What Are The New Baseline Global Interests?

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(President Barack Obama talks with Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, during the afternoon session of the G-20 Pittsburgh Summit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Penn., Sept. 25, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Former Special Assistant to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and International Institute for Strategic Studies Consulting Senior Fellow Nader Mousavizadeh has an excellent piece in Newsweek titled “End of the Rogue,” in which he argues that the United States should replace isolation with engagement as the core principle of U.S. policy toward regimes that have been (perhaps incorrectly) termed “rogue states.”
Mousavizadeh correctly points out that the very term “rogue states” implies that there is a unified international community that shares basic interests and values and is prepared to take coordinated actions to prevent ‘rogue states’ from circumventing these international norms. The concept of ‘rogue state’ also posits that the great powers are willing to put aside geopolitical rivalries to quell the threats emanating from these states. The notion that such a community exists today, however, is a predominantly American illusion.
Rival and rising powers including China, India, Brazil and Turkey have different interests, values, and threat perceptions than the West. This is evidenced in a variety of cases including Burma, North Korea, and Venezuela – but is most apparent with regard to the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Mousavizadeh points out, Brazilian and Turkish engagements with Iran “are demonstrating their intention – and, more important, their ability, to have a say in who the rogues are and how they should be dealt with.”
Mousavizadeh’s argument – which echoes many of the themes of a recent blog post by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett at The Race for Iran – represents a very important perspective on the need for U.S. policy to adjust to a multi-polar world. He does, however, leave one key question unanswered.
Mousavizadeh acknowledges that

What’s needed, more than a change in tone or a U.S. policy review, is a new set of baseline global interests – neither purely Western nor Eastern – defined in concert with rising powers who have real influence in capitals like Rangoon, Pyongyang, and Tehran. This requires a painful reconsideration of America’s place in the world. But it promises real help from rising powers in shouldering the financial and military burden of addressing global threats.

I believe this is absolutely correct, but I do not think that Mousavizadeh identifies what these “baseline global interests” are or even how we could arrive at them.
He does suggest a new U.S. policy toward rogue states based on

a complete end to broad economic sanctions, open and unfettered trade with the traditional commercial classes, educational exchanges for their students, and less restrictive travel policies on the broad population. Such a policy would stand a far greater chance of gaining support among rising and rival powers – as well as the peoples of the rogue states – and set in motion a chain of events more likely to result in greater security and accountable government.

This may be a correct policy prescription, but it is not really an articulation of “baseline global interests.”
What could those “baseline global interests” be? I don’t have the answer to that, but I do think that the “autonomy rule,” an idea espoused by Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for Europe Studies Charles Kupchan and Georgetown University Doctoral Candidate Adam Mount in the Spring 2009 volume of Democracy Journal, makes a compelling case for how the international community could identify those interests.
Keenly aware of the United States’ diminished international influence and the need for a new global social contract, Kupchan and Mount argue that a new world order should be based on the autonomy rule, meaning that “the terms of the next order should be negotiated among all states, be they democratic or not, that provide a responsible governance and broadly promote the autonomy and welfare of their citizens. The West will have to give as much as it gets in shaping the world that comes next…The Autonomy Rule stipulates that a state is in good standing when it seeks to improve the lives of its citizens in a manner consistent with their preferences.”
They continue

Employing these minimal and consistent standards for inclusion would not only increase the number of stakeholders in the international system, but would allow for a clear delineation of those states that do not deserve the rights of good standing. Washington would be able to take a resolution and principled stand agaisnt the few remaining predatory regimes – such as Sudan, North Korea, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe – that evince no apparent concern for the welfare of their citizens….
An order that welcomes political diversity would constitute a stark departure from the norms and practices that have governed international politics since World War II. Western norms would no longer enjoy pride of place; authority would not be concentrated in Washington, nor legitimacy derived solely from a transatlantic consensus. Instead, Western concepts of legitimacy would coombine with those of other countries and cultures, distributing responsibility to a wider array of states. By casting the net widely, a more inclusive order would encourage stability by broadening consensus, producing new stakeholders, and further marginalizing states that are predatory at home or abroad.

