Conducting foreign policy in a converging world

Published 13.03.2019 00:06

As the dynamics of global politics have been steadily changing in recent years, countries now have to cope with mounting challenges in terms of charting their international directions. Despite all counter arguments, increasing global convergence is fast becoming one of the cardinal characteristics of the current world order, and an effort is required to ascertain how this trend should inform foreign policy. The burning question facing all states today is whether they should define themselves as part of the global village and adopt a global consciousness/morality or if particularistic national identities should continue to inform their external relations.

While the world has already become a much smaller place as the speed and density of global interactions have tremendously increased, mainly owing to technological progress, many people all over the world have simultaneously been revolting against the unifying and standardizing consequences of the globalization process. The idea of a global village is now fiercely contested on the ground of ethnic, religious, ideological and nationalistic particularities.

Adopting realpolitik on a global shift

Nonstate entities like al-Qaida and Daesh have waged a global war to help solidify the inherent differences between Islamic and other civilizations. On the other hand, adopting a realpolitik worldview, Russian and Chinese leaders have recently intensified their efforts to help weaken the legitimacy of existing global institutions by incessantly pointing out the wisdom and virtue of doing things in the Chinese and Russian ways. Nationalism and parochialism have also witnessed a revival in allegedly developed and post-modern Western societies. A growing number of people living in the United States and leading European countries now argue for turning inwards and adopting protectionist measures to hold off a myriad of global challenges. Besides, many Western leaders have failed to come to grips with the reality of changing power balances in favor of non-Western nations. While we are fast moving toward an Asian century, it is odd to see an orientalist tone still shapes how Westerners communicate with non-Westerners.

At stake now is how to formulate wise policies to foster global convergence, while resisting the temptation of divergence and particularism. The world is becoming a much smaller place, as the circulation of goods, capital, technology, ideas and people is now much easier and faster than ever. This suggests that decision makers would do well to adopt a more global and universal consciousness, while formulating and implementing policies, for nowhere is out of reach today and what happens in far distant places is likely to have vital economic, social, political and security consequences at home.

Global solutions are needed

Of particular note is that since the early post-Cold War years, security has in fact been broadened and deepened to incorporate non-military issues and nonstate actors. The prioritization of human security has contributed to the strengthening of such concepts as "global village," "common security," "responsibility to protect," "democratic peace," "democratic global governance," "internal legitimacy" and "accountable governments." State leaders are no longer immune to external criticisms whenever they impinge on the fundamental human rights of their subjects and fail to eradicate the roots of structural violence at home and abroad. In a converging world, good practices abroad tend to have significant political repercussions at home.

In this converging world, many problems require global solutions. Differences in the material power capabilities of countries do not count much in the face of intractable, complex and multifaceted global problems. For instance, the failure of the United States to bring long-lasting stability and peace to Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates vividly the paucity of unilateral, top-down, hard-power oriented and parochial solutions to emerging security challenges.

Similarly, the negative consequences of the financial crisis in 2008 could only be mitigated through the strong involvement of G20 members in the economic decision-making process at the global level. In today's world both developed and developing countries are in the same ship regardless of the fact they sail in different cabins.

This leads one to argue that without China and other non-Western rising powers being incorporated into existing international organizations as equal and responsible stakeholders, neither those bodies could be seen as legitimate nor could the principle of democracy be institutionalized at the global level. If the principle of multilateralism were to remain valid in today's existing world, global institutions should be restructured on the basis of inclusivity. It is now nonsense to morally defend the idea that the International Monetary Fund (IMF)should always be led by a European national whereas the World Bank by an American.

Despite the conjectural popularity of "Trumpian firstism" in the U.S. and many other countries, the 21st century is unlikely to be the century of lone wolfs that think they could protect their material interests and preserve their identity by erecting waterproof walls around themselves.

Ideologies should be redefined

This also suggests that the ideology of nationalism should be redefined in such a way as to accord with increasing global convergence. Foreign policy in today's world should be undertaken with the ideology of global nationalism in the background. Borders are no longer impermeable, and it is the responsibility of leaders to help inculcate their subjects with global consciousness and morality. Unlike globalism, which seeks to unite people of the world under common universal rules and norms if not a world government, global nationalism professes that increasing interactions with "others" should lead leaders, elites and people alike to redefine nationalism in congruence with global consciousness and awareness. While conventional nationalism runs the risk of separating "us" from "others," global nationalism holds out the promise of instilling "courage" and "audacity" in all of us to contribute to the emergence of a global village in which distinctive national characteristics can survive in an increasingly converging world.

Despite the fact that cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic differences are still relevant in terms of how people define their identities, such particularities should not prevent humanity from fulfilling common aspirations, such as having access to a clean environment, a modest income to live a good life and the capability to travel easily.

No matter how attractive populist, mercantilist and protectionist measures have become in recent years, the world has fast become a highly integrated and interdependent place in the realm of politics and economics. Despite the fact that free-market oriented capitalism and liberal democracy are not the only games in town with respect to development and political maturation, many people around the world seem to yearn for similar values, such as good governance, the accountability of leaders, the rule of law and sustainable economic development. The challenge is to seize the moment and invest in the ideology of global nationalism.

* Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Antalya Bilim University

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