With the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, American sphere of influence gradually developed in the world and the U.S. began to play often a significant or even a dominant role in various regional crises. Meanwhile, many regional sub-orders and geopolitical interest areas emerged in this process. Accordingly, the world transformed into a chaotic place along with several wars. This transition era after disintegration of the USSR indicated shift to unipolar system from bipolar system. (However, some academics evaluated this alteration as a transition to multipolarity although American sphere of influence increased) This process brought in some challenges to current international order. Particularly, the integration of the new independent states into the international system, economic crises, north-south divide, regional crises and asymmetric threats such as terrorism have played a vital role in recent developments. As a turning point in the end of the Cold War, the Malta Summit in 1989 reinvigorated a discussion of the new world order. After the fall of Berlin Wall and German reunification, the Malta Summit was a meeting between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. This was perhaps a prospering example in respect to cooperation between two superpowers. However, in the next years, to suggest that the United States is the most powerful country in the world and the lynchpin of the contemporary international order is hardly controversial. On the other hand, it is explicit that American hegemony has been connected with the consolidation of a given neoliberal economic order. The viability of military power as a general instrument of diplomacy has been an important element for American vital interests in the new world (dis)order. It is quite apparent that there are limits of American hegemony. This reality was apparent even before September 11, 2001. Today, the U.S. has no power and capacity to lead and protect a bloc of countries threatened by another bloc anymore. However, with power vacuum after the Cold War, particularly the Middle East region became an exclusively American sphere of influence.
In fact, hegemonic understanding of American foreign policy in the Cold War era gave place to unilateral diplomacy. Also, the U.S. has a long and experienced tradition of placing American values at the center of its foreign policy. In order to construct a new leadership and hegemony role, the U.S. has developed and established a moral discourse about the new world order and it placed the constituent of soft and smart power into the American traditional foreign policy. It has constructed this process by developing a global economic strategy and some key innovations. According to Joseph Nye, Realists, in the tradition of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, assume international politics occurring among sovereign states balancing each others’ power. World order is the product of a stable distribution of power among the great powers. Liberals, in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter, look at relations among peoples as well as states. They assume order arising from broad values like democracy and human rights, as well as from international law and institutions such as the UN. On the other side, Lawrence Freedman in his Foreign Affairs article, the first interpretation is that the slogan reflects a presumption that international agencies and, in particular, the United Nations, will be taking a more active and significant role in global governance and the second interpretation is that the phrase ‘New World Order’ is merely descriptive, requiring no more than acceptance that the current situation is unique and clearly different in critical respects from the past.
Actually, it should be stated that from the beginning there has been no consensus within the discipline of international relations over the meaning of the concept of world order. In general framework, this term can be defined as a new political and global model of social interaction or control, a new balance of power among nations, sometimes as manifested in arrangements established internationally for preserving political stability. In the 20th century, many politicians and statesmen used the term “new world order” and they implied a new page of history that reveals an alteration in terms of world politics and particularly balance of power. Realists tend to conceptualize world order as a system of states in which the distribution of power creates various types of orders such as multipolar, bipolar, or unipolar. On the other hand, international political economy and Marxist scholars mostly equate world order with the capitalist global economy. In general, realist scholars, international political economists and Marxists scholars see the world order as an arrangement of international actors such as great powers or economic classes. Lastly, liberals, constructivists, and globalists view the world order as a process in which states or dominant classes are not the only actors. Apart from that, in conspiracy theories, the concept of the new world order refers to the emergence of a totalitarian one world government. The common thought in conspiracy theories about the new world order is that a powerful elitist structure with a global agenda conspires to ultimately rule the world through a self-reliant world government which would replace sovereign states and national governments and cease international power struggles.
According to Hans Morgenthau, the efficiency and legitimacy of a realist worldview, was predicated on two significant points. Initially, it was assumed that the American way of life was better than other ways of life, especially communist ways and nowadays Islamic. In real terms, American way of life adopts individualistic and pragmatic ethos. Also, this term is closely associated with the concept of American exceptionalism. Secondly, Morgenthau and other realist thinkers assumed that the world beyond national borders was an anarchy in which power and military force were the only currencies. A state that was not able to protect itself especially militarily by being self-sustaining would definitely come under attack from irredentist or rogue states. For this reason, in the 1970s and afterwards, Realism was supplanted by neo-realist theory as the prevailing discourse within American security understanding. Such an approach has shaped the way that political authorities see the world, teaching them to view this political perception that separated as “we” and “they”. Naturally, this has become a security discourse related to the reconstruction of threats from the outside.
Another important factor is that the distribution of power among states is mostly unbalanced and this factor posed a conflict-prone order. As it is known, international orders may be stable or unstable. If the world inholds chaos and anarchy, as neorealist assumptions suggest, the most efficient way to provide security is to employ military force or hard power. This fine line between hierarchy and anarchy is an important variable because this point refers to the content or a character of an international order. In this sense, with the incremental big steps towards an insecure world, the paradoxes and contradictions that shape the contemporary international system entailed a self- evident instability in the world. Although the international system is beyond the control of any state, nation-states generally have the ability to preserve their positions in the system.
Apart from these, new neo-liberal economic order in the new world (dis)order is not only about coercion. According to Karl Deutsch, any system of rules depends upon “habitual voluntary compliance”. The rules of the game in this era constructed by non-state actors, mostly under the influence of America. Moreover, the most influential critics argue that powerful institutions like the World Bank or IMF are dominated by the United States and these institutions intentionally or unintentionally serve American vital interests. Beyond these, legalizing efforts political realism with American idealism overthrew the fundamental laws of the international community. In this manner, the same logic has to legitimate the use of its military force with ‘casus belli’ by using discourses constructed over time by the international community. At the same time, a subsequently created foe such as communism was seen as necessary for American way of life and the next political manoeuvres afterwards. In reality, after the construction of a new threat paradigm, the actualization project of the new world (dis)order was ready with September 11. According to the White House, the emergence of regional powers is rapidly changing the strategic landscape and it is crucial to check the aggressive ambitions of renegade regimes. Thus, some US strategists and political authorities targeted some strategic plans over “identity crisis” but afterwards it did not work well as excepted.
Consequently, one of the most significant components of the new world (dis)order is the interdependence in a globalizing world and the influence of the political, ideational and military elements of American power on international affairs. In addition to this, security issues are no longer the private sphere of states and its military components. The security challenges that the world face today do not come from a given place alone. In this context, traditional approaches to security have lost validity in the new world anymore.
- Gabriela Marin Thornton, “Democracies and World Order”, June 2014.
- Joseph Nye, “What New World Order?”, Foreign Affairs (Spring, 1992).
- Karl Deutsch, “The Analysis of International Relations”, 1968, pp. 19-22.
- Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Relations, 1979.
- Lawrence Freedman, “Order and Disorder in the New World”, Foreign Affairs (1991, 1).
- Mark Beeson and Alex J. Bellamy, “Globalisation, Security and International Order After 11 September”, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Volume 49, No: 3, 2003, pp. 339-354.
- Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, New York, 1989.
- White House document.