Sorry, America, the New World Order Is Dead

from In the 1990s, it was possible to believe that a new international order had replaced the bipolar system of the Cold War. Memorably dubbed the “new world order” by President George H.W. Bush, it was characterized by the peaceful settlement of disputes through international courts, universal human rights, international criminal justice, and free trade and investment. Above all, the new liberal order emphasized international rule of law — the idea that international law and legal institutions would be the major source of global organization. It was not a coincidence that this order emerged after the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving the United States the sole superpower — and American politicians, commentators, and intellectuals supremely enthusiastic about it. Today, this order is breaking down, the result of the decline of U.S. power and hence America’s ability to enforce its values and interests abroad. While many American intellectuals believed that the order reflected the consent of foreign elites to a self-evidently superior system of international organization, it in fact represented their acquiescence in the face of superior power. Now that this superior power is gone, so are the norms that it promoted.

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