Parsing the Liberal International Order

What’s in a name? When it comes to the “Liberal International Order,” rather a lot—if not always what you might expect.

Published on: October 27, 2017
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  • Gary Hemminger

    You and the other leaders had your chance and you blew it. Why should we trust you again? According to Zogby 38% of the people are secret Trump supporters. And with the market up huge, why the heck should we trust you again? What exactly did you and your ilk do for us when you were in power except get us into war after war? And what did Obama do for us except enable gender fluidity, identity politics, a race war, mass immigration, and global warming zealotry? No, your time has come and gone. Our supposed allies never respected us, not when Bush nor Obama was in power. Move aside Garfinkle. You and the others elite have blown it, so stop complaining and ride it out.

    • leoj

      I actually thought it was a pretty sober piece with some interesting tidbits and of course the occasional gristle. But yeah, hard not to agree with your assessment that it is time for the boomer generation to step aside. Still, we should not begrudge them their owl-of-minerva moment.

      • Psalms13626

        +1 for Greek mythology reference.

        • QET

          It was really a Hegel reference. +2.

        • leoj

          Things JR likes: tough guy swagger, trollish hijinks, and… Greek mythology reference. Who would’ve guessed?! 🙂

          Of course, the reference was also to Hegel (as QET noted) writing at the dusk of the HRE.

          • Psalms13626

            Trollish hijinks???? I never. I mean, me??? An impish side?
            But then when somebody writes, as Comrade FG has below, “It would be interesting to know whether the secret Trump supporters choose secrecy because they have kids and grandkids to whom their support for Trump would be inexplicable.” what am I supposed to do? NOT make fun of them? NOT ridicule their presumptuousness and petty hypocrisy? I can’t. My wife’s brother’s spawn is into Bernie. I am THAT uncle in law creature.
            I read both the Iliad (which I didn’t like) and the Odyssey (which I did) as well was various Greek myths. I find that Greeks of that period had many very good points about humans and their fallibility, namely hubris.

          • D4x

            JR who?

          • leoj

            I don’t know the whole story, but Psalms n:xyz was once JR with a French flag avatar (this was after the Bataclan attack). I made his acquaintance during the running street battles on Bloombergview over Obama’s Iran deal. Now, at some point this handle was banned thanks to comrade FG for reasons having to do with his hijinks (–which I fully endorse, btw).

          • D4x

            TY, thought he was Isaiahxyz at first, who has apparently joined the exodus.

          • Tom

            He is also Isaiahxyz, because apparently someone managed to get that handle banned as well, due to hijinks.

    • FriendlyGoat

      It would be interesting to know whether the secret Trump supporters choose secrecy because they have kids and grandkids to whom their support for Trump would be inexplicable.

  • Suzy Dixon

    The liberal international order is this unnecessarily convoluted thing that really is quite simple. In point of fact, it is denoting the post 1945 world in which there is a super power [US] providing a security blanket/guarantees from Europe to east Asia, as well as the freedom of navigation to secure energy supplies and exports. It has basically nothing to do with the regime type of a government of a given state in Europe, or Asia, or anywhere for that matter, whether they be liberal democracies, autocracies, or somewhere in between. As long as they benefit from the US security guarantees and cooperate with each other, then the post 1945 order had willing participants.

    Europe is the absolute best example of this. Whenever Germany has grown powerful and had a huge army it has ended badly. Europe’s northern plains are easy to develop and have the second most navigable waterways in the world. North America has the most. However, Europe’s waterways from the productive heartland traverse multiple countries and have issues with national identity and the wish for autonomy.

    When you combine German efficiency and excellence in things like engineering with a huge army then it, by default, threatened all of its neighbors. Then they form of coalition and tear Germany back down. And the pendulum resets. The only thing that has stopped this has been 70 years of US security guarantees to Germany and all of the others. Ironically NATO has protected Russia as well. There haven’t been any Hitlers or Napoleons for 70 years anyway. I guess more time will tell, but 70 years is a pretty good run for not getting invaded if you’re Russia.

    • KremlinKryptonite

      Suzy, I think you nailed it more or less 1945-1990, especially when you spoke to regime type and how inconsequential is. The elephant in the room is of course the Chinese Communist Party. Not Democratic. Not liberal. Yet it benefits from the US security guarantees, and US dollars, of course. At least until it does more than nip the hand that has fed it.

