An extraordinary complex peace

Kevin Rudd is optimistic of the survival of western hegemony for at least another 15 years, as it shifts to a balance of powers rather than US unilateralism. This is reflected already in the expansion of the G7 to the G20, to include representation from most blocs, with under-representation from Africa and South East Asian regions, and no representation from the small island nations of the South Pacific, who are seriously threatened by the by-products of economic activity.

From Paul Kelly:

The basis of Rudd’s stance is a rejection of American decline and faith in American renewal. “By any rational measurement, US global power will remain unchallenged for the first quarter of the current century and arguably for much of the second,” he says. Rudd argues that US leadership “must nonetheless be deployed in a policy environment that is more interconnected, complex and contested than at any time since 1945”.

The new era, he says, is “no longer hot war, no longer cold war”. It is, on the contrary, a period of “an extraordinary complex peace”.

Confident in his reading of Obama, Rudd says the US will not return to unilateralism (a historic trait recently exemplified by Bush) or seek the “wholesale redesign of the global order” (attempted unsuccessfully by Woodrow Wilson) but will adopt a pragmatism that seeks to “renew the existing institutions of global governance from within”. He sees this as Obama’s project.

Rudd interprets Obama’s America as “acting as the pivotal power within the system rather than simply railing at the system from without”. Moving to his central proposition, Rudd argues that the US cannot lead alone but must be supported by a “new driving centre of global politics and global economics”. He means the G20, a group of developed and developing nations far more representative than the major-power Group of Eight. “This I believe is the current direction of the Obama administration,” Rudd says.

Understand what Rudd is really saying. For all his praise of US power, the G20 begins to recognise the relative decline of the US and the West. It is about a sharing of power to create better global outcomes. The group comprises France, Germany, Britain and Italy along with the European Union; from South America it has Brazil and Argentina; the Asian members are Japan, China, India, Indonesia and South Korea; the rest are Australia, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and the US. It testifies to the reality of a more multipolar world. While arguing that the US will stay No.1, Rudd believes power is shifting from the West to East Asia and other power centres.

This penetrates to the essence of his vision: the need to reform global institutions and arrangements. Rudd is a dedicated multilateralist in the Labor tradition of H.V. Evatt, Gough Whitlam and Gareth Evans. He says the system created at San Francisco and Bretton Woods at the end of World War II has been static while the globe has been transformed. It is no longer functioning or legitimate. He warns that the global financial architecture has reached a tipping point.