Chapter Two Who Cares? The Salience and Contours of Global Architecture

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Chapter Two Who Cares? The Salience and Contours of Global Architecture
The anarchy assumption (e.g., Waltz, 1979) is both widely accepted and often used as a point of departure (e.g., Ikenberry, 2001) for much of theorizing about international politics. Typically, it is the point of departure since we know that cooperation (albeit at times grudgingly) characterizes international relations at least as much as conflict. Under conditions of pure anarchy, violence would be omnipresent and highly lethal. Without observed ground rules of behavior for members of the international system, life would be both cruel and so unpredictable as to make purposeful activity and investment in international relations prohibitive.

While conflict and lethal violence exist and have existed throughout modern international politics, states and other entities have managed to pursue a very broad variety of goals and interests with a fair amount of success by predicting the course of their affairs and the behavior of allies and adversaries. At times they were able to do so because they held coercive capabilities strong enough to deter certain forms of behavior, but the predictability of international life was greatly enhanced by more than simple coercive capability. The pursuit of complex objectives in international politics, in the absence of central authority and in the midst of potential anarchy, is possible in part because of the creation of some type of world order.

If this is so, then how is global order constructed and maintained, given the anarchical nature of international relations? How do we identify the organization of global architecture we call “order”? What are its basic components and how are they transformed into internationally agreed-upon rules and norms of state (and non-state) behavior?1 This chapter formulates an approach to examining global architecture and identifies its foundation and basic building blocks. It then illustrates this approach by applying it to three world orders.

The creation of a new world order typically begins with destruction—a major war or systemic upheaval.2 Newly powerful states, the victors, emerge from the ashes and rearrange the structure of international politics. The victors use their preponderance of power to advance their own economic and security agendas complete with rules and norms of behavior. They command allegiance from other states, especially secondary powers that may challenge the new order. This process generally involves integrating countries into economic and security systems, thus making states dependent on these systems for their well-being. The integration process ensures that participation, or at least compliance, is more beneficial than defection. Satisfaction and stability may be achieved through various safeguards. These may include economic and military aid to help individual countries overcome difficulties, or they may manifest in institutions to facilitate transnational cooperation. Global architects must also develop crisis management mechanisms to mitigate or avert disruptions or challenges to the order. These may involve economic resources and their occasional infusion to overcome problems such as debt crises, or the availability and use of substantial military capabilities to thwart aggression.

Global architecture is thus constructed and maintained. How long such arrangements last may well depend on a number of factors, including changes in the power capabilities of key actors, the effectiveness of architectural arrangements, the willingness to use crisis mechanisms, and changes in satisfaction with the status quo. In the modern international system no global architecture has endured for much more than a century, and the most likely outcome of any architectural arrangement is that it will be replaced by another.

This brief summary of what world orders look like suggests a number of building blocks of global architecture, including: state strength, a security regime, an economic infrastructure, an integration process, and crisis management. These basic building blocks should be found in one form or another in every world order. It is their manifestations and mechanisms that distinguish one order from another. Manifestations refer to the type of building block, for instance, a centrally directed nonmarket economy versus a liberal economic order. Each manifestation requires different mechanisms. These may include treaties, institutions and informal agreements. These tools facilitate consensus building regarding appropriate rules and norms of behavior. The World Trade Organization (WTO), for example, is one mechanism that perpetuates a liberal trade regime. It establishes rules, incentives, and sanctions with which to govern interstate trade.

Global architecture provides a blue print for world order. Its building blocks are designed not only to construct that order but as well to thwart challenges to the order. There are three particularly noteworthy threats to order: global crises, lack of coherent sets of rules and norms, and dissatisfaction with the order. Global crises refer to potential systemic disruptions, such as aggressive use of power, stock market crashes, or economic protectionism. A lack of coherent rules lessens the predictability of international relations and intensifies anarchy. A combination of substantial dissatisfaction with the status quo, along with significant state strength, may incite states or other entities to challenge or undermine the world order. Accordingly, each building block should be accompanied by mechanisms to constrain power (or, contain states, other entities or events from destroying or undermining the prevailing order), mitigate global economic problems, routinize international state behavior, integrate countries into the order, and ensure prosperity or satisfaction (at least for those most likely to, or capable of, challenging the prevailing order). The manifestations of the building blocks and their mechanisms provide regularity in international relations. They offer reasonable assurance that states will interact predictably and peaceably, i.e., in compliance with the rules and norms prescribed by economic and security regimes. The integration process should guarantee that compliance is more beneficial than defection, and crisis management should contain potential threats to order.

