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World Order

The main element of global scenarios is always a conceptualization of world order. The storylines unfold in more specific ways, tailored to the strategic conversation that is supported by a set of scenarios. My interest in Henry Kissinger’s book on World order stems from this perspective of strategic foresight.

Freija van Duijne | 9 augustus 2016 | 2-3 minuten leestijd

In that sense, it has given me a more in depth understanding of not only the Western view of World Order, but also Islamic and Asian concepts behind geopolitical actions. Kissinger’s theme of the main objectives of world order, legitimacy and the balance of power, can serve as questions on understanding future world order.

Kissinger is also right to point out that science and technology are the main governing principles of our time. Ninety-one years old, Kissinger may not be in place to oversee the implications, but more discussion is needed on the role of technology governance and its meaning for global rules and the balance of power. For anyone who is familiar with history, the book is not only a great fresh-up course, but also makes this history relevant for today’s thinking about world order.

The book has a centerpiece role for the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and the pluralistic system of sovereign states as the building block for world order. And later in 1814-1815 the Congress of Vienna, which poses the balance of power as the principle behind the international system of world order. Islamic visions on world order focused on religion as a vehicle for peace.

The book addresses this difference that we still see today in the political Islam and jihadist groups as ISIS. It also discusses Asia, and how it historically was forced to engage with the Westphalian systems of the European states. The Westphalian principle of non-interference is illustrated clearly in the example of Asian countries, in how differences are resolved by diplomacy. He analyses that the nature of country groupings has not bought an Asian system of order.

Kissinger is of course most well informed when he discusses American geo-politics. He analyses American leadership in international affairs as two different leadership styles: realistic and idealistic. The American sense of responsibility for world order and dedication to freedom and democracy, both led to great achievements such as the rebuilding of Europe after WOII and to involvement in unwinnable wars in ‘distant corners of the world’.

Although Kissinger writes with compassion about idealistic leaders such as Woodrow Wilson, the disillusions that come with idealism makes him take a realist stance. While Kissinger excels in his geopolitical analysis of world order, many influential factors are outside the scope of this book. The economics of trade relations that are often the motivation for interference in other countries is left out of the equation. Access to natural resources and climate change impact is affecting states in an unequal manner, which could have implications for the global balance of power.

Nonetheless, Kissinger’s analysis has put forward some very valuable insights for thinking about world order that connects history with the future and helps to discuss also contemporary challenges.

Over Freija van Duijne

Freija van Duijne was van 2013 tot 2018 voorzitter van de Dutch Future Society. Zij heeft meer dan tien jaar werkervaring als toekomstverkenner en strateeg in diverse overheidsorganisaties. Freija werkt vanuit haar bedrijf Future Motions en geeft trainingen en lezingen op gebied van toekomstverkennen.

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