Earlier this year, The National Interest devoted an entire issue to “The Crisis of the Old Order.” This week, Patrick Buchanan published an insightful op-ed in The American Conservative identifying some disturbing trends in the emerging new world order.
Buchanan suggests that this new order is taking shape along centuries-old lines; “in 2012,” he notes, “sectarianism, tribalism and nationalism are all resurgent.” He cites as evidence war-torn Syria, the ascendant Kurds and ethnic violence in India, among others.
But it is the conflict in the South China Sea that most forcibly proves Buchanan’s point. He spends the bulk of his piece illustrating the ways in which the simmering dispute over a few small islands (and their not-so-small resources) has reshaped alliances, turning enemies into friends. Thirty years after kicking the U.S. Navy out of Subic Bay, Manila is inviting Uncle Sam back, and Hanoi is welcoming American warships back into Cam Ranh Bay. “Were not these the same people we bombed and blasted not so long ago?” Buchanan marvels.
Most striking is the paramount role ethnonationalism plays in perpetuating this conflict. “To annex what could be a mother lode of oil, gas and minerals in the South China Sea, China is stoking the ethnonationalism of its own people,” Buchanan observes. Residual acrimony between Japan and Korea heightens the stakes in competing claims over the Dokdo islands, and Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev “stoked the flames of tribalism” in Russia and Japan with a recent visit to the contested Kuril islands. In response to these disputes, “a new nationalism is rising in the Land of the Rising Sun.”
Buchanan’s piece begins to address the question of what comes after the disintegrating Old Order. His answer, though smart, is far from comforting: “The new world order . . . is not the One World dreamed of by Wilsonian idealists. It is a Balkanizing world where race, tribe, culture and creed matter most, and democracy is seen not as an end in itself but as a means to an end—the accretion of power by one's own kind to achieve one's own dreams.”