Foreign Policy

Living on a Multipolar Planet

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Parag Khanna has written an interesting article on the rise of the Second World, a phrase that no longer refers to the old Communist bloc but now entails something new. "Of the approximately two hundred states in the world today," Khanna reports, "only thirty are members of the First World club of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Meanwhile, the bottom forty-eight (mostly in Africa) are formally labeled Least Developed Countries. In between lie the Second World nations." These countries, he argues,

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, breaks through the mid-Atlantic to be born?

do not look to great powers for leadership, especially not the Western powers that have largely dominated the globe since about 1500, but they are also wary of leading challengers such as China. Instead, they will go their own way and influence events, to the extent that they can, based on their own interests. Their alignments with Western nations, if any, will be ad hoc. Second, these Second World nations are forging new regional-power relationships that will have an impact on future world events. Sometimes jockeying for position in their neighborhoods and sometimes forging potent regional cooperatives, they will become significant global players largely through strategic activity at the regional level. And third, these emerging nations will be looking for new modes of governance and new ways of ordering their economies. Western pluralism and capitalism aren't likely to reign as models for these countries to any significant or consistent degree, and their enthusiasm for the norms and institutions of today's liberal international order is likely to be limited….

Second World nations, in going their own way, will not move toward any kind of collective action. Instead, these countries see themselves as influencing the globe's new order by radiating outward from their particular vantage points.

The essay is part of The National Interest's special issue on "The Crisis of the Old Order," which includes several other articles worth reading, particularly Christopher Layne's "The Global Power Shift from West to East."

Elsewhere in Reason: See my fifth reason for optimism.

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  1. And third, these emerging nations will be looking for new modes of governance and new ways of ordering their economies.

    That’s their biggest problem right there.
    Their economies will continue to be shit until they stop trying to order them.
    Pretense of knowledge and all that.

    1. …their enthusiasm for the norms and institutions of today’s liberal international order is likely to be limited…

      This will help offset that pretense of knowledge thing. I hope.

    2. Didn’t RTFA. Upon what is this assertion based?

      1. The Second World is out for itself – collectively, when beneficial, but otherwise individually. To paraphrase de Gaulle: these countries have no allies, only interests.

        I think this is what he is getting at. You won’t see orgs. like NATO, or treaties joining them at the hip. They will only join each other when it makes sense to do so, otherwise not. If true, it actually seems like a better way to handle foreign relations.

        1. They will only join each other when it makes sense to do so, otherwise not.

          imagine…a nation putting its own interests first. Why, again, is that sort of thinking emblematic of Second World?

    3. Their economies will continue to be shit until they stop trying to order them.

      I agree, but how do we explain the anomaly of Singapore (e.g. the behemoth that is Temasek)?

      1. According to some Singapore is more economically free than the United States.

        http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

        1. I can only reply from personal experience, in that Singapore “cheats”. Their corruption is well hidden from prying eyes, but it’s there. The whole country is one giant zaibatsu.

          1. But are they a member of the Tekken Zaibatsu?

      2. Honestly? Any country can have an ordered economy as long as they make cheap consumer products to sell to us here in the states.

  2. Power is not shifting West to East, rather it is continuing its westward shift. The end of the cold war saw the end of a world that was oriented around the Northern Atlantic and Europe, it had been this way for over 500 years. The rise of pacific trade does indicate that nations with access to the pacific will have rising influence, but the United States, the only major nation in the Western Hemisphere besides Mexico that has access to both the Atlantic and the Pacific will continue to be a world super power. China will not be the next super power, they are effectively an island nation that is very poor and has historically had, and coninutes to deal with, major internal strife. I suggest anyone read the Next 100 Years by George Friedman. And just because I say America will continue to be a super power doesn’t mean our quality of life won’t go to shit. Power is relative, and anyone paying attention to global economics knows how shacky the world economy has become.