Our conception of world order builds on the work of such noted scholars as Waltz (1979), Gilpin (1981), Keohane (1984), Ruggie (1993), Wendt (1994), and Ikenberry (2001). We are especially indebted to Ikenberry’s (2001) model of order, yet we differ from his approach in a fundamental way. While he focuses on the leading states’ institutional strategies of order building, we emphasize state strength and other building blocks—including institutional strategies—necessary to construct and maintain world order. We present institutional mechanisms in addition to state strength as tools to help implement security and economic regimes, an integration process, and crisis management. In giving roughly equal weight to state strength and institutional mechanisms, unlike Ikenberry, our work straddles the fence between realism and liberalism.

The basic building blocks provide for us a basis for comparison of world orders. They are indicators of comparable concepts across time and space. This chapter examines three world orders: the post-Napoleonic, post-World War One, and post-World War Two periods.3 Table 1 summarizes the basic building blocks, their manifestations and mechanisms for each order. These aspects of global architecture will be compared and contrasted in terms of how they contribute to world order. More specifically, we wish to demonstrate how they constrain power, mitigate global economic problems, routinize state behavior, and ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs of compliance in each of the three world orders.

Building Blocks and World Orders

The most important building block is state strength or the distribution of resource capabilities across states. State strength forms the foundation of any world order. It influences the type and effectiveness of security and economic regimes, the integration process, and crisis management. No wonder then that much of the international relations literature emphasizes the importance of power capabilities in achieving a stable order. Kaplan’s (1957) classic treatment of alternative international systems is based almost exclusively on power distributions and the “appropriate” rules flowing from such distributions. Similarly, the discussion of power distributions fuels the argument over whether a bipolar (e.g, Waltz, 1979) or multipolar power arrangement (e.g., Deutch and Singer, 1964; Kegley and Raymond, 1994) results in a more stable global order. Long cycle theorists (e.g., Modelski, 1978; 1979; Thompson, 1988) also focus on power capabilities. They propose a highly complex set of dynamics undergirding the rise and subsequent fall of global leadership, but ultimately the world order resulting from such leadership stems from preponderant power capabilities and the subsequent security and economic infrastructures imposed by the global leader.

Table 2.1. Basic Building Blocks, Manifestations, and Mechanisms of Three World Orders

Power Foundation


Order Building Blocks Manifestations Mechanisms

Post-Napoleonic Power structure European multipolar led by Great Britain Congress of Vienna, balance of power in Europe/ British global preponderance

Security regime Concert of Europe System of alliances, multilateral agreements

Economic agenda Liberal economic order Britain performed hegemonic functions

Integration process Great powers bound together Informal negotiations, consensus,

France is granted great power status joint management

Crisis management Balance of political power, economic hegemony Conferences, negotiations, consensus, hegemonic capabilities
Post-WWI Power structure The US, the strongest of the major powers, rejects its predominant role

Security regime Collective security League of Nations

Economic agenda German reparations, No government intervention or regimes to facilitate

laissez affaire, communism. economic cooperation and coordination.

Integration process Germany is not integrated

Crisis management Multilateral institutionalism League of Nations

Post-WWII Power structure Bipolar with the US & Soviet Union US preponderance of military strength; w/ Soviet global

as hegemons of their respective blocs challenge

Security regime Institutional security regimes for each bloc Counterbalancing, nuclear deterrence, NATO, WARSAW

Economic agenda Liberal economic order US hegemony, Bretton Woods system, GATT/WTO

Centrally directed nonmarket economic order Soviet hegemony, COMECON

Integration process Interdependency, multilateral institutionalism Military and economic incentives/threats, negotiations,

Germany is integrated /Soviets contained joint management

Crisis management US military preponderance, economic hegemony Boundaries & rules of engagement between the two

blocs, hegemonic capabilities, economic & security regime

Thus, state strength determines which actors may have the ability to engage in global architectural construction and maintenance, and as well the type of order that can be built successfully4. It involves military and economic resource capabilities and, at the aggregate, their distribution across the international system. Such distributions of power specify the shape of the world order much like the strength and configuration of a concrete foundation prepares the site for either a skyscraper or a ranch-style house.

The most common configurations include hegemonic preponderance or, bipolar or multipolar power relationships. A hegemonic structure emerges when one state possesses a preponderance of global strength. In bipolar and multipolar power systems, two or more states emerge from the war with roughly equal power capabilities. In all three systems, the strongest states can use their resource capabilities to organize relations among states. Consequently, power distributions are highly salient in defining the terms or character of the postwar settlement. States may be bound as well to the most powerful through institutions and less formal regimes. In this case, states reap benefits only if they comply with the rules and norms of the organizations. These are the mechanisms that constrain the use of power, routinize state behavior, and ensure satisfaction.

