The liberal order: a talk with transatlantic expert G. John Ikenberry

Professor G. John Ikenberry was invited by the University’s British Journal of Politics and International Relations to speak to a crowd of almost one hundred students regarding the erosion of the liberal international order that arose after the end of the Cold War.

Ikenberry is famous for criticizing the “neoimperial grand strategy” executed by the United States and the Bush Administration during the early 21st century.

He claimed that such efforts would result in the weakening of international institutions and potential provocation of terrorist activity.

While Ikenberry alleged that the beginning of the end of the Liberal International Order began as early as the Iraq War or the 2008 Financial Crisis, he stated that 2016 displayed two unequivocal rebuttals of such an order by the two countries that were had the biggest hand in building said order, the United States and the United Kingdom.

In 2016, the UK elected to leave the European Union, and the United States elected Donald Trump as president.

Both actions clearly rebuked the united, international structure that had begun after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“Across the ages, it’s hard to think of states that had blown themselves up.

“Great powers come and go, order rise and fall but their death tends to be not by murder but by suicide and so it’s sort of like Rome being sacked but not by the goths or by the Romans, or by the Emperor, by Emperor Trump,” Ikenberry said.

“Nero fiddled, while Rome burned. Trump tweets.”

Ikenberry alleges that the Liberal International World Order was built within the bipolar system of the Cold War. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, said world order became the standard form of governance, rather than an insider’s club which countries had to behave a certain way in order to join – they had to be open democracies.

As a result, the bene ts of the liberal international world order became a public good, which all states could use.

Therefore, countries like China and Russia are able to bene t from the system without having to conform to all of its precepts. However, despite this seeming disintegration of the ties that unify the liberal world, Ikenberry stated that there were still sources of resilience that were trying to maintain the structures created.

Countries such as Japan and Germany are deeply tied to the liberal international order and are working to preserve it.

Further, Ikenberry stated, that due to the mounting global interdependence, countries need to work together in order to maintain the world economy and save the environment.

Ikenberry also reminded students of the importance of historiography. Reminding students that people in the 1930s did not realise they were living in the Great Depression, he encouraged students to think about what the implication of these actions were, and the potential construction of a new world order based on different systems or values. “We need to keep reminding ourselves, that we have been here before. The idea of liberal order in crisis looks particularly acute if you use 1989 as the benchmark. But liberal order was not created in 1989 nor was it in 1945,” Ikenberry said.

 

Image: Stinglemhammer via Wikimedia Commons

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