The nineteenth and the twentieth centuries were dominated by the Western world particularly the United Kingdom and the United States. The U.S. replaced the dominant position of the United Kingdom after the end of World War II. Growing economic power bolstered by the possession of atomic weapons helped the U.S. to play a hegemonic role in managing world affairs. The U.S. provided the global leadership in political and economic areas forging security alliances and leading efforts for enhancing security and economic interdependence.
From the mid-20th century the world has been espousing liberal internationalism. Openness and rule-based relations are its hallmarks. Professor Samuel P. Huntington in his internationally-acclaimed essay, “The Clash of Civilizations”, remarks that “The West in effect is using international institutions, military power and economic resources to run the world in ways that will maintain Western predominance, protect Western interests, and promote Western political and economic values”.
Kishore Mahbubani, an intellectual from Singapore admits that there is no substitute for Western leadership, especially American leadership. However, in his review essay, “Danger of Decadence” he argues that Western retreat is possible. Today’s rising states are non-Western. He opines that unfettered individual freedom championed in the West has demonstrable social consequences. To him freedom does not only solve problems; it can also cause them.
The ongoing global economic recession has tarnished the American model of liberal capitalism and questioned the U.S. ability to perform the role of a global economic leader. On the other hand this crisis has enhanced the image of China as a model of economic system that has better weathered the storm. China’s remarkable economic progress nonetheless, it lacks global standard for legitimate governance. Therefore, Kishore Mahbubani contends that “China cannot succeed in its goal of becoming a modern developed society until it can take the leap and allow the Chinese people to choose their own rulers”.
Prof. G. John Ikenberry of Princeton University in his Foreign Affairs ( May-June, 2011) article quotes journalist Gideon Rachman who says, “a cluster of internationalist ideas-such as faith in democratization, confidence in free markets, and the acceptability of the U.S. military power are all called into question”. But Professor Ikenberry holds the view that the rise of non-Western powers and the growth of economic and security interdependence are creating new constituencies for liberal international order.
The UN Security Council is the platform for great-power consultations. It is the global collective security body. Brazil and India, as emerging powers, are the strong contenders for permanent membership of the Security Council. They were not party to the great bargains that led to the founding of the United Nations in 1945. The core principles of liberal internationalism have been enshrined in the UN Charter. The legitimate aspirations of the emerging states to assume global leadership are at odds with the American-led and Western-centered system. Notwithstanding this reality the rising powers will influence the development of new global political order.