    1. Moreover it continues to confund me how individuals that complain about state intervention ruining the economic vitality of the United States forget that China has WAY more state involvement in their economies. But here is Chinas’ future in a nuttshell

      continued social unrest due to wealth disparity between the coast and interior regions.

      continued inability of the central government to deal with strife as power struggles fracture leaders along regional lines. And much like with the Nationalist goverment, regional leaders will ignore central government mandates which in turn will continue to fracture the nation.

      Chinas export economy will go under.

      Chinas property bubble will burst.

      1. Don’t forget the huge porion of male population that have no chance for a wife.

        1. Don’t forget the huge porion of male population that have no chance for a wife.

          As the men mature and gain wisdom, they will realize this is an asset, not a burden.

      2. Unfortunately, the Chinese dragon will do some thrashing around before it dies from its wounds. I wouldn’t want to be in India, Mongolia, Australia or Vietnam when that happens.

      3. but china has nukes which yield huge power changes

    2. What about Canada? I guess nobody lives there, but if the whole global warming thing pans out, they’ll be in a pretty good location for ocean based trade with just about everywhere.

      1. Too bad it’s filled with Canadians

        1. and those god-offel geese

      2. What about Canada? I guess nobody lives there, but if the whole global warming thing pans out, they’ll be in a pretty good location for ocean based trade with just about everywhere.

        Their single-payer healthcare will cause them death by a thousand cuts, and they have no interest in reforming that system.

        1. Are you saying that that is what prevents them from being a major nation, or that that will somehow prevent their ports and a possible north-west passage from being useful?

          1. I’m predicting that it will keep Canada from being a major nation.

    3. The clown at Stratfor said that Japan was going to be a big challenger, and will still be in the future. That 100 years books is good for a laugh, but I see computer game storylines as being more believable that the shit that Stratfor believes.

      1. Stratfor has been so badly wrong about so many things, I just assume that the guy is reading CIA intercepts and publishing them.

    4. The first half of Friedman’s book, where he focuses on demographics, is really interesting and well thought out. The second half of the book, where he goes through his WW3 scenario, is complete fantasy informed by nothing but Friedman’s imagination. I can’t recall another book that I’ve read that seemed so brilliant at the start and so idiotic at the finish.

      1. Nah, just do what I did and stop thinking of it as nonfiction and start thinking of it as fiction.

        Seriously the US and Eastern Europe versus a nefarious Axis of Turkey and Japan. Fighting in a war which involves missiles in space, power beamed down to mechs, and hypersonic strike aircraft? That would make a kickass movie.

  3. “Instead, they will go their own way and influence events, to the extent that they can, based on their own interests.”
    _

    now which liertarian nation does this best describe? hummmm (fingers tapping)….

    1. now which liertarian nation does this best describe? hummmm (fingers tapping)….

      Uhh, Somalia. Or have you not been paying attention?

  4. I thought “multipolar” referenced some new Global Warming bullshit.

    1. Aaaaah! The poles are splitting! Arctic wildlife will be confused which one to follow! It’ll be even harder to find Bydgoszcz!

    2. I was thinking more some kind of magnetic field thing.

    3. I thought “multipolar” referenced some new Global Warming bullshit.

      I thought they were describing my ex-wife’s personality.

  5. Aren’t we the Second World? I thought it was:

    1. Old World (Europe)
    2. New World (Americas)
    3. Third World – shitty places in Europe, Asia, and Central America).

    1. The second world refered to the communist countries in Eastern Europe and the USSR.

    2. What about Africa?

      1. africa = rand’s world

        1. There we go again, there is no Nobel prize for the worlds dumbest comments, but you would be a sure winner if there ever was one.

          1. I tried to out-dumb him, below, but I may have failed.

            1. jus having sum funz

          2. It’s rectal, dude. Stop playing her game.

        2. One rand is worth about 13?.

      2. Shit – I meant Africa not Europe as Third World. My fingers stuttered.

    3. They refer to the post-World War II world’s major geopolitical spheres of influence and their views on political society. As I understand it:
      -Westernized Democratic-industrial countries are the “First World”.
      -Communist-socialist states are the “Second World”.
      -States not aligned with either bloc are the “Third World.”
      -Those Mary Stack approves of are the “Fourth World.”

