Henry Kissinger described world order 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.” The instant article is an attempt to analyze the changing regional and global dynamics and their effects on the future “nature of just arrangements” and “distribution of power” at global level.
It is important to understand the processes of evolution and deterioration of world order. History is a tool to understand past, well play in the present and accurately predict the future. Henceforth, a historical pattern of nations regarding the world order will be the analyzing tool in hand to predict the future.
A retrospective look reveals that world order is constructed, preserved, modernized and destroyed by wars. The revolutionary wars serve as catalyst for the construction of the new world order by eliminating existing structures. This new order is then preserved and, sometimes, modernized by evolutionary wars.
It’s the war that destroys the existing political structure. In the post-war period, major powers sit together to modernize the existing structure or construct a new order with an aim to establish peace. This new order is then imposed on other nations across the globe. With the passage of time, this newly-constructed world order gets deteriorated, starts crumbling and ultimately becomes irrelevant to world affairs. Then start individual and collective endeavours to preserve or reconstruct the existing world order. The status quo countries manoeuvre to preserve the existing order while revisionist countries, on the other hand, realign themselves into blocs to overthrow that order. This continual struggle for world order, hence, becomes a catalyst to engage the revisionist and status quo countries in a war. If the latter emerge as the victors of war, they go all out to preserve the existing order, albeit with little modernization. However, if otherwise, the revisionist countries try to tailor that in their favour. Thus, the process goes on.
The aforementioned argument can be substantiated with historical facts. Take the example of pre-Westphalian world order, its decay and then the construction and preservation of the Westphalian system. Before the Peace of Westphalia, Rome’s imperial rule had established a single set of rules that constituted the world order at that time. With the disintegration of Roman Empire, however, the vision of harmony and unity focused on the church. Post-Roman European order was characterized by divided political elite with no hierarchy along with a certain, though ambiguous, loyalty to the church. The Catholic-Protestant divide was on the rise which led to the religio-political wars in Europe which lasted almost a century. This all culminated in the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-48. In these wars, combatants resorted to total war; resultantly, nearly a quarter of European population perished. Then European leaders met to define and reconstruct a new set of arrangements that would establish peace by terminating wars. Thus, in German city of Westphalia, the contemporary world order was born – commonly known as the Peace of Westphalia.
The new world order was globally imposed with wars. Similarly, it was preserved through Congress of Vienna 1815, French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars and, most importantly, World Wars I and II. The WWI modernized system of Westphalia adding fervour of International Labour Organization and the Treaty of Versailles, in 1919, whereas, the efforts for peace remained elusive and world again faced catastrophic WWII. Then again, the world order was preserved after modernizing it with the fervour of globalization, which was manifested in the establishment of United Nations Organization. Whether the post-war world was pacified or not is unclear; however, it is crystal clear that the world order did preserve with those wars.
Modern-day events are posing daunting threats to the contemporary world order – system of Westphalia – and our age is desperately in pursuit of a new concept. The rise in anti-globalization, protectionism and interference in the matters of other sovereign states are some manifestations. American strategy of aggressive unilateralism is on the rise, as the dropping of ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in Afghanistan and airstrikes in Syria suggest.
The struggle for realignments of regional and global alliances has started. The new blocs are emerging like Pakistan-China-Russia triangle. World has already transformed from unipolar to multipolar with the emergence of other power centres like Russia, China and Japan. Aggressive America, resurgent Russia, rising China and threatening North Korea may lead to a global war crisis. Those who would emerge as superpowers would modernize or reconstruct the new world order.
Pakistan wields huge importance in this scheme of things owing to its unique geostrategic location. With the successful completion of the game-changer project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the country will truly become an Asian Tiger. Different countries like Central Asian Republics, Russia, Turkey, Britain, France and Germany and others have shown interest in becoming a part of this project. This would turn CPEC into an opportunity for Pakistan to exert its influence not only at regional level but also globally.
Pakistan’s economy is getting stronger day by day and acts of violence and terrorism have witnessed a substantial decline. So, a geostrategically important, internally stable and economically-developing Pakistan that is also a strategic ally of the rising China would surely have a great influence on the emerging world order. Given all these opportunities, Pakistan must proactively, yet pragmatically, execute its foreign policy agenda.