghanistan and then in Iraq-- The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. And we're feeling the after effects of those two wars in so much of the world. SP: What we've seen over the past two decades is a return of a lot of doubt about the global economy, a lot of disappointment with where growth is going but also a lot of fear about the resurgence of geopolitical competition that we thought had been over when the Cold War finished. HC: What has been something that 2016 has shown us is, again, not everybody thinks the way you do. And people who are left behind, if you do not seriously think about how these communities feel, then you get surprised with election events. Andrew Solomon: The most immediate answer would be the surge of populism that's come along, but I would also point to the rise of information and information technology on the internet. Each time there's been a revolution in technologies of communication, a certain amount of chaos has followed. After the invention of the printing press came the great religious wars in Europe. After the invention of broadcast media became the dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. And after the development of the internet has come some degree of social decay, because I think we don't yet know how to interpret or how to control the enormous amount of information we're now receiving. Lord Robert Mair: Well, social media as we know it today didn't exist. And that's, I think, very much changed the-- changed a great deal in the way the world operates, both politically, both in business. It poses all sorts of threats as well. So, I think that's the biggest change. JS: We've entered a world today that's very polarized and where it does appear that little bits, few, almost statistically insignificant numbers of votes can turn us from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, right? Or Marine Le Pen to Emmanuel Macron, right? So it does appear at some times that we're at this sort of edge of one side or the other, and it's either or rather than consensus building. And there seems to be an absence of consensus building. CM: Suddenly we realize in 2017 that there is a counter revolution. And this is to be expected. I mean, every revolution brings about a step backward. The idea that we can live through change without pain is something that really never existed in history. We have been wired to resist change. When you were in a tribe in a very precarious situation, you knew what animals were predators, you knew where drinkable water was, and you didn't want to change that, so you followed tradition. You obeyed the elders. And change was a risk. And it's only recently with modernity that we have given change a very positive connotation. Innovation is good, and we equated it with progress. Roderick Grierson: Whether I were in the United States or the United Kingdom, the East has come West. We now live in a world that's very much more exotic than almost anyone had predicted 30 or 40 years ago. And as a result, although it's very exciting for a lot of us, it's also very disconcerting and very confusing for a great many other people. And I think it's confusing both for the people who find themselves living amongst people who would have been strangers only a few decades ago. It's also very confusing for the strangers themselves. AS: I think there is a growing awareness of terrible social inequality or financial inequality, that the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer. And the rich are very defensive about the wealth they've received, which has earned them so much hatred from others, and the others are angry about that same wealth that the elites have received. I think that's one large source of it. But I also think that people are overwhelmed by the narrative of globalism and by the sense that their narrowly defined identities have to open up and expand and become more capacious and more inclusive. And a lot of people, whether they are rich or poor, perceive themselves as belonging to a demographic that had more power in some previous era and has less power now. JS: The way ideas spread, especially through social media, but even through traditional media now, there is a premium on being the most extreme voice. And that's simply because of saturation. There's so much out there, that how do you get heard? You get heard by being the most extreme, sometimes being the most outrageous. And this has been the story of the entertainment industry for the last 10 years. It's now become the story of politics. DS: We live in a world geopolitically based on two systems-- the 350-year-old Westphalian order and the reformist 20th century liberal international order. Together, these two systems still define much of our political and economic reality. But today, in the early 21st century, we have to ask ourselves, are they still fit for purpose? As our hyperconnected digital world breaks down more and more borders, we're seeing that technological progress has set in motion forces that are eroding these two fundamental principles. In the face of these challenges, we start to see nations retreat from the existing concepts of world order. MZ: The so-called retreat of the state has been a reality for decades now, because multinational corporations, the flows of trillions of dollars of wealth daily, the ability of firms to have a tremendous impact in terms of their long-term capital investments-- I mean, they can restructure governments. Again, if you want to be a participant in the globalized society, you have to be willing to accept some of this. And this is disruptive to a lot of different societies. This is disruptive to the United States. It's disruptive to lots of the developing world. Admiral Patrick Walsh (Ret.): There's fatigue, a fatigue associated with the unipolar moment that the United States had, and with that, an expectation that there is going to be some sort of return on that rather than re-engagement. And so, I think there was a series of promises made to the American people, where they expected to see some sort of peace dividend with the demise of the Soviet Union. They expected to see their sons and daughters come home rather than to deploy overseas