      1. That’s how I’ve always understood it.

        1. That this is no longer common knowledge is proof the Cold War is long gone.

      2. Its definitely time for an update.

        In the international investing world, there is the US and Europe, “emerging markets” (China, Russia, most of South America, like that) and “frontier” economies (Africa, others that haven’t or have just started to industrialize).

        1. Oh, I agree. The Cold War strata are largely irrelevant to current events… other than you can’t get my older relatives into a Vietnamese restaurant.

          1. Just tell them the vast majority of Vietnamese restaurants are owned and operated by Chinese-Vietnamese boat people or the children of said refugees. The ones that were on “our side”.

        2. Can we even call China an “emerging market”? They seem pretty well emerged to me. Mexico seems more an emerging market than China does.

    4. According to the article, his definitions are:

      …only thirty are members of the First World club of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Meanwhile, the bottom forty-eight (mostly in Africa) are formally labeled Least Developed Countries (LDCs). In between lie the Second World nations.

  6. “Living on a Multipolar Planet”

    I thought this was going to be about my ex-wife.

    1. Your ex-wife is so massive that her gravitational pull must be taken into account?

      1. She’s so bipolar she’s multipolar.

          1. Your mom.

            1. so which she?

              1. All of them.

          2. She’s so bipolar she’s multipolar.

          3. Also your girlfriend. Not that there’s any difference.

            1. Doh, wrong place. Damned squirrels.

              1. No, I got it right. Stupid non-labelled threads.

    2. “Living on a Multipolar Planet”

      I thought this was going to be about my ex-wife.

      Goddamn you and your time stamps.

  7. I think Samuel Huntington already covered this in “Clash of Civilizations”

    At the very least he offered a few similar replacement models for the obsolete cold war “First, Second, Third”-world framework, both economic and culturally-distinguished.

  8. mere anarchy loosed upon the world?

    If only.

    1. Pssh. What is mere anarchy compared to a life of swirling chaos?

  9. That’s funny–I just went to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.

    1. I just tried to watch Un Chien Andalou and found it to be unwatchable. His bizarre absurdist stuff doesn’t translate well to the silver screen.

      1. Dali meant it to be unwatchable. He wanted you to suffer. You personally.

    2. Seeing his paintings in person is incredible. I haven’t been to the St. Petersburg museum, but I did see a traveling show with some of his paintings. Reproductions and prints do not do him justice.

      1. I like him well enough. He was very skilled–a lot of his earlier works they have on display are in more traditional styles.

      2. I’m a big fan of Dali, but I have never seen his works in person.

        1. Find a museum that has his work and go. You won’t be disappointed. The density and detail of his work is amazing.

          1. The Dali Museum has a lot of his major works and is, I believe, the biggest collection of his art outside of Spain.

            1. The Dalai Lama?

              1. That’s the Dalai Museum. The Lama, of course, is no artist, but he’s a big hitter. His museum includes some original manuscripts, old mementos, and many of his golf clubs, personally used and blessed by the Lama himself.

          2. I know that posters and online images do no justice to Van Gogh’s work. I imagine it’s true for just about every painter.

            1. I’ve seen a couple of his in person. Great stuff. I have a reproduction of his “Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum”, which I’ve always liked.

              1. I’ve been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam twice. I also spent an afternoon in the modern art wing of the Puskin Museum in Moscow.

                I have Van Gogh’s Red Vineyard as the wall paper on my computer right now.

  10. You’re the best J. Walker, but didn’t you get enough of this in Poly-sci classes? That article reads like a relic from a previous era used as a bare palimpsest for some very moldy concepts with a few phrases of more recent vintage clinging to it.

    Somebody bought a copy of Without Marx or Jesus at the used book store, delved in it for an extended time and forgot what century they are in.

  11. whatever

  12. Second World nations, in going their own way, will not move toward any kind of collective action.

    Or any action at all. Only people act, not these arbitrary geographical spots.

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