America and the World: The Power to Share Power

Oct 04, 2012

A new world is rising, in which growing disorder looms on every continent and in which global anarchy prevails.

In the Middle East, where tens of thousands of Syrians are dying in a civil war, we are reminded every day a bit more of the horrors of Lebanon in the eighties.

In the Far East, a nationalist "hysteria" in Japan and China, as Haruki Murakami put it recently, is creating the conditions of a large-scale conflict.

In Africa, the Eastern Congo is becoming hell on earth again, after it already was the death-place of 3 million victims since 1997.

All my experience in world affairs and in crisis management -- all the differences and debates of the past -- tell me that the key to this disorderly and complex world is in the need for every country to find its right place. It's not an easy task. For this, we need perspectives from outside, we need to make the effort to see ourselves through the eyes of others. I'm convinced that the presidential race will be decisive. I don't wish to interfere in the political debate of another nation. I have too much friendship, respect and sense of independence for that. But I'd like to give a few ideas on my vision of America's role in the coming world, because peace is at stake.

What is the temptation today for America ? It's to imagine a simple world, it's to revive the world of yesterday, it's to summon up a "new American century" based on strength. It's, in a nutshell, to imagine a future in which there's one bottom line, the opposition between China and the U.S. How reassuring it would be to have a foe again, a foe to whom you could in a way feel close. That's the best way to forget about everything else. What happened during the Cold War? The strategy against the Soviet Union paid in the end. But everywhere else? In Latin America, in Africa, in Southeast Asia, it was certainly not the case. Let's not make that mistake again.

Because, in fact, the new world is very different from the one policy makers in America imagine.

This world will be a world without friends or foes, a world dominated by the coexistence of "froes" that can be, depending on the circumstances, partners, rivals, adversaries. That's unavoidable in a world dominated by the scarcity of resources and by the emergence of new powers. The time of superheroes and their nemesis is gone. But it can become a world of wolves, where each great power is preying on the smaller countries, or it can become a world of elephants in which each superpower needs some space of its own for peaceful coexistence.

This world will be a world of checks and balances, because globalization creates more interdependencies than ever before and that's why domination or anarchy will be equally unbearable. America must accept outside its borders what it was able to create within, a lasting and balanced system that guarantees stability and diversity. In the last decades, the U.S. have been acting on the world scene in the same way as a president would have within the country if he had said: never mind Congress, they never agree; never mind the Supreme Court, they are always blocking action. The United Nations are imperfect. The International Penal Court is too. But are the domestic institutions really infallible?

This world will be a world of compromises and not a world of strength. No single state, not even the U.S., not even China in twenty years, will be able to tackle the global challenges on their own, neither financial and monetary stability, nor climate change, nor collective security. That's why we'll need a new governance and a new international architecture.

Are the United States adapted to this new world? In no way. And the political debate won't help because the media know only black and white, because bipartisan rule can't differentiate domestic policy and foreign policy. That's true in all modern democracies and we experienced it in Europe and France in the last months.

But America has it in its guts to accomplish this inner transformation, to become the seed of a global evolution of our common world, to become a second generation power, an evolved power capable of doing what no other power has done before, sharing power after having reached the peak of its power. Its destiny and its universal message of freedom are still needed. The promise still needs to be fulfilled, but by other means. Our new world has become as interdependent and connected as an organism.

A central power is a connected power, and not a power in free fall, a power whose existence and stability is the guarantee of all common rules and institutions. This means accepting the sometimes annoying entanglement in collective regulations and institutions, the only source of legitimacy.

A central power is a collective power, and not a lone rider, a power who is strong only because at its side there are other countries that hold together. This means finding balanced, allied powers in all regions so as to prevent the apparition of dangerous voids. This also means redefining the role of NATO to be more than a simple passive instrument. There's always the temptation to think you would do things better by yourself than by depending on others. That's a mistake for managers and entrepreneurs but also for states and policy-makers. Let's face it, the excess of American power has created a gap of power and in some regions a dangerous void of power. That's one of the keys in the Middle East and that's a role Egypt should become able to play. That's a role Iran should have been allowed to play a long time ago, before it erred. And the United States also need a strong Europe at their side.

A central power, in the end, is a building power, creating a stable architecture for the world and taking initiatives to keep this architecture alive, because the complexity of the world asks for a stronger architecture and cannot rely on the initiative of single powers. This needs to be done on three levels today.

The world needs go-betweens and fosterers of dialogue. That's the traditional role of countries like Sweden or France. That's today also the role of Turkey, Qatar or Brazil. They are the synapses that can make the world evolve, get smarter, get more in touch with itself.

On the second level, crisis solving can be achieved only through collective regional organizations that should be put in charge of all mediations, in the Middle East with the Arab League or in Sahel with the African CEDEAO. For many of these organizations, the European Union, despite its difficulties, is still a historical role model. Too often, the United States tend to prefer bilateral dialogue with each state to a discussion with collective entities they don't understand very well.

On the third level, the world needs global responsibility through a renovated Security Council based on common principles and on the capacity of concrete initiative. This Security Council needs to be more representative of today's world. We also need the G20 and G8 to be more efficient, through the creation of a permanent secretariat.

More power, less domination, in a way that's the mantra for the transformation of America in the coming decade. That's what needs to be organized in the Middle East, in the transatlantic relationship, in regard to China and the Far East, when it comes to North-South exchanges. Yes, as a French citizen, as a citizen of the world, I believe for America to be faithful to its mission and its destiny is to learn the power to share power. After the time of "nation-building" has come the time of "world-building".

The alternative, fleeing to the past, staying prisoner of a choice between weakness or strength, would have dire consequences: more domination, less power.

It's a time of choices. For America. For the world.