Do not let the title frighten you, this is not about tin-foil hats and Builderberger-led Trilateral Commission nor is this a diatribe that would make Alex Jones stand in applause. This is explanation of what it happening on the international stage through the use of foreign policy vernacular. In this sense, “world order” is that which has been constructed by great powers. When old world powers’ world order give way to new ones, the phrase used is “new world order.” It was used by the various European powers during the 19th century and early 20th century. It was used by Hitler during private meetings with his top advisers. And it was used by George H. W. Bush as the Cold War was coming to an end and the Soviet Union was dissolving.
So what is the old world order that is being replaced by a new world order? The old world order did not necessarily begin in 1992 after the Cold War was declared officially over. The end of the Cold War was simply the culmination of a long process began after World War I. The notions of supranational organizations designed to allow for diplomatic processes to mitigate the prospects of wars between great powers, further economic integration between states, and the creation of new states cobbled together out of dying empires. World War I was the catalyst for the desire to create such an order, but it was World War II that codified the resolve to give this world order the backing needed to ensure that it gained supremacy over the global stage.
The first leg of the stool of the old world order was the creation of a global body that would, in essence, referee disputes between member states eventually called the United Nations. These disputes would be mediated by a Security Council made up of the major powers who were seen as the victors of World War II: the United State, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, and France. This seemed to acknowledge the bipolar arrangement of the world after the Second World War as the US and the Soviet Union seemed to be the only two powers after the war to not been reduced to rubble (the US because of distance from the two theaters of war and the Soviets because of vast geographic expanses). Despite the global ideological split that became the Cold War, there seemed to be an understanding that this conflict would not involve direct conflict between the two super powers. When the Cold War came to an end, there was not a rush to restructure the world order as there had been in the past when cataclysmic events occurred on the global stage. Russia retained its position on the Security Council and, as had been done after both world wars, new states were drawn out of the dissolution of an old empire.
Economically, the world order constructed after World War II was called Bretton Woods. This arrangement looked to correct one of the major flaws in global money markets that existed at World War I, the manipulation by individual states of their currencies. It also put the US Dollar in the prominent role of being the world’s reserve currency, which meant that states who had been ravaged by the Second World War backed their own domestic currencies with US Dollars.
The final aspect of the old world order was the creation of new states out of the pieces of broken, former great powers. The important agreement to keep in mind while pondering this is the Sykes-Picot agreement that was made with the Arab populations in the Levant that encouraged them to revolt against the Ottoman Empire in exchange for new, independent states. Out of this agreement, the states of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq were invented and placed under the guidance (a very generous choice of word) of France and Britain. It also sought to solve the Jewish question in Palestine.
This is a very brief description of the old world order that was developed in the aftermaths of two world wars and continued on through the end of the Cold War. During the last decade of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st century, this old world order began to show signs of unraveling. The first stool, the idea that there would be a global forum where great powers would work through diplomacy instead of resorting to warfare, was proven to be inadequate and subordinate to the national interests of great powers. Both US presidents Clinton and George W. Bush ventured into major military operations without the backing of UN Security Council backing in the Balkans and in Iraq respectively. To the extent that these actions were viewed as the shattering of the contemporary world order, these cries paled in comparison to what has happened presently between Russia and Ukraine.
The economic aspect of the old world order is also under assault and showing signs of real strain. The desire to abandon the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency has been voiced by Russia and China multiple times. They are the two counties that many believe to be the heads of the group called BRICS–Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa–and they are going to be discussing during their July summit the formulation of a new development bank that developing states can borrow from outside of the International Monetary Fund, another relic of Bretton Woods. The major hurdle to such an arrangement is the development of a strong reserve currency that this new bank can use to back the loans. They have all agreed that it will not be the US Dollar.
Finally, the states that were created in the old world order are being erased from the maps of the great powers. Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia have been redrawn by Russia. China is attempting to redraw the territorial claims in the Pacific. And the Middle East that was created out of Sykes-Picot is rapidly capitulating to the restructuring of another Islamic Empire. The one aspect of the gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), and to some extent the entire episode of the Arab Spring, is the refusal to maintain the borders of the states that are in the middle of all the turmoil. Almost as soon as ISIS took control of Mosul in Iraq, foreign policy thinkers were saying that this is the end of Sykes-Picot.
The New World Order being fashioned out of the bits left by the old is looking clearer and clearer each passing day. The problem is that this new order does not appear to feature an order with the ideals of the US at its base. Part of this is because the US is currently led by an administration that is actively reducing the US role in the world, but the other part of this is because the US is not economically capable to become a central actor on the global stage. Because the US is carrying the burden of a $17 trillion debt and rapidly adding to the numbers of Americans who are more interested in being on food stamps than they are in working in the private sector, the means for financing a prominent US role are just not there.
The next president to take the oath of office in 2016 is going to be in a position where the power of the US is severely debilitated by high debt and a shrinking workforce. The desire of the Democrat Party to diminish the stature of the US on the global stage through socializing the US economy has created a perfect storm in global politics. Correcting this path is likely to not be an immediate occurrence, and because of the time this correction is going to take, the crafting of this new world order void of any American influence is going to leave the world in a much more perilous situation.