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World Order.

World Order. By Henry Kissinger. New York: Penguin Books, 2014. Maps. Index. Notes. Pp. 420. $36.00 ISBN: 978-1-59420614-6

Once again, Henry Kissinger, now 91 years old, has written a lucid, well-structured, very readable and informed work. This one analyzes international systems that have served as a basis for world order and examines the various challenges ahead for a workable system. The genesis of this book is in the need to address the ultimate international problem today--the crisis in the concept of world order.

In just under 400 pages, Kissinger takes the reader from the Westphalian system established in 1648 to the current Islamist crisis, addressing the various concepts of world order that have influenced international relations in the modern era in Europe, Asia, and America. He especially focuses on the currently dominant vision of world order--the Westphalian system--which was conceived in response to a horrific 30-year-long war in central Europe, to establish a balance of power and reasonable harmony between states. It did so by institutionalizing an international order on the basis of agreed rules and limits and based on a multiplicity of powers rather than the dominance of a single country. Thus, a balance of power became the key to prevention or mitigation of conflict.

Following Napoleon's disruption of the system, the Congress of Vienna restored a balance of power, bringing 100 years of relative peace to Europe with the exceptions of bilateral and limited wars leading to German unification. Kissinger then points out how German unification and a rigid alliance system across Europe in the post-Bismarck era practically made the catastrophe of World War I inevitable. He also provides cases where the system was marginalized--the Napoleonic era and World Wars One and Two--to demonstrate how essential it is as a basis for maintaining a semblance of international stability and peace. Most important, he examines America's rejection of alliances until it emerged as one of two dominant world powers. The American vision of itself, he tells us, is that it has had universal principles driving its participation in global events, while other countries merely have national interests. For much of its history, America distained the Westphalian concept and the European system of alliances as fundamentally immoral. It pursued its own agenda of empire building (Manifest Destiny) by justifying it as ordained by Providence. Woodrow Wilson's crusade to change the very nature of governments and the relationships between nations was a consequence of America's unique view of world order.

Kissinger assesses nuclear weapons proliferation as the overarching strategic problem for the contemporary international order. He sees this of critical importance, because non-state actors have no reservations on their use, and emerging nuclear states may fail to control their employment. Additionally, in a multipolar nuclear world, the balance of power may be upset, multiplying the possibilities of nuclear confrontation. In a separate section, Kissinger discusses the impact of information technology on world order, stating that cyberspace challenges all of humankind's historical experience. The challenge presented is especially disruptive to order, because internet technology has made it is easier to initiate cyber attacks than it is to defend against them. Cyber warfare then becomes equivalent to actual armed attack, but without international rules for acceptable levels of response.

World Order is illuminating. However, there was some difficulty where Kissinger maintained that the invasion of Iraq was consistent with America's values in defense of the free world and the ending of tyranny. If that were true, then the United States should have been invading scores of undemocratic countries in all comers of the world. Kissinger does make it clear that, because of a number of factors in the Middle East, the goal of building democracies where none have existed, given the presence of significant and nearly insurmountable obstacles, has resulted in a Sisyphean nightmare in Iraq. That nightmare has grown in dimension with the jihadist extremists stepping into the power vacuum and seizing huge swaths of territory as they spread their terror.

Kissinger has highlighted the most important issues currently confronting world leadership and provided intelligent insight into those issues. His descriptive language makes it completely accessible to non-academic readers who may not necessarily be familiar with the background, concepts, strategy, or nature of world order. This is an important book and must be read.

Col .John Cirafici, USAF (Ret.), Milford Deleware
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Author:Cirafici, John
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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