Conflict Processes & War
As the world begins to transition from one international order to the next, all states – but especially members of a new potential 21st Century Concert of great powers – must prepare for a normative realignment toward new “rules of the game.” The ongoing global diffusion of power requires the United States and its traditional democratic allies to acknowledge that Western values are not universal values. Indeed, the Western model represents only one of the multiple pathways to success that will unfold as the 21st Century progresses. If the international system of the near future is to be characterized by norm-governed order rather than competitive anarchy, it will have to be based on both great-power consensus and the toleration of political diversity rather than Western primacy and the single-minded pursuit of the West’s normative preferences. Accordingly, the West must once again take advantage of what preponderant influence it still has to help forge a new international order. Yet unlike last time, its challenge now will be to build something that is pluralistic rather than Western – specifically, a global concert that preserves stability through a system of agreed-upon norms, yet does so amidst the multiple versions of modernity that are increasingly populating the emerging world.
The United States has long been involved in the Middle East, and its role has only grown since the end of the Cold War. Yet in contrast to Europe, another region of longstanding interest, or Asia, where the United States plans to “pivot” in the years to come, trade relations and cultural ties remain weak, and the region’s military power marginal. During the Cold War, the Middle East’s energy supplies and several communist-leaning regimes rendered it part of the US-Soviet chessboard. In the 1990s the United States expanded its security presence in the region to contain Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the clerical regime in Iran. At the same time, Washington engaged in an energetic and sustained, but ultimately unsuccessful, effort to bring about peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
In How NATO Adapts, Seth Johnston has written a timely and important study of critical moments in the Atlantic Alliance’s history. Johnston persuasively argues that organizational and strategic adaptation has been a consistent feature of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since its founding in 1949. Unlike many other major studies on NATO which tend to emphasize state-centric explanations for the Alliance’s staying power, Johnston treats NATO as an actor in its own right. This focus on the underappreciated role NATO’s institutional actors have played in facilitating important organizational changes is one of the major contributions of the book.