Kupchan and Mount then identify three key issues that must be part of a new consensus: sovereignty and intervention; reform of international institutions; and principles of commerce.
Their article is the best articulation that i have seen of how we can create order in today’s complicated, non-polar world.
For more on what the substance of a new consensus might look like, you can read Kupchan and Mount’s article here.
— Ben Katcher

Comments

13 comments on “What Are The New Baseline Global Interests?

  1. Dan Kervick says:

    This post seems about nine months out of date. The White House and US Congress are already cooperating on a bad cop/badder cop strategy for regime change in Iran. The die is cast.
    More with it commentary please.

    Reply

  2. JohnH says:

    The Hague? In a rich, white country? Maybe the UN should be moved to Dakar, Senegal. Or, even better, let the UN General Assembly vote on where it wants its headquarters located.

    Reply

  3. Carroll says:

    Posted by Dan E, Feb 01 2010, 3:03PM – Link >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Excellent ideas!
    And lets move the UN from NY to The Hague (Netherlands) where the international court resides…the court is the justice branch of the UN so they should be together.
    Then the right wingos can quit whining about how expensive it is to domcile the UN here.
    And… the US won”t be able to bar other state representives on their shit list from entering the country to appear at the UN.

    Reply

  4. Carroll says:

    From Kathleen’s link…
    “A former Central Intelligence Agency officer has confirmed US’ relations with the terrorist group Jundullah, despite the CIA knowing that the group has close links with the al-Qaeda. PressTv
    A former Jundullah member said this;
    US officials have repeatedly confirmed that the government has secretly encouraged and advised Jundallah as it fights the Iranian government. But Rigi insisted the US ties went well beyond encouragement.
    Not long after severing its ties with al-Qaeda, the group started a relationship with the United States government.
    That fact has never been disputed, indeed Rigi insisted that five years ago when the relationship began the US government gave the group $100,000 and promised to provide it with “everything we needed.” He also claimed that the US was directing the group’s attacks, saying “they told us whom to shoot and whom not to. All orders came from them.”>>>
    Typical….remember when we ‘supported” the Iraqis who were suppose to overthrow Saddam?
    The exiles who were suppose to overthrow Castro?
    Ad nausum.

    Reply

  5. Dan E says:

    Both Carroll and Don have nailed it dead center:
    “The UN was created for the very purposes so many global policy wonks obsess about. But yet the US in particular doesn’t let the UN have the teeth to service those purposes.”
    It can’t be stated any more clearly than as quoted above. Baseline Global Interests are precisely the fundamental purpose of the UN. There is no need to consider developing another organization which will simply duplicate the efforts of the horribly dysfunctional UN.
    The problem with the UN is the veto power of the five permanent members, especially the mis-use of that veto power by the unilaterally motivated US. There is one immediate solution to removing this unilaterally wielded obstructionist tendency: Simply rewrite or amend the charter to eliminate this unilateral veto power. All votes will pass with a simply 1 vote majority.
    If that effort proves unachievable then perhaps it is time to transfer the office of the UN out of New York where its ability to function objectively is always compromised by its location within the confines of US borders.
    Most of the world’s politically engaged population considers the UN to be nothing more than a puppet of the US anyway. Why not remove this biased factor from the equation?

    Reply

  6. Don Bacon says:

    I’ve wondered — how did those thousands of yards of green cloth suddenly appear on Tehran’s avenues and boulevards not so long ago, all that cloth with the tiny CIA logo in the corners that was carried by the ‘spontaneous’ Iranian demonstrators?