Alternative power configurations such as hegemonic, bipolar, or multipolar power structures need not be mutually exclusive. A hegemon may be present within a bipolar or a multipolar power structure. The US and Soviet Union, for instance, acted as hegemons in their respective blocs. Likewise, hegemonic global leaders have coexisted with regional and global bipolar military arrangements (e.g., Thompson, 1988; Volgy and Imwalle, 1995).

Holding a certain amount of strength is a necessary condition, but it does not guarantee global architectural construction. After WWI, for example, the US was clearly the strongest state in international politics, yet it chose an isolationist foreign policy and as a consequence, the post-WWI order was built upon a weak foundation that greatly contributed to its demise. The post-WWII order, by contrast, was built upon a strong and clearly observable foundation. As Kennedy and Hitchcock (2000:8) contend, the Cold War division into two rival blocs “offered a recognized structure that over time—perhaps by 1955, certainly by 1963—had settled into a code of conduct for the two sides that neither was eager to challenge.” The economic and military strength of the victorious powers greatly influenced the security regimes and economic agendas in both blocs. In addition, state strength significantly affected the integration process and the competition to entice states to join one of the two blocs.

While state strength or the power foundation influences security and economic regimes, and as well integration processes and crisis management, it is different from the other building blocks in its measurement and scope. The power configuration is a systemic concept of how capabilities are distributed on a global basis. It is analogous to viewing earth from space; it simply pinpoints the concentration of state strength in relation to other countries. It identifies which state actors have the power capabilities to construct and maintain global architecture. The other building blocks—security regime, economic infrastructure, integration process, and crisis management—address the issues of how great powers cooperate to constrain the excessive use of force, mitigate economic problems, and reach mutual expectations and satisfaction with the order.

A security regime is a cooperative arrangement constructed to manage the power struggle among sovereign states, especially great powers. Security in international relations is often considered a zero sum game; an increase in one state’s security lessens the security of others. Global architecture must address this security dilemma if it is to contribute to world order. A security regime’s success depends on the presence of two components. First, the great powers must want to establish it (Jervis, 1982:360). The great powers are the most likely to use force and challenge the order. They therefore must be reasonably satisfied with the status quo to cooperate and implement a security regime. Second, a security regime is only as powerful as the state strength that underlies it. The regime must exhibit or be able to quickly call up the necessary resource capabilities to deter or contain threats to the order and to respond to security crises.

Similar to the security regime, state strength plays an essential role in constructing an economic infrastructure. If creation of a new world order begins with destruction then the first task of a new economic agenda is to overcome the war’s economic devastation. The preeminent power usually finances a good part of the war effort and provides aid and investment for decades after the war. The hegemon assumes this responsibility to secure a favorable postwar order. Ikenberry (2001:115) contends, for example, that “the central role of Britain in bankrolling the [Napoleon] war meant that it could tie loans and aid to agreement on postwar arrangements.” The US played a similar role in WWII and its postwar order. To a lesser extent, the US also aided its European allies during and after the First World War in part to lock European states into the League of Nations.

Great powers must also agree on an economic infrastructure in order to create successful monetary and trade regimes. This usually means that they benefit from such an order. If the great powers are dissatisfied, they may challenge the order. Achieving satisfaction involves the facilitation of trade and investment flows and the provision of safeguards, such as aid to help countries overcome difficulties. Bilateral agreements and multilateral institutions may also function as safeguards as well as mechanisms to promote trade. Countries must comply with the regimes’ rules and norms in order to reap the benefits. Monetary and trade regimes not only constrain state behavior, but they also reduce information and transaction costs (Keohane 1984; Martin and Simmons 1998; Ikenberry 1998). They develop mutual expectations for economic foreign policy.

Each generation of global architects needs the major players to at least acquiesce to the new order. This integration process is a necessary condition to prevent challenges and maintain stability.5 A number of mechanisms may achieve integration ranging from coercion to voluntary agreement. In the case of coercion, the hegemon or group of great powers uses its resource capabilities to induce others to comply with the rules and norms of the order. In the case of agreement, consensus is reached through negotiation. Usually a combination of mechanisms is used to integrate countries into the order. The combination determines how well power will be restrained and the degree of legitimacy bestowed on the order. Legitimacy implies acceptance and satisfaction with the basic orientation or operation of the system (see Kissinger 1957:1; Ikenberry 1996:9 and 2001:52). The question of concern is how to constrain power and construct a legitimate and satisfactory global order?

