VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- Under the American global system, the principal actors are "monitors" -- various civil society groups and organizations, whose mission is to hold governments accountable. These watchdogs can even initiate the overthrow of democratically elected leaders deemed to have abused their power. They are often supported -- financially and politically -- by the U.S. and allied governments. This is also the case with global "democratic" movements, most of which are actually "pro-systemic" in the sense that their activities are fully compatible with the interests of American world empire. Truly anti-systemic voices, such as ecofeminism, Zapatismo, pan-Islamism and Marxism, "have been marginalized, contained, or worse."
It is not apparent that policymakers in either the U.S. or China yet seem persuaded that accommodation is necessary. Both seem to underestimate the resolve of the other and hope that they can secure all they want because the other will back down to avoid confrontation. This is how Asia today most resembles Europe in 1914.
This moment demands a fresh interrogation of what theologian Reinhold Neibuhr euphemistically called "the highly contingent achievements of the west," and closer attention to the varied histories of the non-west. Instead, the most common response to the present crisis has been despair over western "weakness" -- and much acrimony over what Barack Obama, president of the "sole superpower" and the "indispensable nation" should have done to fix it.
The West does indeed face a high risk of becoming overstretched. But what is the alternative, other than accelerating chaos, mushrooming security risks and serial humanitarian disasters? For the West, this dilemma cannot be avoided. Today's accumulating crises, accompanied by America's strategic fatigue, are forcing Europe to define what role it will play in the future of Western -- and global -- stability. If the U.S. can no longer bear the burden of Pax Americana, Europe must do more for collective security.
While elements of the old liberal order will survive, they will have to accommodate new actors and approaches that do not play to America's commands and preferences. The multiplex cinema is an apt analogy for today's post-American world. Several movies are running in different theaters within a single complex. Hollywood style includes thrillers and Westerns with violence, crime, ruggedness and heroism as prominent themes. Bollywood fare offers passion, tragedy, song and dance. Kung fu films produced in Hong Kong and Taiwan play next to patriotic and propaganda films from communist China. No single director or producer would monopolize the audience's attention or loyalty for long. The audience has a choice of shows.
Talk these days of the creative economy as soft power and a harbinger of world peace, ignores the huge struggles taking place between Google, Facebook no one hand and Baidu, We Chat, Tencent on the other, pitching the U.S. and China directly against each other in a cold digital war of online platforms, search engines and aggregation algorithms. It is very nice to assert the diversity of cultures in a globalized world. But this diversity is in reality dependent on some very hard issues of finance, intellectual property rights and communications infrastructures.
BUDAPEST - When it comes to geopolitics, there is always a market for gloom. Business has been booming in this respect lately, with The Economist, Foreign Affairs, and many less exalted journals full of claims that the global order is crumbling, America's ability (and willingness) to save it is in terminal decline, and the prospect of avoiding major conflict in the decade ahead is illusory. Plenty of recent events -- along with the ghosts of 1914 and 1939 -- have boosted the reputations, royalties, and revenues of today's doomsayers. There is Russia's adventurism in Ukraine; China's territorial assertiveness -- and Japan's new push-back nationalism -- in East Asia; continuing catastrophe in Syria and disarray in the wider Middle East; the resurgence of atrocity crimes in South Sudan, Nigeria, and elsewhere in Africa; and anxiety about renewed communal strife in India after Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi's stunning election victory. But, though global political conditions are hardly as good as they could be -- they never are -- there are plenty of grounds for thinking that they are not nearly as bad as so many are claiming. Here are the five most important reasons not to lose as much sleep as some pundits say you should.