Editorial – Towards the 19th century or a darker, more remote past? (Nota: The map above depicts a 1903 vision of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea in 1190) Last week we underlined that we should be looking beyond the current Ukraine crisis and estimate what it may mean in terms of changing the world order. This week we find a string of signals that continue pointing in this direction, including weak data of growth for the US that would be the new norm, questioning the supremacy of the US Dollar, and consequences for American power, on all fronts. while tension over Ukraine and Crimea does not abate. Meanwhile, the Middle East is in the throes of transition with even more tension, and Asia is hardly more tranquil.
However, if historical analogies need to be thought and sought to help us find our way towards identifying and imagining what the international system may look like in the short to medium term future, it would seem that the 19th century analogy, which is favored in the U.S. building upon Kerry’s remark, may be part of a best case scenario. It might be also worthwhile to look further back in the past and wonder if, after all, elements of a pre-Westphalian order (the treaty of Westphalia in 1648 is considered as ushering the modern system of sovereign, territorial and independent states) are not also very much present, notably as climate change increasingly acts as a stressor. The future will certainly be neither exactly like one order nor the other, and definitely not as what we have known those last twenty years. Considering the importance of the issue, it might be all the more vital to stop thinking only through analogies and to truly start foreseeing what may happen using proper methodologies and abandoning for a while (or at least trying to) ideologies.
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Featured image: Europa en 1190. Source Perry-Castañeda Library, Map Collection: From the Atlas to Freeman’s Historical Geography, Edited by J.B. Bury, Longmans Green and Co. Third Edition 1903 via Wikimedia Commons