The integration process builds a consensus on acceptable ideologies and mechanisms.6 It unites great powers. This process usually begins during the war when the future victors unite against a common enemy. Alliances are known to restrain and control their members (see Osgood 1968; Schroeder 1976). Ikenberry (2001: 98) argues, for example, that in the settlement of 1815, the alliance itself was one of the main mechanisms to restrain power. The US-Soviet Union relationship after WWII appears to be the exception since the alliance was not continued after the war. However, mutual expectations of control did characterize US-Soviet rules of engagement. Established norms of behavior governed this relationship and the post-world war order. For the most part, the victors are accustomed to consultation, negotiation, and consensus building based on their alliance during the war. This communication process becomes part of the postwar order. It is often institutionalized as exemplified by the Congress of Vienna system, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Bretton Woods system, NATO, Warsaw Pact, COMECON, and GATT/WTO. These institutions install a sense of shared expectations that established rules and norms will govern interstate interaction.

These institutions provide a forum for discussion and negotiation. They enable participants--or at least the major players—to have a say in global governance. The function of joint management mechanisms is to constrain power, develop mutually acceptable rules and norms, and guarantee that the great powers are satisfied with the organization and operation of the order. It stands to reason, if the key players participate in the construction and maintenance of global architecture, they will not only be satisfied, but will also help perpetuate the order. The system’s rules and norms will then be perceived as legitimate and binding.

In addition to integrating major actors into security, economic and other regimes, crisis management is essential to maintain world order. It is an integral part of security and economic infrastructures. A security regime, for instance, is only successful if it can quickly call up military capabilities. The League of Nations failed to install such crisis management mechanisms and thus was unable to contain German aggression in a timely manner. Alternative mechanisms through independent or coordinated action through the strongest of states (the United States) were not available. Crisis management usually requires substantial resource capabilities to overcome economic difficulties and thwart aggression. The Cold War is a case in point. While the US and Soviet Union agreed to divide the world into two separate spheres, the United States expended considerable resources to contain the other bloc, while the Soviet Union expended an ever greater portion of its resources to maintain the integrity of its own sphere. This intricate balance of relationships was the manifestation of post-WWII crisis management. Resource capabilities and codes of conduct were the mechanisms that maintained stability or averted crises. In short, a combination of resource capabilities and institutional mechanisms are usually implemented to mitigate global crises.

In sum, the building blocks compose the architecture of world orders. State strength undergirds security and economic infrastructures. It provides the resource capabilities necessary to constrain power, respond to crises, facilitate cooperative international transactions, and mitigate economic problems. The integration process ensures that the great powers will be satisfied with the organization of the world order. As we will see below, it is the manifestations and mechanisms of the building blocks that distinguish each order.

The Post-Napoleonic Order

Four great powers emerged victoriously from the Napoleonic wars—Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Austria. The great powers would have to agree on a security regime to establish peace. They would also have to reach a consensus on an economic infrastructure and finance the undertaking. Three of the four powers, however, were economically devastated from the war. Only Britain had the resources to provide an international means of payment, investment capital and open markets. Only Britain had—through its navy—a truly global set of military as well as economic capabilities. Part of the dilemma facing the victorious great powers was to design a system that would create security, promote prosperity, and yet constrain Britain’s power so that it could peacefully coexist with other major players.7

The distribution of relative state strength among the great powers after the Napoleonic wars attests to a power foundation that was multifaceted. On the one hand, Britain enjoyed virtual hegemonic capabilities in two crucial areas. First, it held overwhelming economic capabilities. Its share of great power economic capabilities ranged from about fifty percent in 1820 to as high as 69 percent in 1850, and as late as 1885, it still held well over fifty percent of great power economic capabilities (Spiezio, 1990:175). Likewise, its global reach and naval military capabilities were similarly formidable. Its share of great power naval expenditures in 1820 was roughly 61 percent and it was still well over half of the group’s share in 1855 (Modelski and Thompson, 1988: 80-81).8 Yet, while its global economic and military reach was formidable, its military capabilities in dealing with land armies in Europe were quite modest. Despite its enormous naval capabilities, its overall share of total great power military capabilities—including its naval commitments—was less than twenty percent in 1820 at the height of its military prowess (Spiezio, 1990:175). Thus, after 1815, Britain held hegemonic economic and naval capabilities, but far less than predominant capabilities for land-based military activity in Europe.

European security interests were twofold. First, they wanted to manage great power conflict and unite against an exogenous threat—Napoleon’s imperial ambitions (Ruggie 1993). Second, European leaders needed stability to thwart a domestic threat—the revolutionary wars that challenged dynastic rule (Ruggie, 1993). As Ikenberry (1996:11) notes, the great European powers “were themselves in the midst of protracted struggles to define the terms of domestic authority. Although they were governed by ancien régime elites, their societies were modernizing. Therefore, the negotiators sought to establish an order that would contain the upsurge of commercial and democratic society.” The great powers wanted to form a security regime in order to quell these international and domestic threats, which may have undermined the status quo or systemic stability.

