Henry Kissinger’s World Order is an essential read to everyone who are really interested in maintaining Kant’s “perpetual peace”

In the wake of Charlie Hebdo attacks, the Western media is abuzz with long reports, intolerant condemnations and aggressive opeds by the high-profile intelligentia and world leaders. The New York Times described the attacks as “Clash of Civilizations”, while George Pakeru of The New Yorker called the attacks as the clash between free speech and barbarism. The Charlie Hebdo attack, however, was not a war against pluralism, tolerance or free speech as George Paker called it. It was, in fact, a counter-response to the abrupt failure of the western order and the collateral damage wrought by the breakdown of the western modernity project. For decades, the west credited itself as the architect of a civilized order and progenitor of such noble ideas democracy, pluralism and tolerance.

Pakistan Charlie Hebdo Protests Book Review : World Order By Henry Kissinger

Today, these ideas, as clearly attested by growing Islamophobia and anti-immigration euphoria in Europe, were exaggerated by the same west which fought wars, doing genocides and even killing other democracies to promote its “unique democracy”. From Libya to Russia, Syria to Pakistan and London to New York- the world is in an aggressive “global discontent”. One tricky question that is lingering on in the mind of every careful watcher of international elation is this; what is it that fueling this “global discontent”?, why contemporary world is simmering by the heightened instability, anarchy and discontent.

These questions have been amicably dealt in with systematic analysis in a new book, World  Order. Written by the former US Secretary Of State, Henry Kissinger, World Order is a terrible read for anyone interested in understanding the current turmoil in the global politics. “The order, the author wrote, established and proclaimed by the west stands at a turning point”. “The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis“, the author argues further.

The author as expected, credited the west for being the progenitor of the world order. In other words the author emphasized the emergence of world order as quintessentially a ‘western creation’.”The search for world order has long been the concepts of western societies”, the author wrote. The author, however, made a remarkable distinction between the European and American variants of world order. “The traditional European approach to order had viewed people and states as inherently competitive; to constrain their clashing ambitions, it relied on a balance of power. The American view, contrary, considered peoples as inherently reasonable and inclined toward compromise and common sense”, wrote the author.

The book circles much of the Globe, covering India, Europe, China and the Middle East. Four concepts of “order” attract most of his attention. The European system, specifically its Westphalian model of sovereign states, an Islamic system based on a wider idea of an ummah or community, a Chinese system based on traditional ideas of Middle Kingdom as a great regional power, and the American order, eventually dominant across the Globe, and now under unprecedented pressures.

henry kissinger world order Book Review : World Order By Henry Kissinger

The author, however, desperately characteristics the China’s and Islam’s historical role as conceptual”, a Utopian idea bereft of any practical application, while that of America’s role as “pragmatic”. Kissinger explained the imminent reasons for the decline of the world order and its overtaking by “usurped disorder”. He blames the new world disorder first on the unraveling of the modern state. “The nature of the state- the basic formal unit of international life-has been subjected to multitude of pressures”, the book noted. In Europe this happened by design, as part of the development of a union whose members have agreed to political sovereignty, at the expense of being an effective international actor.

In the Middle East, the state has corroded from neglect, dissolving into sectarian and ethnic conflict often exacerbated by outside powers. Second there is the mismatch between the worlds economic system, which is based on the free flow of goods and capital, and a political system that remains national. In the post-cold war world, International relations was characterized
by the dominance of two major approaches- Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis, which saw world collided in the entrenched wars driven not by the Ideology but by the culture (civilization), and Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis, which saw the twilight of all Ideologies and the emergence of western liberal-democracy as the only humane system of governance for the  21st century.

Kissinger’s World Order presents a view which is both anti-Huntingtonian, in that it recognizes the need to engage with civilizations rather than asserting the inevitability of their clashing; and anti-Fukuyamian, by arguing strongly that history and identity are central to societies perceptions of themselves today.

For centuries the west has an unnecessary tradition of imposing, emphatically, its hyper-imperialistic world order. After every major event, we saw new ideas born, new wars broken and new alliances forged. All imposed under the garb of “world order”, even if the states were left with no choice but to either side with the west or ready to destroy.  Enlightenment, Colonialism, Democracy and modernity are all western experiments in imposing its imperial project over the fragile world from Asia to Africa.

Today we live in a world, where revolution and rebellion met the same fat, where dictatorships are falling and democracies are failing, and the Orient and the accident are standing at the point of “inevitable collision”. The most obvious and potential reason of this “world anarchy”  is the abrupt failure of the world order.

The Kissinger’s World Order is an essential read to everyone who are really interested in maintaining Kant’s “perpetual peace”. Though an obliterated addition to western Orientalist project, World Order is an insightful and exhaustive study of the 21st century history, strategy and statecraft.

Publisher: PENGUIN

By: Bilal Ahmed

Image Source: 1, 2,

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