    Reply

  7. Kathleen says:

    Interesting thread over at Firedoglake
    http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/27580
    Iran’s Neoliberal Green Revolution is Over – Send in the Dogs of War

    Reply

  8. Carroll says:

    Posted by Don Bacon, Feb 01 2010, 12:19PM – Link
    Where has Mousavizadeh been? The world doesn’t need a new set of baseline global interests — it already has them in the UN Charter and in various other UN and multilateral agreements, most of which the US has failed to observe and will continue to slight in its quest for expanded empire and war profits
    >>>>>>>>>
    Yep…Don has nailed it.
    The UN was created for the very purposes so many global policy wonks obsess about..but yet the US in particular doesn’t let the UN have the teeth to service those purposes .

    Reply

  9. Carroll says:

    “The Autonomy Rule stipulates that a state is in good standing when it seeks to improve the lives of its citizens in a manner consistent with their preferences”
    I don’t see how this works either. It really doesn’t make sense. You gonna go by the majority of citizens or what?
    The majority in Iran isn’t revolting.
    Force elections and then ignore them as we did in Palestine? How about in countries like Saudi or Egypt or Cuba?
    Who is going to be the judge of whether or not a country is improving the lives of it’s citizens?
    The US isn’t acting in a way consistent with the majority citizens preferences or improving our lives.
    So?

    Reply

  10. JohnH says:

    Don Bacon is spot on. Most of the current problems stem from one “exceptional” nation feeling entitled to judge and direct the affairs of others.
    As for Mousavizadeh, he would replace the “exceptional” judge with a panel of exceptional judges, representing only the most wealthy and powerful nations? Give me a break.
    As Don Bacon notes, we already have a G-192, the United Nations. Why not vest the General Assembly with the power to establish a baseline set of global norms?
    As in US domestic affairs, the world needs to balance the predations of the most wealthy and powerful with a set of strong institutions that legalizes and protects the rights of all, and not simply enshrine the perks and privileges of the most powerful few.

    Reply

  11. Don Bacon says:

    Where has Mousavizadeh been? The world doesn’t need a new set of baseline global interests — it already has them in the UN Charter and in various other UN and multilateral agreements, most of which the US has failed to observe and will continue to slight in its quest for expanded empire and war profits.
    The rest of the world is moving on while the US bankrupts itself in fruitless foreign forays. The Non-Aligned Movement, the Shanghai Conference, the Africa Union, and other non-UN fora are become more important to bypass the US-controlled UN Security Council.
    This situation is highlighted by the insanity of calling Iran a “rogue state” when its nuclear policy is supported by a vast majority of the world’s governments, including its regional neighbors (except Israel), the 125-nation NAM, and other Asian countries such as China, Malaysia and India. There is no “threat emanating” from Iran, except to one to US/Israel sovereignty in the ME.
    A new consensus on sovereignty and intervention? What’s that all about, recognizing American Exceptionalism and Imperialism? Sorry, their day has passed, at least in regards to the world’s acceptance of them, if not in practice.

    Reply

  12. Josh Meah says:

    Ben,
    Excellent post.
    About the “autonomy rule,” maybe this is just semantics, but I’m unclear as to what the distinction is between promoting democracy around the world and promoting autonomy as interpreted by a local citizenry.
    To that end, I’m not sure their article (Kupchan et al.) adds much conceptual clarity to the question of what the U.S.’s role ought to be in a multipolar world.
    Either we enforce the “autonomy rule” or we don’t.
    We either continue promoting democracy around the world aggressively, or we adopt a posturing similar to Michael Lind’s “Concert of Powers” strategy.
    Of course the third option is just to stay the course, however incoherent as it may be.

    Reply

  13. David says:

    The concept of ‘rogue state’ also posits that the great powers are willing to put aside geopolitical rivalries to quell the threats emanating from these states. The notion that such a community exists today, however, is a (predominantly American) illusion.
    And this is the reality which, if it does not change in the direction of a global community working in consort to solve the real problems facing humankind, has a good chance of doing us in.

    Reply

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