The great powers constructed order by being bound together through informal regimes. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the four leading powers entered into a “cooperative” relationship rather than normal “power politics” (see Kissinger 1964; Jervis, 1982, 1985; Elrod 1976; Ruggie 1993). These countries formed a European security concert instead of competing for power positions and exploiting one another’s weaknesses. The Concert was achieved through a system of alliances intended to thwart the excessive use of force by any one state. Informal negotiations and consensus produced collective action. The Concert, in essence, governed the security realm in Europe; it not only constrained the use of power but also resulted in mutual great power expectations.

The economic infrastructure, like the security regime, was a reflection of state strength and historical realities. Britain emerged from the Napoleonic wars as the preeminent economic power. It bankrolled the war and provided loans and aid to overcome the war’s destruction. Britain’s naval supremacy and leading economic technology during the 19th century enabled it to exercise a pervasive influence over the international political economy. British hegemony provided the public good of stability or order. It supplied, for instance, a much-needed global banking and financial system to facilitate international economic interaction. Britain transformed international economic relations from one based on the control and possession of colonies to an open, interdependent world economy based on the flow of trade and capital.

Although Britain bore the cost of economic leadership, it also reaped the rewards of developing cooperative monetary and trade regimes. Britain benefited from the supply of cheap food, raw materials, and markets in the periphery. As Gilpin (1981:137) states, “Through the migration of labor and the export of capital to developing lands (the United States, Canada, Australia, and so forth) Britain could acquire cheap imports and also develop a market for her growing industrial exports. She could sell her textiles, invest her capital, and purchase necessities nearly wherever she pleased.” In short, Britain created a world economy based on free trade, the free flow of capital, and a unified international monetary system. Rules and norms of behavior governed economic transactions and the great powers benefited from the liberal order.

Integration was the key to a peaceful order. It was achieved through hegemonic restraint, great power accord and restoring the great power status of the vanquished, namely, France. Britain appeased the other leading powers by exercising restraint and agreeing to comply with the same rules and norms as its allies. Britain integrated itself into the order as a price for the integration of the other powers. In essence, Britain exchanged relatively unfettered power for compliance with its economic agenda. The Congress of Vienna institutionalized great power relations. It provided the major players with joint management of the European order even though Britain acted as the economic hegemon at the global level. Meanwhile, the European Concert members held peacetime conferences. They consulted and negotiated with one another to build consensus and jointly manage disputes, problems or changes in the order. This joint management mechanism was spelled out in the Quadruple Alliance signed by the great powers in 1815. France was also included in joint management. It was restored to its position of great power equality and admitted to the Concert in 1818. This integration action served to thwart France’s potential power to challenge the order.

Crisis management mechanisms also helped constrain power and promote satisfaction. The great powers agreed to act in concert to thwart any challenges to the order. Negotiations, consensus and conferences were the main political crisis management mechanisms. British hegemony was responsible for mitigating economic crises. In this case, hegemony is a manifestation of crisis management as well as that of a power structure. Britain provided resources to help other countries overcome economic difficulties and achieve prosperous trade relations.

Longevity and stability characterized the post-Napoleonic order. The Concert of Europe gradually eroded as Napoleon’s threat diminished and the revolutions of 1848 significantly changed the political situation (Ruggie 1993:19).9 Eventually Bismarck’s Germany undermined the structure through a series of secret treaties and alliances, which culminated in WWI. Germany’s actions were made possible—in part—due to large scale changes that had occurred to the global order’s foundation. By 1900, Britain’s economic preponderance had virtually disappeared as it share of great power economic capabilities fell to twenty percent, equaling its share of great power military capabilities (Spiezio, 1990:175). Even its formidable predominance in global naval power capabilities had slipped by 1900 to about one third of the great powers (Modelski and Thompson, 1988:81).

Post-WWI Order

The apparent failure of the post-Napoleonic global architecture gave rise to a search for a different type of foundation based more on developing multilateral institutional mechanisms to facilitate international cooperation. The victors in WWI negotiated the terms of peace and postwar settlement just as the Concert of Europe members concluded the Napoleonic wars and specified the character of the new order. Yet, much had changed regarding the foundation on which the new world order would be built. The US emerged from WWI with a preponderance of global capabilities. After the end of the war, America’s global naval reach, measured in naval expenditures, more than doubled that of Britain’s prior to the war (Modelski and Thompson, 1988:82), while the size of its economy was more than four times that of Britain’s (Thompson, 1988: 254).

