(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.”
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