A New Test For ‘The Order’

An exploration of what COVID-19 may symbolize for the West given historical context.

George+H+W+Bush+as+he+delivers+an+address+before+a+joint+session+of+congress+after+the+culmination+of+Operation+Desert+Storm.+

Politico

George H W Bush as he delivers an address before a joint session of congress after the culmination of Operation Desert Storm.

Lord Toussaint, Chief CSN Political and History Correspondent

“Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, ‘a world order in which the principles of justice and fair play protect the weak against the strong. . . .’ A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations. The Gulf war put this new world to its first test. And my fellow Americans, we passed that test.”

– President George Herbert Walker Bush

President Bush said these words in an address before a joint session of congress on March 5th, 1991 five days after the Persian Gulf war came to a close and Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait after their prior annexation of the country only seven months earlier.  Three years earlier, the Berlin wall and the Iron Curtain had fallen and as President Bush said, there was a, “very real prospect of a new world order.” A world that would not be defined by “Cold War stalemate,” but instead by its ability to rally together in the pursuit of protecting all the principles of freedom and human rights that it would come to hold dear.

By that point the United States had been the clear leader of the West and protector of these principles for over forty years. After WWII and the defeat of that Axis’ fascist dictatorships, the West established a “New World Order,” that stood for, “justice and fair play,” but, it was not complete. While the dictatorships of Germany, Italy, and Japan may have been toppled by the war, the other great totalitarian state of the world hadn’t been. That state was the Soviet Union…

While the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom may have been allies during the second world war, they couldn’t have been farther apart ideologically. The Soviet Union was a communist dictatorship, while The United States and the United Kingdom were capitalist democracies. In other words, they weren’t meant to be allies. They were forced to joined forces only in the face of a common enemy. Essentially, they went by the rule that:

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Well shortly after that enemy was defeated and the spoils of war divided (aka the world) they weren’t all that buddy buddy anymore…

And so, with the world divided and both sides hunkered down in their respective lands with their nuclear weapons and their bitter mutual hatred public, a war for the fate of the world ensued… that war, was the Cold War…

By 1991 though, that war was waning, and victory was on the horizon… The Soviets were on their way out and President Bush was right. When the world came together in the face of totalitarian adversity, it showed that it was ready. It had passed its “inaugural test” and come the end of that same year, the Soviet Union would fall on the 26th, of December, 1991 bringing an end to an era and ushering in the beginning of a complete “New World Order” where the United States was that sole superpower of the world.

Gradually though, as the 2010’s drew on, ‘The Order’ became more and more undermined as new powers emerged while the United States began to recede from the world stage after squandering its twenty-year period of complete dominance. Today, twenty-nine years after the fall of the Soviet Union, we face a new test: a global pandemic. For the first time in over one hundred years the world has come to a literal screeching halt due to a global health emergency. The world though, has changed since the last pandemic, as has the idea of global power. This raises many questions. Such as: What will this mean for the Order? What will it mean for the United States, for the structure of global power? But above all, I ask: Given context, what will it mean and symbolize in history?

The greatest difference between 1918 and 2020 is technology and globalization. It is the global connectivity brought by globalization that allows for the immediate spread of crucial information that can facilitate a cohesiveness global medical response. The development of vaccines, medicines to combat COVID-19, epidemiological data, and the spread of useful general knowledge have made the response of the medical community quicker and more efficient than any before it.

The magnitude and increase of globalization under the era of ‘The Order’ has also provided the United States its unique sense of legitimacy throughout the world as a power. Making it a true first for global power in history. Like the United States itself was a great experiment for Republican Democracy, the New World Order is an experiment for presiding over a globalized world. If one thinks about it, centuries ago there could have been more than one great power ruling what it thought to be the entirety of the world at a time, not knowing that across the oceans and mountains there were others that thought the same. The notion of solitude and isolation from the rest of the world is almost nonexistent today. The entirety of the world was known by 1991 and therefore after the fall of the Soviet Union, all the civilized world knew that the United States was the greatest, undisputed, and sole superpower on the earth. Globalization confirmed the position of the United States and its values, giving it a true sense of legitimacy greater than that of any nation-state before it. As the communication revolution swept the world over the next decades, the United States would continue to hold this esteem, but eventually, it would be rivaled once more.