No wonder then that President Wilson took the lead in advancing far-reaching global governance proposals. The League of Nations was the institutional expression of multilateral idealism. Wilson, however, was unable to generate domestic support. The US did not participate in the League nor did it assume the responsibility of a hegemon, choosing instead an isolationist foreign policy. Although Britain and France ratified the League Covenant, they were not pleased with the final draft. The French considered the League a toothless organization (Sharp, 1991: 62), and Britain wanted to return to the nineteenth-century balance-of-power system (Ikenberry 1996:12).

With American withdrawal, the post-WWI settlement lacked a strong power foundation. Germany, as the vanquished nation had an economic capacity at least the size of Britain’s, and its leading sector indicators registered higher after World War I (Thompson, 1988:140) than any of the “victorious” powers still tinkering with an architecture after American withdrawal. France, laying claim to architectural leadership with Britain, exhibited an economy smaller than either England or the vanquished Germany. With American withdrawal, the power vacuum in which the “victors” found themselves was reflected in the post-WWI security and economic regimes.

The post-WWI security arrangement started as an attempt at multilateral institutionalism or collective security. In a balance of power or concert system, states still pursue egoistic security interests. Peace is attained through checks and balances. By contrast, a collective security regime consists of a coalition of “peace-loving” nations united to defend a community of states against any threat to international peace (Miller 1992) resulting from actions between members to the agreement. The League of Nations may have been intended by some as such a peacekeeping mechanism, but it lacked a military arm—and a means to constrain power. The US, as the most powerful country, could have compensated for the League’s lack of teeth, but the US rejected membership. There were no reliable mechanisms to constrain the excessive use of force.

Similarly, the post-WWI settlement lacked an economic agenda or a set of shared economic ideas. The US did not assume the British role as economic hegemon after the First World War although the US reaped the war’s economic benefits. Britain no longer possessed the resource capabilities to continue its role as the world stabilizer. The great powers, namely Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia, faced huge budget deficits, debts, and trade imbalances after WWI. The US failed to restore or replace Britain’s global monetary and trade system. It chose an isolationist and protectionist policy, which in turn decreased the international trade necessary to sustain borrowing (Ikenberry 1996:15). The US was committed to laissez faire and rejected governmental intervention, coordination, and guarantees. There were no mechanisms to carry out a new economic order. Instead, the burden of paying for the war’s enormous destruction was dependent upon German reparations. Ironically, the economic suppression of Germany fueled Nazi propaganda. As Fink (2000:32) states it, “Those magic German billions bandied about, which would restore devastated lives and lands and fuel prosperity and security, but were unconnected to the problems of transfer or to the economic impact on the receiver countries, gave the Germans a fine propaganda weapon.”

Germany was never integrated into the post-WWI settlement, nor did the victors act to sufficiently contain it. The logic underlying integration argues that if a country is part of the system and benefits from its participation, it will be less likely to challenge the order. Germany after the First World War is a case in point. Germany was relegated to an inferior and subordinate role after 1919 while at the same time the great powers participating in architectural construction lacked the resources to sufficiently contain Germany. Certainly the loss of great power status marked by political and economic humiliation affected the German psyche. Germany had nothing to lose from defecting from the order and had the resources to bring about its defection.

Post-WWII Order

The failed multilateral institutional mechanisms developed after WWI were not completely abandoned after WWII, and were in fact revamped through the creation of the United Nations. At the same time, the power foundations of the new world order changed dramatically. Germany, France, and Japan were virtually destroyed. England was substantially weakened. The Soviet Union suffered overwhelming casualties from the war. The United States alone emerged with enormous economic and military capabilities. Its proportional share of leading sector indicators among the great powers registered at around two thirds of the group total in 1950 (Thompson, 1988:140). Its share of global naval capabilities in 1950 was nearly 100 percent, and never dropped below 62 percent during the Cold War era (Modelski and Thompson, 1988:91-92). Yet, with its Soviet wartime ally vying for post-war leadership, holding substantial territory in Europe and boasting of a large army and eventually atomic weapons, American strength was moderated by an immediate challenger, substantially weaker but nevertheless potentially destructive in both the European and Asian regions. Such a power foundation accommodated both a global leadership role for the United States and a bipolar structure for containment of, and eventual accommodation with the Soviet Union. Much of the international system came to be divided into two, albeit unequal spheres, each with its own security and economic infrastructure, integration process, and institutional mechanisms, some of which overlapped and some of which perpetuated and organized the separation of states in conflict.

The United Nations Charter, in contrast to the League of Nations, did establish a mechanism that involved collective military action. Articles 42 and 43 granted the Security Council the power to determine if a military response was warranted, and the ability to call up the members’ armed forces (Kupchan and Kupchan 1991:122). However, the veto power of the Security Council’s permanent members rendered the UN powerless over the most serious disputes—those between great powers and their allies.

