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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: Kissinger’s World Order and Latin America

By Beatrice E. Rangel

Henry Kissinger’s World Order insists on a notion that has been utterly neglected for the past two decades to the world’s peril: balance of power. This notion which sprang from Westphalian Europe after the horrendously brutal Thirty Years War is key to restoring stability (but not peace, as the flower generation naively believed) to the world.

Stripped from all intellectual concoctions balance of power simply stands for a transnational play whereby several actors of similar relative power are balanced one against the other by a third party which by wielding its power behind one brings into fruition a super structure that keeps all players in check.

This quite civilized method of containment worked up and until the two world wars and thereafter during the Cold War period. Europe was the theater for world balance of power from the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 until World War I.

“The basic bargain was cuius regio, eius religio. A ruler could set the religion in his country, but it enshrined the nation-state as the building block of the European order,” says John Micklethwait, in his brilliant review of Kissinger’s most recent work.

During the Cold War the US acted as the balancing power in the western side of the playing field while the USSR was entrusted with the East side of the playing field -- albeit in quite a different fashion.

At the end of the Cold War, many believed the world to be marching inexorably towards peace and democracy. But three developments were to prove this notion wrong.

First, there was unbalanced growth in most “emerging markets” outside the Soviet camp. This meant that in the same nation state there were at least two development levels but most probably three or four. Thus there were citizens totally identified with the interests of the nation state; some indifferent and a sizable portion who felt “forgotten” by the nation state. The “forgotten” not only had no stake in the country but saw its institutional framework as Nubian slaves must have seen chains.

Under such conditions the majority of the world's nations are at best porous and at worst on their way to failure. In this situation, the world has a visible deficit concerning the rule of law. Rule of law is essential to the establishment of a worldwide balance of power because it seals sustainability into the nation state.

Then there was human creativity that unleashed the information revolution making possible for all citizens not only to connect transnational but to be able to see the flaws of their domestic leadership while ascertaining and being able to compare each individual’s lot to that of other fellow citizens. In the words of Micklewhait, “every incident is flashed round the world, everything becomes part of domestic politics, political careers are molded in public. Boldness, leadership and stealth are all more difficult.”

Finally there was the crisis of 2008 which weakened nations that had created relatively equal societies whose citizens were culturally diverse but politically similar in their abiding by the rule of law.
These developments have had the net impact of debilitating the nation state while rendering useless the international framework created in Bretton Woods to facilitate power balancing in the West.

We thus have an international system where chaos seems to be the reigning flavor. Left unchecked this state of affairs might have a cataclysmic ending.

“Chaos threatens side by side with unprecedented interdependence,” suggests Kissinger. Thus the pressing need to create an order. The world needs to be "able to balance the competing desires of nations, both the established Western powers that wrote the existing international “rules” (principally the United States), and the emerging ones that do not accept them, principally China, but also Russia and the Islamic world."

One step towards restoring order would perhaps be opting for the rule of law. In Latin America, many nations attempted this option once they awoke from the tyranny of dictatorships. But from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the burst of the Mortgage Bubble the process seems to have come to a stall.

Perhaps the sudden riches created by the commodities boom or the rise of Venezuelan financed populism played a role. But after this hiatus it is clear that the region will not be able to make any more development inroads without establishing a framework of rules of universal application that allow investors to feel secure; citizens to have faith in progress and enterprises to create more jobs.

Internal transformation would certainly lead to regional cooperation and this to the re-creation of institutions that facilitate power balancing. Perhaps the first step in this direction would be to free the OAS from its current predicament by laying it to rest along side the Pan-American Society and concentrating within the realm of the UN system to answer regionally and responsibly Kissinger’s questions: “What do we seek to prevent?” and “What do we seek to achieve.” Should this prove to be impossible to do as a region, it should be at least done by a group of responsible countries.

Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series

Beatrice Rangel: The Third Attempt -- Will Modernity Prevail in Latin America?

Rangel: While US is Away, Latin America Rethinks Development Paths

Rangel: In the Midst of Riots, a Star is Born in Brazil

Rangel: In Mexico Cinderella Gets to the Ball while Colombia Gets a Chance at Peace

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.

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