Friday, February 19, 2016

The Changing International System - Consistently Inconsistent

One of the only consistencies of international political history is that the consistency of lasting international norms consistently proves to be inconsistent. What on earth does that mean? Phrased a more coherent way, the international system continually changes. To help us think a little more about that are three columns from a notable thinker, writer, and opinionist, Thomas L. Friedman.

Now, I know Friedman is a polarizing figure. Some like him. Some like his thoughts. Some abhor him. Some think his thoughts are thoughtless. Therefore, do not look at what he says strictly for the validity of the content. Rather, consider the potential for future international arrangements that look and act differently than they do today. The problem with international norms and the so-called status quo is that they are time-space dependent. In the moment of a status quo period, it is hard to imagine anything but the current normative state.
Prior to August 1914, the world never imagined that four years later, the entire international system would change, especially regarding a shift to formalized collective institutions and a reorganized Near East, what we now call the Middle East. Can we imagine an international system that looks and acts drastically different than it does today, with an E.U., the current order (or disorder) of the Middle East, prevailing regional alliances like NATO or ASEAN, etc.? The answer is probably not. The answer historically, is probably so.