Today, in The Guardian an article is published with the title: “Trump, North Korea and shifting alliances: is this the new world disorder?“.
The answer to this question is a clear: ‘Yes, it is”.
Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy only ensures him of the fastest downgrade to a secondary position: Interdependencies cannot be ignored without paying a price.
The symptoms of the increasing disfunctionality of the current international order – the United Nations – were (again) on display during the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, this week.
The collapse of an international order is a system-response to an underlying dynamic that is intrinsic to anarchistic systems. The System has experienced a similar (underlying) dynamics four times before during the period 1495-1945, when the System was still dominated by European (war) dynamics.
International orders have a typical life-cycle and life-span.
The function of international orders is to regulate the international system, and to maintain a certain balance.
In anarchistic systems, international orders are implemented by dominant Great Powers during systemic wars: there is no alternative. During systemic wars, new power and influence relationships, and an upgraded – ‘new’ – Great Power status hierarchy are imposed – and laid down in the upgraded rules of the (new) international order.
The last time this happened was by means of the fourth systemic war of the System (the Second World War, 1939-1945) that gave birth to the United Nations, which further evolved in (above all) an American order that promoted and safeguarded American interests.
However, as the four war-cycles during the period 1495-1945 show, international orders have a typical life-cycle and life-span. Several factors and developments make that international orders become at a certain point obsolete, including: Population growth, differentiated development of states, but also a – what I name – a network effect that ‘kicks-in’ at a certain point.This figure shows schematically the typical life-cycle of an international order. The tipping point (2011 for the current order) is not necessarily half-way the orders life-span. Once the tipping point is reached, tensions and unsolved issues accumulate in the System, and ‘push’ the international order into a critical condition.
The life-cycle of an international order – and the current order is no exception – is as follows: Initially, following a systemic war, when the order and ruleset were upgraded, an international order functions smoothly. As far as their are any ‘complications’ – issues between states – they can be regulated and solved within the ‘status quo’, sometimes by means of non-systemic (smaller and local) wars.
Data-analysis shows that the average size of these non-systemic wars increases over time to a point – a tipping point – when the average size of non-systemic wars starts to decrease.
When the tipping point is reached a network effect – the increasing linkage of issues and accompanying tensions – starts hindering the release of tensions and (consequently) the ability of the order to solve issues, and instead tensions and the number of issues increase at an ever higher rate.
The functionality of the order decreases rapidly; instead of tensions being released, and issues being solved, they accumulate in the System, and cause (international) politics to become increasingly volatile. This explains the (increasing) volatility of the current order.
As a matter of time, the accumulating tensions and issues ‘push’ the System into a critical condition. When the critical point is reached, issues and tensions have ‘percolated’ the System – they are linked – and (a technical term related to criticality in systems) the correlation-length of the System has become one: This is the point when a small disturbance, can trigger a full system-response (systemic crisis/war).
The current order reached the tipping point in 2011, analysis of war-data shows. This is the point (also referred to in the Guardian-article) when the United States (president Obama) in 2011 decided to refrain from further entanglements in (new) wars.
Consequently, issues were not resolved (assuming they could be solved) and caused increasingly more tensions, that accumulated in the System.
The rising tensions and the impotence of ‘world leaders’ were on display at the G20 summit in Hamburg: The System now controls us.
The collapse of the current order is just a matter of time, a fact that is until now ignored. A collapse would also have been unavoidable if Hillary Clinton would have become president of the United States: The collapse as such can not be attributed to Trump. However, how the order/system collapses and how an (unavoidable) systemic crisis/war will unfold can and is is to a high degree Trump’s – America’s – responsibility.
A systemic war – contrary to non-systemic wars – is about the values that will underpin the new – upgraded – international order. We should be aware of what is now at stake.
Trump has a dark and divisive ‘vision’ of the international system, of other states, cultures and religions. Trump does not understand – and does not want to understand it seems – that the United States’ welfare and position of power and influence are a result – a product – of the international order; as is the international order itself to a high degree a product of American thinking and values (at that time).
The (now) global international system is too connected to dismantle – as Trump/the US is currently doing – without serious negative consequence for the US itself as well. This basic truth also applies to the United Kingdom in regards to the European Union.
The US’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement is further proof of the irresponsible and selfish course of the United States under Trump’s ‘leadership’.
The damage done to the climate is also to a high degree ‘Made in the USA’. Consequently, the US has a clear responsibility to make a significant contribution to mitigate the world-wide effects of climate change, and avoid further damage. But not according to Trump.
If the current irresponsible behaviour of the United States is representative for what Trump defines as values of ‘The West‘ – whatever ‘The West’ is and what the purpose is to make such a distinction – these values are not worthwhile fighting for: They will only bring more conflict, more selfish behaviour, and cause world-wide chaos.
It is now time to define a ‘Global Charter‘ – with or without the US – that is inclusive, based on mutual respect and ensures collective well-being, and can also serve as a counterweight for divisive, intolerant and selfish ideologies that now spread the world.