This article was originally written in Foreign Policy Magazine, May 6, 2014.
Let's start by describing how the article defines the New World Order:
- The New World Order, a term coined by George H.W. Bush, formed after the fall of the Soviet Union
- The New World Order constituted the peaceful settlement of disputes between states that would have otherwise led to war
- These disputes were settled through international courts, universal human rights, international criminal justice, and free trade and investment
The article starts by addressing President Obama's assertion concerning Russia's president, Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and behaving as an imperialist is an inappropriate way for a state to behave in the 20th century. The author retorts that Russia's behavior is an effect of America's decreasing influence and deteriorating global hegemony that was in place in 1991.
Why the New World Order is Dead1. The international courts are not effective
The international courts, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ), World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, are not effective at resolving disputes that might lead to war. International law tends to favor the status quo, and when powerful countries disagree with the courts' judgment, just as the United States did over a 1986 Nicaragua dispute, they disregard the judgment and deny that the court has jurisdiction.
(Remember: international law is technically unenforceable.)Russia and China, states that seek to increase their influence over foreign powers, have major conflicts with their neighbors, but have never submited those conflicts to the international courts because the courts favor status quo and sovereignty.
2. Human rights commitments are often ignored and/or violated
The New World Order included the recognition and respect for the human rights of a country's citizens. While it was agreed that interpretation of human rights would differ depending on a country's religious beliefs, traditions, and practices, the New World Order envisioned human rights by the basic terms of liberal democracy -- problematic for states that are not liberal democracies.
Many countries disregard their human rights commitments and most developing countries cannot implement them. Russia is an autocracy, China has not liberalized, and the West faces the problem of having to choose between ignoring human rights violations, thereby violating its commitment by default, or launching a military intervention, a violation of its commitment to peaceful resolutions. Only the UN Security Council has the legal authority to launch war on countries that violate human rights obligations.
The UN as a human rights enforcer has only been effective a handful of times:
- 1991 military intervention in Iraq for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait
- 1999 military intervention in Kosovo
- 2003 military intervention in Iraq
- 2011 military intervention in Libya
Russia and China abstained from the resolution regarding military force in Libya and later accused the West of using their authority to overthrow the Libyan government rather than protect the civilians. The article states that now both Russia and China adamantly oppose intervention in Syria.
3. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is not fair and is only feared by "weak African countries."
A few trials have been held to try people accused of committing atrocities such as torture and genocide, but the court almost exclusively focuses on those weak African countries.
"The ICC has come to be seen as a tool of imperialists."The court depends on strong countries to support it, and will never try Russians, Americans, or Chinese because their governments never ratified the treaty. "It cannot risk offending them," Posner says.
4. The World Trade Organization is still functioning, but countries have started to disregard adverse judgments from arbitration panels.
Why states obey international lawPosner goes on to ponder what would make countries obey international law:
- Leaders had internalized the law
- Leaders were bound by cooperative networks of judges an beauraucrats from different countries
- Domestic and international NGOs put pressure on violators
- Countries had become interdependent
- Because it was fair
Posner says the real reason countries obey international law is because the United States and West makes them. Countries feared that if they didn't follow international law, they would be hit with sanctions or refused aid, investments, or trade opportunities, or be threatened with military force.
Why the system functions
Posner explains that international trade is the only exception to the collapse of the New World Order and the system functions because several countries enforce it in fear of mutual retaliation.
The New World Order had states believing all nations were equal, which was false; the US had no equal . Today, a small group of powerful nations determines how they will interact with each other and compete with each other for client relationships" with smaller countries.
The major challenge is to ensure that competition does not lead to full scale war.
Human rights and international justice will only prevail in the West, but trade and investment will flourish. Posner goes on to explain how states are self-interested and their actions reflect their best interests (something tells me Posner is a realist). He challenges theory (America?) to catch up to the times.