Understanding World Order and International Order Book Review on World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course History By Henry Kissinger

By: Group 1  (Agus Badrul Jamal, Catur Hadianto, Edy Wardoyo, Noorman Effendi, Yuni Suryati).

Henry Kissinger, former US State Secretary, wrote a book “World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course History” which was first published in 2014. Kissinger says that there are three levels of order, namely World Order, International Order and Regional Order. The term World Order has been defined as the concept held by a region or civilization about the nature of just arrangements and the distribution of power thought to be applicable to the entire world. International order is the practical application of these concepts to a substantial part of the globe – large enough to affect the global balance of power. Regional orders involve the same principle applied to a defined geographic area.

world order
Courtesy of  www.amazon.com

Any one of these systems of order bases itself on two components: a set of commonly accepted rules that define the limits of permissible action and a balance of power that enforces restraint where rules break down, preventing one political unit from subjugating all others.

A consensus on the legitimacy of existing arrangements does not—now or in the past—foreclose competitions or confrontations, but it helps ensure that they will occur as adjustments within the existing order rather than as fundamental challenges to it. A balance of forces does not in itself secure peace, but if thoughtfully assembled and invoked, it can limit the scope and frequency of fundamental challenges and curtail their chance of succeeding when they do occur.

Moreover, Kissinger argues that today’s international system owes its overall resilience to the astuteness of 17th European statesmen. The modern state system emerged in 1648 after a century of sectarian conflict, when the bitter Thirty Years’ War brought together representatives of the European powers to establish the Peace of Westphalia. The treaties they concluded codified the idea of sovereign states as the building blocks of international order.

According to Kissinger, the beauty of Westphalian system was that it rejected universalism in favor of pluralism. Western ideas about states and politics have been imposed on other regions ever since colonial times, and they still compete with other, older visions of order and power that cannot be ignored. In contrast, early Islam was all about bringing mankind under one single political and religious order. This is particularly true in the Middle East. Today, the regional order is threatened by the form of both political movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, jihadist group, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Nation-states are still the main players in the international systems. Neither international institutions nor non-state actors play an important role. In this regard, not all that much has changed since 1814, when the European powers convened in Vienna to forge a sustainable system that, preserved peace on the continent for a century.

The international system is influenced by factors other than great-power politics and that there are other powerful sources of order and disorder—most notably the global economy, the environment, and technology development.

Where Do We Go from Here?

 On his book, Kissinger describes that a reconstruction of the international system is the ultimate challenge. The penalty for failing will not be major war between states but an evolution into spheres of influence identified with particular domestic structures and forms of governance. A struggle between regions could be even more hampering than the struggle between nations has been. The contemporary quest for world order will require a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions, and to relate these regional orders to one another. The domination of a region by one country militarily, even if it brings the appearance of order, could produce a crisis for the rest of the world.

To ensure a system of order, Kissinger explains that the quest for world order functions should be taken on two levels namely the celebration of universal principles needs to be paired with a recognition of the reality of other regions’ histories and cultures. World order cannot be achieved by one country acting alone. To achieve a genuine world order while maintaining their own values, its components need to acquire a second culture that is global, structural, and juridical. At this moment in history, this would be a modernization of the Westphalian system informed by contemporary realities.

To sum up, understanding the world, international and regional orders may help us portray the today world. That will require dimensions of statesmanship not yet seen on our troubled earth.


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