THIS SPECIAL issue of The National Interest is particularly timely because we are living in a world that we know and that has shaped our thinking, but that world is in a process of transformation. We are struggling with institutions and practices of an Old World when that Old World is fading. This issue explores this global transformation, and I commend to you the articles contained here under the rubric of the “Crisis of the Old Order.”
I would like to share some of my own thoughts on this global transformation. When the Cold War ended during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, I was serving as the president’s national-security adviser. I thought at the time that the end of the Cold War marked the end of a period of history, one that began with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The European system that had dominated the world for so long was washed away.
What followed that war was a period of instability and the rise of challenges to traditional societal organizations in the forms of fascism and communism. These ideologies took serious root in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union. The United States soon realized it had to step up to the challenges posed by these threats to our concept of democracy. After World War II, America restored a balance of power in the early nuclear age, one that saved Western Europe from the Soviet threat and brought a measure of peace and stability to the world.