Ironically, it may have been the Cold War that maintained peace. The leader of each pole felt threatened by the other and placed great importance on intrapole stability much as the Concert powers feared Napoleonic imperialism and revolutionary wars. NATO bound Western European states to the US, while the WARSAW Pact served the same purpose for Eastern European states and the Soviet Union. Both security regimes provided a common command, military doctrine and strategic and tactical plans. The balance between the two poles, backed by nuclear deterrence, constrained the use of power and prevented the competition for influence in the Third World from escalating into a full-scale great power war. Institutionalizing intrapole security relations routinized state behavior. As evidenced in the Concert of Europe and the Cold War, security regimes appear to be most successful when external and internal threats unite great powers. They incite cooperation and the implementation of mechanisms, such as alliance pacts or intrabloc policy coordination.

In contrast to its role after WWI, the United States in the last half of the twentieth century assumed the responsibility of supporting the world market economy. It encouraged free trade, supplied investment capital, and furnished the international currency. In effect, the US provided the public goods necessary for a liberal economic order. This change in economic agenda was a reaction not only to the failure of the post-WWI settlement, but also to the disastrous economic nationalism characteristic of the 1930s. The US was committed to facilitating economic openness. This involved implementing tariff reductions and other mutually reciprocal trade and investment rules. Standardizing economic behavior ensured peaceful transactions. Safeguards, consisting of aid and loans to be distributed bilaterally or by the IMF and World Bank, reinforced peaceful and predictable international interactions.

The US integrated its allies and potential allies (constituting the large majority of countries) into its liberal economic order through regimes and institutions. The Bretton Woods agreements of 1944 embodied this multilateral liberalism. It provided a far-reaching blue print for the postwar economic order. This system lowered barriers to the flow of goods, services, and financial resources in the world market economy. The main trading partners of the US achieved economic self-sufficiency in contrast to Soviet client states that became even more dependent on Soviet assistance during the Cold War.

The Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (COMECON) functioned as the main mechanism for governing economic relations among the nonmarket economies of the Soviet bloc. COMECON was charged with centrally directing production, investment, and consumption plans of the Soviet Union and members. The Soviet Union subsidized trade with client states by granting them low-cost export credits and charging them less than the world market price for some exports and paying more than the world market price for some imports from clients. The Soviet Union used its power and influence to hold its hegemonic bloc together.

Each sphere had its own integration process. The US repeated the British hegemonic experience after WWII. The US as well as its allied great powers would act within the limits of multilateral institutions. They would comply with the rules and norms specified by the institutional agreements. The United Nations, the Bretton Woods system, GATT/WTO and NATO would bind the US to its European and Asian partners. Similar to British hegemony in the nineteenth century, the US offered to constrain its use of power or to use it to help its allies in exchange for institutional agreements. Marshall Plan aid, for example, reassured Europeans of the United States’ commitment to them (e.g, see Ikenberry, 2001:Chapter 6). Mutually agreed upon rules and institutions resulted in a more durable and satisfactory order.

The Soviet Union also used incentives and threats as well as institutional mechanisms to integrate countries into its bloc. It provided economic and military aid to numerous countries just as the US did. Perhaps the greatest differences between the US and Soviet integration processes were that the Western allies became far more prosperous and participated much more extensively in military and economic institutions and their decision making processes than their Eastern bloc counterparts. Success and ownership usually enhance the perception of the order’s legitimacy. This helps explain why the post-WWII Western institutions and regimes have endured. Multilateral institutionalized communication has evolved into authoritative mechanisms to govern specific issue-areas. GATT and its more formal successor the WTO specify the principles and rules governing trade. NATO has played a significant role in mitigating military crises. The IMF and World Bank serve as economic crisis management mechanisms by aiding countries experiencing economic difficulties.

A containment rather than integration process better characterizes US-Soviet relations after WWII. However, the US and Soviet Union recognized the bipolar structure as legitimate. Although each superpower tried to gain advantage through an arms race and indirectly through third parties, they acknowledged the precarious balance between the two poles as an “unwritten” accord. This was not joint management by any stretch, but the superpowers did negotiate arms reduction treaties and other international agreements. The superpowers shared mutual expectations of behavior after 1962. With the exception of the earliest period of the Cold War10, neither seriously challenged the order. Instead, they agreed to coexist in a bipolar structure.


Each order evolved from the previous one. Each built upon the successes and failures of the past. This is reflected in the building blocks, their manifestations and mechanisms. The main function of the building blocks is to constrain the excessive use of power, establish rules and norms of state behavior, and construct a global architecture that satisfies the great powers—those most likely to challenge the order. Four mechanisms in particular seem to successfully achieve these objectives: counterbalancing coalitions, multilateral agreements, economic hegemony, and integrating the vanquished into the order.11 All four mechanisms were missing in the post-WWI settlement, but they were used in the post-Napoleonic and post-WWII orders to maintain peace.