and risk their lives for nation states that were crumbling, institutions that were failing. DS: The articles of faith of many nations have been challenged. For example, it was an article of faith of the West that their liberal international order would make the world more peaceful and more stable by bringing nations into the global market economy. It was an article of faith of the Chinese that communism was the path that they would follow. Both were wrong. EA: If you look in particular-- the growth of China, China went from being a very small player in world markets at the end of the 20th century to now being the largest economy in the world on paper, the biggest or the second biggest exporter depending on what year you're measuring, running an enormous trade surplus with the United States. I also think there's been something of a loss of confidence. The 2008 financial crisis, the very deep recession that followed, I think, really shook the faith that a lot of Americans had that they had kind of figured out business cycles, they'd mastered management of the economy in a way that would prevent a crisis of that depth. And then you throw in the security side on top of it. The 9/11 attacks, which were a horrific loss of life and something that the United States hadn't experienced on its own soil since the Civil War. And then the less than successful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. So you've just had a series of things that I really think has shaken confidence, both within the United States and the confidence that the rest of the world has in the United States. MB: I think for the US, it had a lot to do with this idea of exporting liberal and democratic values to the parts of the world. And certainly, we've seen that play out in places the US has invaded, like Afghanistan and Iraq, most recently, where part of the project has been to impose or plant liberal institutions or liberalized and democratic institutions. Where I think it's failed to a large part is it didn't account for the kind of damage and institutional erosion that these wars would create in these countries. MZ: And if you look at terrorism, it has grown significantly at least since-- in 2002, there were less than 800 terrorist deaths throughout the world. Last year, there were almost 15,000. A lot of these are in three specific countries-- Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. And this is one of the things we know, is civil wars are the fuel and the manufacturing base of terrorism, which is why it's so critical to try to bring a resolution to civil wars, because they're so destabilizing, both to the countries where they exist but also the whole entire surrounding regions. DS: The rise in nationalism and the growing threat of war and conflict have resulted in nations around the world retreating from internationalism, increasingly moving away from the collaborative global order. APW: One of the challenges associated with trying to take a step back is the vacuum in leadership that that creates. And what we have learned from the process of that is that nations can now reach out and touch us in ways that we never expected before. SP: And what we found is over time, some of these places that are in a sense a vacuum of power end up being places where conflict gets drawn in, where they break down into conflict. And then to some degree, they export that instability elsewhere. And we've seen that in some of these countries becoming safe havens for terrorism, for instance. In other cases, they've incubated or facilitated the spread of global diseases. DS: It seemed to many of us that our power has been diminished, that we have less than we did, or at least less than we feel we should. Populations in every society are now so much bigger and so much more diverse than they were just two or three generations ago. It's all too easy to feel that something is now slipping through our fingers, and some people have argued that it's easier for politicians of any party to exploit our suspicions that this is the case. But it's important not to assume that the experiences of the middle classes in the West are universal. Millions of Turks or Indians or Chinese may feel more powerful and that they are finally beginning to assume their rightful place on the global stage. MZ: Everybody in the world sees the world through their own selfish national interests. That is, a sort of realist mindset, in my belief, that there are a series of goals that are prioritized, that you want to achieve in the world. And subsequently, you're going to do what you can to achieve them. You don't really care what happens to the international global order. I mean, the people who actually enforce it, which are the powerful states in the world, like the United States, like Russia, like China, they want to shape the global order to meet their own national self-interest, so that's always the competition, because you cede some autonomy and sovereignty by being a participant in this global order. But if you're a very powerful state, you also get to shape it. SP: One of the approaches to American foreign policy that is venerable, but is one that we thought we really had abandoned quite a long time ago, is isolationism. Despite globalization, there's been a growing sense amongst a lot of Americans that we really don't have as much interest in the sort of international ventures that we've been getting involved in. After Afghanistan, after Iraq, after the global financial crisis, there is a sense that what's out there can bring dangers to us. And so there has been a movement-- and one can see this in the 2016 election. And you saw it on both sides of the political aisle, either in the insurgent candidates, you have Bernie Sanders or in the ultimately successful nomination and election of Donald Trump-- a sense that we've been playing the policeman game for too long. And so whether it's America first, or it’s equivalent on the Democratic side, there was a sense of exhaustion and a belief that we really need to get back to taking care of what we need to do here at home. JH: The Chinese, you have seen, are building their own version of the World Bank. So they're starting to create competitive institutions