From the Editor - October 2011

America’s role in the world is changing fast. Two decades ago, following the end of the Cold War, US President George Bush senior was competing with Mikhail Gorbachev to appropriate the phrase ‘new world order’. In March 1991, after the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, he made a key speech to Congress, outlining the sole global superpower’s approach to the Middle East. ‘Now, we can see a new world coming into view,’ he said. ‘A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a “world order” in which “the principles of justice and fair play...protect the weak against the strong ...”’ In the same speech, Bush stated: ‘Our friends and allies in the Middle East recognise that they will bear the bulk of the responsibility for regional security. But we want them to know that just as we stood with them to repel aggression, so now America stands ready to work with them to secure the peace.’

Throughout 2011, however, as bloody revolutions have unfolded across the Middle East and North Africa, America has been less keen to adopt this position. Over the past 20 years, there have been military interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as post-9/11 military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to have cost as much as $4.4trillion, contributing significantly to America’s $14trillion fiscal plight, which has remarkably widespread implications.

These implications are explored in our main feature (Uncle Sam and the new world disorder). Among the leading authorities quoted in the article is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was US National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, broker of the historic peace deal between Egypt and Israel in 1978. He sums up America’s current predicament well, saying: ‘Domestic paralysis and gridlock undercuts our capacity to deal with our domestic problems and take on a leading world role.’ Michael Mandelbaum, author of The Frugal Superpower, agrees: ‘America will do less and international relations will be transformed’.

James Lewis