After 1991, the only enemies that the United States faced were rogue dictators and faceless terrorist groups. So, the United States, went headfirst into multiple conflicts as if they were crusades to purify the world and rid it of its final greatest evils. These were the infamous Iraq War and the War On Terror. The United States was on a power high fighting year after year in ‘endless wars’ as they would come to be known; destabilizing regions even further and having to rebuild countries from the ground up afterward, remaining in Iraq until 2011.

Eventually, the American people grew tired and their leaders (and aspiring leaders) noticed those sentiments and played to those sentiments. This resulted in a gradual retreat from the world stage. President Obama allowed Russian ally Assad to bombard his own people. Russia invaded Crimea and continued to back the Syrian regime, gradually taking steps to affirm more and more regional supremacy. China itself began to rise as an economic powerhouse ominously with the clear intention to overtake the United States as the globe’s largest economy.

Insert Donald Trump and ‘America First’ and things get a whole lot worse a whole lot quicker. China has continuously defied the demands of ‘The Order’ by continuing its illegal annexation and expansion into the South China Sea. China undermines ‘The Order’ through its marginalization, targeting, and imprisonment of innocent Uighur Muslims. Lastly, it vies for influence in Africa by investing heavily in African infrastructure in order to garner more diplomatic support in the UN. President Trump allowed the Iraqi regime to violently put down a Kurdish referendum for independence. President Trump allowed Turkish forces to invade North Easter Syria and wage an offensive against the United States’ Kurdish allies after he unilaterally withdrew troops from the region. Under Obama, but more notably under Trump, the United States began to back into its own corner of the world isolated by the Pacific to the west and the Atlantic to the east.

There is no doubt that the United States has lost power and will continue to do so under ‘America First’. President Trump likes to say that America is feared and greater than ever before. But one must ask, is the United States feared for its power or for its evident disregard and newfound recklessness towards its duty which is supposed to be to defend the values it adheres by.

‘America First’ is another form of a  Jacksonian ‘rattle snake’ mentality, which translates to, “we won’t hurt you unless you hurt us and if you do hurt us, we’ll hurt you harder.” Such an approach works for a middle-sized country and a formidable military power like the United States was in the 1830’s. But it can’t work for a superpower if that supper power chooses to withdraw its political influence on the world stage and resort only to boasting its military power.

Sadly, Americans don’t care about foreign policy at all, which might be exacerbated by a lack of global news coverage. That is a stereotype about us Americans, and it shows that many of them are happy to say that they have that unrivaled power but actually don’t seem to put in the work to fulfill that great responsibility. Americans are shortsighted and with reason. When they witnessed endless war, they grew tired. That was the product of the mismanagement of the twenty-year period.

But the thing is,  you can’t be a global supper power with a Jacksonian rattle snake mentality and certainly if the people want that title but not that burden. This is because a global super power can’t just “attack unless provoked directly,” and not take part in global affairs. In essence, this is the opposite of a superpower. A global supper power can’t be isolated. Sadly, it must take part in every aspect of foreign policy and not be ignorant about the world it attempts to dominate. This must take place in order to prevent the need “to attack unless provoked directly” in the first place. But again, the people of the United States are tired and have allowed themselves to become divided under what vision of America ought to be a reality. “America First,” is natural after such ardent mismanagement, but Americans have to make a choice as to which reality they rather… that is the real quid pro quo we should be thinking about…

Now, insert the Coronavirus. All the world has halted and, in some ways, ‘The Order’ can stop appearing like a fledgling child which likes to give off the appearance of boyish brute strength. At the same token though, that weak minded and sick child is now a King presiding over a fracturing empire that has now been struck by disease. It has brought about great economic hardship, a great reversal of globalization, and mass uncertainty.  As the opposition continues to grow and as we face these prospects, it seems that a sickly child has been struck down by a horrible plague. But the question remains, will the United States get back up? Surely, but will it take with it the fledgling “New World Order” with the same old-word vigor, youth, and determination as it has demonstrated being capable of in the past? Will the enemies continue to rise? Surely.

But let us remember what a global pandemic can mark: the last one marked the death of monarchy and the death of an era after its subsequent decline.

While others have marked times of great enlightenment. Which will this pandemic mark? The beginning of ‘The Order’s’ re-invigoration or the beginning of it’s true end.

That depends on two things: how we act during the pandemic and how we act in the aftermath…

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