and frameworks, not necessarily a bad thing, but it shows how we've not been very fast on our feet in terms of redesigning and rethinking institutions, because it's very, very hard to do that. HC: I mean, just a couple years ago, people said, oh my gosh, Putin is on the ropes, reeling under sanctions, taking on too much in Ukraine, taking on too much with Crimea. He's a spent force. I look at Vladimir Putin and all I can see is Russian influence expanding, particularly in my world of oil producing states. I see the Russians striking deals in conflict zones like Libya. I see the Russians expanding their footprint in places like Venezuela. I see Russian influence in even Sunni oil producing states expanding. You have Russia and United Arab Emirates on the same side in the Libyan conflict. Even though Russia is at odds in terms of Syria with many of these Sunni Gulf states, they still feel like they can work with Russia. And to me, that is a really different situation than five years ago. And again, he didn't use conventional means to achieve this new power. SC: Basically, what the US and the EU were able to do is take advantage of the fact that over the years, thanks to US and EU encouragement, Russia has become integrated into the global economy, in particular the global financial system. So as a result, we had leverage, right? And that, I think, is a warning to not just Russia but many other countries. Today, in 2017, I think Russia fears the most, as far as security threat, the United States. And specifically, the people in charge of Russia are convinced that the US is out to overthrow the Russian government, to put it bluntly. DS: Once again, we're seeing the consequences of the liberal international order, the implementation of policies that Russia exploited for their own agenda, and China pursuing new expansionist interests. All our lives were affected by the liberal international order in ways we don't realize, and this order, or parts of it at least, may be in peril. However, to really understand what's going on, we need to look at another completely different kind of global order. This could be called the infrastructure global order, and it's arguably larger and even more important than the formal liberal international order. And despite political or economic differences, religious or ideological warfare, even despite military conflict, this complex and remarkable system continues to persist and function. It is one of the greatest achievements of modern society. And how do you know it's working? Because most of the time, you don't even notice it's there. MZ: There are multiple global orders. And for example, the rules that establish Maritime trade or transoceanic cables or satellite communications or computer network bandwidth-- all of these things didn't exist. And a series of norms understandings and formal rules have arisen over the decades and been reinforced. Most of this is in the private sector. Most of what is the rules-based international order happens the private sector beneath the awareness of many Americans and many people in the world. This is things like the international postal agreement, the International Telegraphic Union. So this is why satellites don't collide in space, and why I can pick up a phone in China and call you in the United States and that signal works perfectly. That's because of a series of longstanding and robust agreements and I would say formal agreements and normative understandings of how the world should work. SP: The emergence of geopolitics really reflects the fact that countries not only have very conflicting interests at certain times, but they actually have different visions about the way the world should be organized. So I guess in the final analysis, you have to think of world order and the infrastructure set up by states to cooperate with each other as the handmaiden of globalization. Countries have made it possible because they benefit from it. Ruling regimes have said to themselves, on balance, this is a good thing. The challenge for all international institutions, and even more so for domestic governments, is to balance the integration of their country into the global market in a way that satisfies their own domestic political needs. And in the United States and other democracies, that means there has to be public support for globalization over the long haul. Otherwise, those countries are going to have to change the rules about how goods and services and people and financial instruments flow back and forth across borders. JH: But, clearly we have had a reaction against globalization. There's no question about that, whether it's migration or trade. And that has spread. It was always there in Europe. It has spread to the United States. Two or three data points do not necessarily make a trend, as we know, but Brexit, the election of Trump, the pressure that's been on Europe and European institutions, that has put in jeopardy what I would call the liberal internationalist order that we've all come to know and some love and some hate. Robert Jordan: Well, I think we've seen a decline of the nation state system, particularly in the Middle East. We've seen a rise of nationalism in Europe and in America now. No one would have dreamed of Brexit 20 years ago. I think we are seeing maybe an empowerment of less institutionalized figures in a way that is creating a sense of chaos in the world right now that I don't think we quite saw 20 years ago. EA: We really are still educating people for an old sort of economy in which you train for a particular career, be it an auto mechanic or a university professor, and you figure you're going to do that for the rest of your life. And that's less and less true. People have multiple careers now, and I think we need to have an educational system that reflects that. RJ: The institutions have really not kept up with the interest of the people. In Europe, we've seen an over-bureaucratized EU. We've seen a lessening of individual states' freedoms. We see regulation without accountability. We see businesses being interfered with. In the United States, I think we have seen also a failure of our institutions. Congress has failed to do much at all in the last 