      Although, post Cold War, your assessment does start to falter. The same way Newtonian physics breaks down the closer you get to the speed of light. It’s not completely adequate anymore. Why do I say that? Quite simply, the United States has indeed been accepting consistent and large trade deficits for 40 years now. The United States has accepted millions of well-paying tradable sector jobs being lost, and lost to non-allied countries no less. It is the United States paying close to 70% the cost of NATO. It is the United States who’s expected to kneecap itself in perhaps 18 different ways till this day, including in a few newer ways, as Trump alluded to in his recent Lou Dobbs interview, with post-Cold War creations like the WTO.

      The world, however, has changed. Between the energy revolution in North America, and actually around the world, as well as the USs continually decreasing vulnerability to hickups in the world market (despite the myths spun by some of those you see on the old TV claiming otherwise… they have vulnerabilities because they are typically multimillionaires or billionaires with money all over the world).
      For so many decades the United States has been both the market of first resort as well as the market of last resort. The real Alpha and Omega. It’s not a mistake that the United States has exported almost every recession or depression that it has had in the last 150 years or so, yet it does not import anywhere near all of those created elsewhere.

      • Suzy Dixon

        So you’re saying that US policy is going to become more transactional as it used to be and perhaps should’ve been since the USSR fell?

        • KremlinKryptonite

          Indeed. Look at what happened at the beginning of 2017 wIth the slew of world leaders coming to visit Trump. You can quite quickly and easily figure out which world leaders are smart enough to understand the returning, smart, more transactional nature of US policy again, as it should have been again since 1990 anyway.

          Abe, perhaps being the smartest of them all, was #2 to show up, and he brought with him a bribe (really more like a repayment) to continue the US-Japan relationship on all levels. Beneficial to the US. CRITICAL for Japanese survival. He brought billions and billions and some more billions of Japanese state money to pledge toward US infrastructure and industry. Trump and Abe get along very, very well.
          By contrast, Merkel (not the sharpest knife in the drawer) came with nothing to offer, and just like a spoilt child she simply requested that trump maintain the status quo….she left with a bill. Trump literally gave her the bill for services rendered. Amen. Hallelujah.

  • QET

    The thing about an “order” is, it is imposed. And it presupposes entities that are outside of that order. A person may voluntarily join a monastic order, but once in, its rules are harsh and absolute. One does not join an order just to commence trying to change it. So in that sense even a voluntarily joined order is imposed on the one joining. And there is nothing in the concept of order that even suggests, let alone requires, equality of those entities formally within it. In fact, equality and order are, practically, antithetical. Within the LIO, some are more equal than others, and the US is primus inter pares. And it is the gall of the imposition that explains the opposition to it by Russia, China and the rest who are not within it.

    This LIO thing has been under critique/assault/attack since even before it came into being (of whatever type of being that it is). It was merely the successful version of the order the Versailles powers attempted and of the Triple Entente that preceded that. People of good will, like the TAI staff, try desperately to understand the attacks and the criticisms as if they were made in good faith by persons trying to point out conflict or inconsistency within the confines of the political-economic “logical system” that is the LIO: reasoning from its values and principles leads, we are told, to false conclusions, therefore those values and principles cannot be sound. True believers in the order, like TAI, try to accept the criticisms and revise the set of axioms and propositions that constitute the logical system to restore the appearance of consistency. This goes on for years/decades. Yet the attacks continue.

    The Tawney observation quoted above just insults one’s intelligence. Socialists like him have insisted for 2 centuries that without material abundance, freedom and dignity are hardly possible. So according to the logic of socialism, any escapee from poverty has both his dignity and his freedom increased. Q.E.D. Talk about logical inconsistency!

    No, the answer is to be found, and only to be found, in Nietzsche’s observation that man would rather will nothingness than not will. This remark is the equivalent in both psychology and sociology of philosophy’s “Know Thyself.” The LIO is the creation of wills other than the critiquing/attacking wills. That is the reason it is under criticism/attack. That is the only reason. Russia and China seek to “destabilize” the US-led LIO solely and simply because it is the US-led LIO. To join it would mean to accept the will of the US (and the West), to have the order imposed on them; and regardless of the evidence demonstrating the human flourishing and prosperity that have been the direct result of this order, the need for one’s own will to prevail is far too strong to be suppressed by mere material success. It does not matter to Russia or China what kind of order (or lack thereof) might succeed their undoing of the LIO, whether it might be worse. Because that is entirely not the point.