The European Concert members shared common incentives to cooperate to construct order, namely, the threats of imperialism and revolutionary wars. They formed a system of checks and balances codified in a series treaties or multilateral agreements. The great powers reached a consensus through informal conferences. They consulted and negotiated with one another to build consensus and jointly manage disputes. British hegemony helped the great powers overcome the war's’ economic destruction and achieve prosperity. Britain provided an international means of payment, relatively large open markets and foreign investment. The great powers, including France, benefited from participating in these cooperative arrangements. In short, the strongest states shared mutual expectations of great power behavior in security and economic domains and were satisfied with the order.

The post-WWI settlement was much more ambitious, but lacked clearly defined roles for the most powerful countries and mechanisms to implement an inclusive security and economic infrastructure. Clearly, the great powers willing to build world order could not agree on the nature of an acceptable architecture and lacked the strength to impose their will, even if they had come to some agreement. Thus, the security regime was ineffective because it was unable to call up the necessary military might to contain aggression. Likewise, the absence of applied economic strength undermined the war recovery effort and the ability to construct an economic order. There was little economic integration and the most powerful country refused to join the security regime, while a major dissatisfied state was able to redevelop to challenge the status quo.

The post-WWII order rectified these problems. The strongest of states—the US—accepted its global leadership role. Hegemonic strength came to co-exist with military bipolarity and a thick web of multilateral institutions. The Western hegemonic order was eventually transformed into a multilateral security and liberal economic system. Institutions, such as NATO, IMF, World Bank, and GATT/WTO, guaranteed mutual expectations of state behavior. Through multilateral negotiations, these institutions specify rules and standards of conduct to govern specific issue-areas ranging from control of seas to airspace. The twentieth century institutions and agreements were far more universal in membership and far-reaching in scope than those of the nineteenth century. The post-WWII Western order succeeded as well because those constructing its contours avoided the mistakes of the previous era: not integrating (or containing) those most likely to challenge the status quo and; the refusal of the strongest to perform a major role in architectural construction and maintenance.

The building blocks—state strength, a security regime, an economic agenda, an integration process, and crisis management—define each postwar settlement. They provided for us a basis for comparison. We use these building blocs in the chapters that follow, starting with the issue of state strength, to examine the contours of the post-Cold War world order.


1 Our concept of world order is similar to both Gilpin’s (1981) and Ikenberry’s (2001). Gilpin sees “systemic order” as the basic rules and principles determining the broad relationships between actors in the system. Likewise, Ikenberry defines “political order” as the governing arrangements between states, including “its fundamental rules, principles, and institutions” (Ikenberry, 2001:23).

2 See Gilpin, 1981, pp. 41-44 for a discussion of systemic change; also, Katzenstein, 1989.

3 These three orders were chosen because each exemplifies the use of state strength, security and economic infrastructures, integration processes and crisis management to construct and maintain global architecture. While the building blocks provide a basis for comparison, their manifestations clearly distinguish each order.

4 For example, regardless of wishful thinking in the 1990’s, the creation of a multipolar global architecture is critically based on whether or not there is a rough balance in strength between three or more poles in international politics.

5 It seems counterintuitive to think of the US and Soviet Union after WWII as being integrated into one order unless we consider the relative strength of the two “superpowers”. While the Soviet Union posed a military challenge to the United States with its nuclear capabilities and large armed forces, the United States held hegemonic economic capabilities in the system, and was able to build a global economic order, while containing any Soviet challenge to that order. In fact, the two countries agreed to such an order, including a different economic system for COMECON states, complete with a code of conduct and neither seriously challenged this coexistence. Integration seems more applicable when considered as a US and Soviet Union strategy to entice potential allies to join each sphere of influence.

6 See Hasenclever, Mayer, and Rittberger, 1996; and Ikenberry, 2001: 98-116 for an extensive discussion on institutional binding mechanisms.

7 See Ikenberry, 2001 for an extensive discussion on joint management and restraining power, or, what he calls “strategic restraint”.

8 Likewise, its proportional share of global power warships was at least half of the combined total for the great powers through this period.

9 The operation of the Concert is usually dated from the Congress of Vienna (1815) to the Crimean War (1854) although some suggest that it existed in an attenuated form from 1822 to WWI; see Jervis 1982; 1985.

10 Here, we are referring to the period up to 1962, including the Berlin crises, the Korean War, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile crisis.

11 Or, creating substantial containment mechanisms for those who were not fully vanquished, or may have been part of the victorious alliance, but nevertheless contested the direction in which the new world order was progressing.

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