Hi StLouis WILPF, I had the pleasure of spending a week at the picturesque utopian village, 100 year old Chautauqua Institute in upper New York State. I highly recommend it. The speaker I want to tell you about during the week is the one who emphasized the importance of civil society activism in the defense of human rights and democracy. Dr Kori Schake is an historian. She is a senior fellow and the Director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Today’s subject is America’s role in the world order. Her research areas include foreign and defense policy studies, where her research areas include national security, civil military relations, and NATO. Previously she had a distinguished career in government with the state department, Department of Defense and the National Security Council at the White House. Dr Schake taught at King’s College, Stanford,West Point, Johns Hopkins University. She has written five books , the most recent: America vs the West: Can the liberal world order be preserved?
Sharkey’s lecture focused on three main aspects, the international order including how the United States became so prominent, the contemporary challenges to the international order and how President Joe Biden has handled these challenges.
Schake defined the international world order as the interaction of states as they attempt to preserve and advance their interests. Historically the tools that states use for that are the strengths of their economy, the use of military force, but also, increasingly over the last several hundred years ideology. In the last 150 years The United States has been an incredibly disruptive force to the international order. In 1812 we demanded that the British rules apply to us. No taxation without representation. Britannia rules the waves and waves the rules, Dr. Schake says.
USA has been a force for democratizing the world order. She gives an example of the British policy decisions during the American civil war, which include not recognizing the seceded states as a new nation. The two reasons were: in Britain there was a pro democracy movement aground, this contact with the US was anathema to the Royals, and secondly, the sheer numbers of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the US north could have started a rebellion in Britain if The Crown recognized the confederacy. This led to the first ever peaceful transfer of global dominance. 1923 the Washington Naval Cherry order set limits on the size of all naval ships globally.
After WW2 the US was the only great power not destroyed and could dictate rules for the post war era. FDR had the novel influence of using Woodrow Wilson’s ideas, every country gets a say, all were helped to rebuild in the post war era, the global institutions were created UN, IMF, World Bank and Washington Consensus created the new international world order. The broken part is the countries saddled with debt from corruption or unreasonable expectations. The important part is the Free World working together. Agreed upon rules included recognize the sovereignty and boundaries of countries, unless discussed thoroughly, these made the world safer for everyone. In 1980, 42% of the world was impoverished, today just 9% of the world’s population is impoverished, a huge accomplishment.
What we are seeing now is Russia defying the world order. Putin is using the old colonial “might makes right” . He says Ukraine has no rights to sovereignty, that Ukrainians have no rights to decide for themselves what their culture is, what language they speak, where their borders lie. She says this is what President Biden has gotten right. The principle of state sovereignty, that people have rights and loan them in limited ways by consent such as voting.
The rapid declassification of intelligence and sharing it broadly with the public has undermined the lies Putin spreads in propaganda to his people.
Putin plans to terrorize the Ukrainians by assassinating civilians, he says. Biden and NATO countries are sending weapons to Ukraine, careful to avoid a US vs Russia open conflict that could lead to Russia’s physical destruction of the U.S.. A face off between two nuclear powers is omnicidal.
The lesson Russia and China are learning if we hesitate to supply weapons is the US won’t risk war with another nuclear power. This emboldens China. Putin is threatened by Ukrainians being free and Democratic. Happy and creative people on Russia’s increasingly repressive life looks bad and create internal unrest. Putin has XI of China as best friend believing that the U.S. started this war to cause starvation and misery in the global south by cutting off wheat supplies and raising oil prices.
Martin Luther King and President Obama were fond of saying that the arc of history bends towards justice, that’s actually not true Dr.Schake says it only turns toward justice when people of good faith grab a hold of it and wrench it in that direction. Civil society activism is essential today as attacks on our democracy by one political party, not just the twice impeached guy who struggled to wrest the steering wheel toward congress deciding to keep him safe and away from the heavily armed mob. Trump knew that mob was his armed posy to turn over the free and fair election of Biden.
The electors are being changed in every state to Big Lie believers. The UN is sending official observers in because our democracy is at risk of toppling.
Dr Schake, a republican who voted for Biden, says activism of civil society is the superpower of free societies.
Let’s remember that the vibrancy of civil society means show up and vote, do everything possible to encourage support for the rule of law and protecting minorities. Don’t put up with lies, say something and the guns, support peace. Your vote is your consent- watch who you are voting for. To learn more about effective activism read our May Members Meeting selection, From Changing Diapers to Changing the World.