20 years. We've seen presidents struggle to maintain their authority, to maintain their effectiveness. We've seen increasing numbers of scandals and a polarized society that is only listening to other people who agree with themselves. RG: I hope we don't have to learn again the lesson that wars are too horrible to be fought. So we are adrift in the midst of political leaders who are, in effect, children who lack the imagination to understand how ghastly it can be but who are very keen to pose on the world stage as heroes and men of vigor. And I think the temptation for people to do that is all the greater if they have no knowledge of war. It's not just that they're ignorant of the horrors. I think this is a problem with Tony Blair. I think it's a problem with Donald Trump perhaps. I think it's a problem with many political leaders. They want to be seen as leaders of their nations in a time of war. MB: I think where the US makes a mistake in trying to impose this democratic order is often-- it's less about any native parts of the system or rejections of democracy or democratic ideals. I think it's about not having institutions in place that would allow a democratic system to flourish and that would allow democratic institutions to take hold. One really good example is the rule of law in places like certainly Iraq and Syria, even in Turkey-- in many countries where the institutions aren't entirely there for a real system of rule of law to exist. And then you get into attempts at trying to push elections through, and often you gear the system toward strongmen and autocratic leaders emerging. I think we're at a moment of transition right now. And we're in a moment of transition not from one order to another, but when there are multiple orders at work at the same time, and we're figuring out what is going to be the new synthesis of these orders. The international system is never pure. It's never one thing or another. JS: Nothing's pure, right? The United States is not a pure democracy, right? So there is a liberal international order that's alive and well out there today, which involves attention to human rights, for example, institutions like the World Trade Organization and others that work very well. The use of the dollar as a de facto world currency, right? Those are all examples of a liberal international order that was built after World War II that is surviving in a very strong way. At the same time, we have an emerging, I would say, a regional order, set of different regions that are develop their own-- they're developing their own autarchic systems. The Chinese are building this in Asia. You can see this in development around Russia, and you can see this around Turkey and other places like that, what we might call trading blocks, another form of empire for the 21st century. That's emerging before our eyes. And then we also see a lot of sub-state actors who are becoming more and more powerful. And that's what I would call a really illiberal order that's out there. And so these are all in competition right now. And the story of the next 10 years is going to be how these different orders learn to adjust to one another. There will be elements of all three that will survive, but the new order will be some combination thereof. And that's the opportunity for the United States to be in the role of agenda setting for what that new order will look like. Institutions are more complex and difficult to understand than ever before. And they're so big. At times, no one is actually in control. It's a fair question to ask, who really runs the Chinese government? It's a fair question to ask, who really understands technology today? I don't think the solution is to try to become a Luddite and close our eyes to all this, or move back into small communities necessarily. The solution is to do what every generation has done-- reinvent our institutions to manage these new problems. This is what progressives did in Europe, in the United States, in reinventing institutions in the early 20th century. One of the problems many of our governments have is they have inherited creaking old governing institutions. And again, it's not about having more or less government. It's about reforming government to match the needs of the world we have today. JH: Sure, there are problems with this system. And if you want to change it and reform it, that's a very good thing. But if you are going to throw it out, you better have a pretty good idea of what you want to put in its place. Because it is what we got. It has helped to bring about a more peaceful and prosperous world, and you can't just snap your finger and change that. That to me is a recipe for disaster. DS: Among many other things, the liberal international order hangs in the balance and with it, perhaps the future of our civilization. We love to tell ourselves stories to make sense of the world, and some of these stories become the defining narratives of their age. We in the West wrote the defining narratives of the last half of the 20th century. It's one that started in the 17th century with the Westphalian order and culminated in the liberal international order and globalization. This was a compelling vision of a democratic world, a world living, working, and trading together based on economic and social principles that we believed would work. But as the rate of change accelerates and as the world becomes more complex, we've begun to realize that these systems might not be working so well anymore. And this doubt is occurring even here in the West in the very places where the narrative was forged. So if the lands that invented the system can't agree on what it should be, how it should function, and what it should become in the future, what does that tell us? If we're moving away from the Westphalian and liberal international orders, where are we going? Do we have a viable alternative? What would a world without globalization look like? And ultimately, is all this change going to make us any happier? In the next episode, we're going to look at arguably the greatest force for change in our world today, one that has pulled a billion people out of poverty but is also plunging nations into political chaos-- globalization.