As Henry Kissinger observes in this magisterial book, there has never been a true world order. For most of history, civilizations have defined their own concepts of order, each one envisioning its distinct principles as universally relevant. Now, as international affairs take place on a global basis, these historic concepts of world order are meeting. Every region participates in questions of high policy in every other, often instantaneously - yet there is no consensus among the major actors about the rules and limits guiding this process, or its ultimate destination. The result is mounting tension.
Blending historical insight with prognostication, World Order is a meditation from one of our era's most prominent diplomats on the 21st century's ultimate challenge: how to build a shared international order in a world of divergent historic perspectives, violent conflict, proliferating technology and ideological extremism.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger elicits strong reactions; the man some call "war criminal" also won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. At 91, he is still crafting his own record and place in history. A fixture in international politics since the 1960s, Kissinger argues that, assisted by the U.S., the spread of independent sovereign states, democratic aspirations, and global networks in communications, finance, and health have brought the "enterprise of world ordering... to fruition." Kissinger's guiding principle is what he calls the "global Westphalian system," named for the 17th-century treaty that ended the 30 Years' War. In studying the U.S.'s role in this system, his main theme is the "contest between idealism and realism" in American foreign policy. Kissinger's section on the Middle East focuses on U.S. partner Saudi Arabia and adversary Iran, but sidesteps the elephants-in-the-room of Israel and world oil. While considering the threat posed by the acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue states, he also discusses the possibility, tenuous as it may be, of rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. Some readers will feel Kissinger whitewashes the Bush administration's legacy in Iraq and the Middle East. Others will ask if Kissinger's stark title is ironic, given sharply escalating international conflict. Nonetheless, Kissinger's thoughts, grounded in some 50 years of experience, deserve a wide, attentive audience that should include anyone interested in foreign affairs or the global future.