    Trump is 99% will and 1% intellect, the exact reverse proportions of his predecessor. He was called to the office at this moment in history because it became clear to enough people that in the contest of wills that is, internally, progressivism versus centrism, and externally Russia/China versus the US-led LIO, intellect was utterly ineffective, as his predecessor proved. It has become so abundantly, crystal, clear that current politics, domestic and international, is a pure contest of wills (after all, Hillary was urged on us solely as a demonstration of the progressive will; her utter lack of qualification for the office was therefore a strength for progressives as her victory would have proved decisively the power of the progressive will; progressives figured this out after abandoning Hillary en masse in 2008 only to see all of the “credit” go to Obama’s saintliness) that a sufficient number of US voters intuited that only a will could effectively defend and promote the primacy of the US necessary to the maintenance of the very LIO that TAI claims Trump endangers.

    Politics not being an exact science, Trump may well prove to have been the wrong man at the right time. But it is obvious that someone like Trump is necessary if the LIO cherished by so many is to prevail (I would say “endure” but that is not what a contest of wills entails; one either prevails, or one’s adversary prevails).

  • Anthony

    Has 2016 been an annus horribilis vis-a-vis LIO? Adam Garfinkle is correct nostalgia, in any form, is an indulgence; he’s also accurate where he implies there is no consensus on what the liberal order is. Whether HRE or LIO, Shakespeare is on target: “what’s in a name.” In this case, more importantly, we infer a world view – shared by some and not others. Lying underneath essay’s objective is reality that Global power has shifted from the West to the rest and LIO has become a contested “Name”. Another view:

  • Psalms13626

    Must Garfinkle dedicate at least half of his essays admiring his own TDS? I mean, every. single. time….
    Other than that, I agree with him about crisis of leadership. Trump is the answer to that crisis.

    • D4x

      and he always does it with strings of words he thinks his fellow cognoscenti will understand, with bits of French and German as credentials.

      Ah, the typos: where [paragraph fourteen (14) ] LIO becomes ILO, and ‘were’ becomes ‘sere’.

      Reading Garfinkle is too much like finding yourself at a Tea Party, on the other side of the Looking Glass, never in Wonderland.

  • D4x

    Garfinkle’s belief in “the cooperative habits of mind, and the institutions that have arisen from them…have stood us in fairly good stead for the past seventy years” The evidence contradicts him:
    Frozen conflicts from Korea to Catalonia;
    Permanent refugees from Peshawar to Palestine; and
    Sacred borders drawn by colonial mapmakers, made especially sacrosanct by the African Union.
    Those “men and women of sober temperament” need to see the realities of reform in plain sight, or find something useful to do.

    “September 20, 2017 Vice President Pence Delivers Remarks at a UN Security Council High-Level Debate on Reform of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations”

    The Parable for the LIO, or ILO, or the Credentialed Classes to Ponder:
    “De Parabel van de Blinden”, door Pieter Breughel de Oudere, 1568 CE

    • Tom

      Given what happened between 1870 and 1945, however, Garfinkle has a point.

      • D4x

        Garfinkle’s point, while he dances with words in perhaps admitting the LIO needs a tune-up of it’s institutions, is “no amount of post hoc re-do speechwriter spin is going to change any sensible person’s mind” about the 45th POTUS.

        Most of what I hear and read from candidate, and President Trump is that institutions like the UN and NATO are no longer focused on their charter missions, serious reform is needed, and, with 20TRILUSD of debt, America is not longer the sole hegemon that she was in 1945.

        Ghenghis Khan had a point as well: it resulted in Pax Mongolica, and the Silk Road. 100 years of stability, rule of law that suppressed tribal and other wars; with thriving trade in goods and ideas; ended by the demographic collapse from transmission of the Black Plague.
        Genghis still suffers from a false reputation, probably framed by Byzantine historians 🙂

  • Joe Eagar

    “Randian, social Darwinist soul’.

    This is actually not an accusation I’ve seen leveled at Trump. In fact, that Trump is not a Randian is usually the one thing opponents and supporters alike agree on. For heaven’s sake, this is the man who told the House GOP to make their healthcare bill “less mean.”

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