AFTER A year and a half of violence and tens of thousands of deaths in Syria, the UN Security Council convened in July 2012 to consider exerting additional international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad. And for the third time in nine months, Russia and China vetoed any moves toward multilateral intervention. Less than two weeks later, Kofi Annan resigned as the joint UN–Arab League special envoy for Syria, lamenting, “I can’t want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council or the international community for that matter.”
Not only have we seen this movie before, but it seems to be on repeat. Instead of a gradual trend toward global problem solving punctuated by isolated failures, we have seen over the last several years essentially the opposite: stunningly few instances of international cooperation on significant issues. Global governance is in a serious drought—palpable across the full range of crucial, mounting international challenges that include nuclear proliferation, climate change, international development and the global financial crisis.
Where exactly is the liberal world order that so many Western observers talk about? Today we have an international political landscape that is neither orderly nor liberal.