Challenges are clearer than ever. The rise of demagogue leaders on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean has been a setback to a liberal world order that was the model for a welfare state only a few years back. Now, the masters of that order are pursuing the policies of realist thinkers and consider liberal policies a threat to national security.
Violation of human rights and other humanitarian issues are no longer the point of discussion; rather, the focus is on survival and zero-sum games, with few expectations. The recent behavior of the United States at international forums was a practical manifestation of the rise of realism. For the US, the only thing that matters is “national interest.”
Many people are threatened by this development, yet the liberal world order was attractive only at face value. The allies and competitors of the US during the previous decade of liberal domination narrates the zero-sum game of so-called liberal lords behind the utopian agenda of the free world.
It is a fact that the US supported Afghan jihadis to serve its interests, particularly in that region and generally in the world. The resulting “war on terror” was a byproduct of American experiments in the Middle East particularly and in Asia generally. The US is no longer interested in making the world free from dictators and evil regimes; rather, it is interested in protecting its borders and is preparing for a confrontation with its competitors for the title of sole global power.
This reminds us of the realist narrative about the liberal world order, that greater powers make institutions only if they serve their purpose and sell their policies across the landscape of Earth.
The Bretton Woods system that was the basis of world financial governance remained highly successful in securing the interests of the developers of that system. The world system theory is sufficient to explain the debt trap of poor states in the hands of stronger ones. Similarly, no country has remained successful in resolving its financial woes by employing the services of the International Monetary Fund. In fact, IMF has served the purpose of colonial powers of modern times by using the concept of the debt trap and thus influenced decision-making powers of subordinate countries in favor of its donors.
Thus the revival of realism is, in fact, a mere change of name, as the same exploitation was happening before in the name of liberal policies that are now becoming evident through public awareness and vibrant media outlets.
Some would argue that the high time of liberalism was the second half of the 20th century, and in that era, liberal policies were highly successful in ensuring human rights. Furthermore, the vibrant role of the United Nations during that era was exemplary in securing the world from socio-economic problems.
In reality, this was manipulated history that was provided by those who wanted to maintain their hegemony over others. In fact, physical and psychological destruction was at an all-time high during that era because of the Cold War. The concept for defeating rivals for the sake of global leadership was ignited by fire and fury in different parts of the world.
In these developments, the nations that suffered most were not part of that struggle; rather, they were the means to an end – global leadership. This was the factual face of liberal lords, who were modest and generous upfront but avengers in reality, seeking the defeat of their opponents at any cost, even human losses.
The occupation of powerful chairs in the world by realist leaders has only made already existing realist policies apparent to the public. The bold policies of US President Donald Trump, threatening speeches by “little rocket man,” zero-sum games of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and powerful recently re-elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have given the world an opportunity to look at their policies and thus prove the assumptions of realists trustworthy.
Hence, the world was a realist, it is a realist, and it will remain so, as the very nature of human beings is selfish and power-oriented.