Power and Responsibility: Building International Order in an Era of Transnational Threats

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"The aim of the Managing Global Insecurity project is to launch a reform effort of the global security system in 2009. That task is both ambitious and urgent.... The time to act is now."—from the Foreword by Javier Solana

The twenty-first century will be defined by security threats unconstrained by borders—from economic instability, climate change, and nuclear proliferation to conflict, poverty, terrorism, and disease. The greatest test of global leadership will be building partnerships and institutions for cooperation that can meet the challenge. Power and Responsibility describes how American leadership can rebuild international order to promote global security and prosperity for today's transnational world.

Power & Responsibility establishes a new foundation for international security: "responsible sovereignty," or the notion that sovereignty entails obligations and duties toward other states as well as one's own citizens. Governments must cooperate across borders to safeguard common resources and tackle common threats.

Power & Responsibility argues that in order to advance its own interests, the United States must learn to govern in an interdependent world, exercise leadership through cooperation, and create new institutions with today's traditional and emerging powers. The result of a collaborative project on Managing Global Insecurity, the book also reflects the MGI project's global dialogue—extensive consultations in the United States and in regions around the world as well as discussions with the MGI project's Advisory Group, composed of prominent U.S. and international figures.

"The 2008 financial crisis has brought our global interconnectedness close to home. But economic insecurity is just one concern. Power and Responsibility provides a road map for building effective policies and legitimate global institutions to tackle today's suite of transnational challenges."—Kemal Derviş, administrator, UN Development Program

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"What are the right kinds of institutions to order a globalized world, where transnational forces "that have stitched the world together can also tear it apart"? This question is addressed with notable range and sophistication in this collaborative work by three individuals with significant research and frontline experience in the area of global policy-making."— Ethics & International Affairs

"What is most innovative is the book's institutional agenda, which comes out of extensive consultations with officials and experts worldwide. This is one of the best efforts yet to provide a coherent synthesis of the security-interdependence worldview."—John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

" Power and Responsibility analyzes the threats that surround us, but does not yield to the temptation to despair. It rightly points out that in a world of problems without passports, our security and prosperity depend on unprecedented international cooperation, and that such cooperation is within our reach. By accepting that sovereignty incurs responsibilities and by strengthening international institutions, governments can create an international order in which all can be safe and thrive. This book makes a compelling argument for such an approach."—Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of United Nations

"The vision, ideas, and solutions the authors put forward in this book have the potential to redeem American foreign policy."—from the Foreword by Brent Scowcroft

"I salute Power and Responsibility for undertaking the challenging endeavor of strengthening and improving our current means of international cooperation. This book sets a platform from which to take forward the vital agenda of restoring American leadership and creating a more effective international system."—Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

"Offers timely, relevant, and responsible advice on America's future foreign policy. The authors address our need to strengthen our alliances and forge relationships based on common interests."—Chuck Hagel, former U.S. Senator (R.-Neb.)

"An essential guide to the critical decisions we must make to create a world where all people are secure and can prosper. The authors persuasively argue that in this age of transnational threats, we are compelled to think anew about the nature of power and the role of responsibility. And they challenge us to 'use the urgency of looming existential security challenges to prompt global action before their worst consequences are felt.'"—William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense

" Power and Responsibility is that rare book that combines a major conceptual breakthrough with relevant and practical policy prescriptions. Scholars, policymakers, and all practitioners of statecraft should take heed."—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815705123
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2010
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Jones is director of the Managing Global Insecurity initiative, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

Carlos Pascual
is the United States ambassador to Mexico and former vice president and director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Stephen John Stedman is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former assistant secretary general and special adviser to the secretary general of the United Nations.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Javier Solana Solana, Javier

Foreword Brent Scowcroft Scowcroft, Brent


Pt. I Power

1 Sovereignty's Last Best Chance 3

2 Interests and Order: The United States and the Major and Rising Powers 21

3 Power and Institutions: An Effective International Architecture for Responsible Sovereignty 45

Pt. II Responsibility

4 Arresting Climate Change 75

5 The Second Nuclear Age 107

6 Security in the Biological Century 139

7 Managing Civil Violence and Regional Conflict 170

8 Combating Transnational Terrorism 204

9 Strengthening the Pillars of Economic Security 234

Pt. III Order

10 The Hardest Case: The Broader Middle East 271

11 Urgency and Choice 302

Notes 317

Index 347

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First Chapter

Power and Responsibility

Building International Order in an Era of Transnational Threats
By Bruce Jones Carlos Pascual Stephen John Stedman

Brookings Institution Press

Copyright © 2010 Brookings Institution Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8157-0512-3

Chapter One


WHEN IT COMES TO THREATS to global security, there has been no shortage of wake-up calls. Transnational criminals illegally traffic sophisticated nuclear technology to unstable regimes in the most conflict-prone regions of the world. Terrorist groups that seek to inflict mass casualties are found with training materials on using biological weapons. Sea levels rise, droughts last longer and longer, and storms are more frequent. Skyrocketing energy prices lead to astronomical rises in food costs, prompting riots and warnings of food emergencies in poor countries. Economic turbulece and insecurity drain savings and jobs in large parts of the world. Deadly viruses cross borders, continents, and species.

This is the world of transnational threats, where the actions-or inaction-of people and governments anywhere in the world can harm others thousands of miles away. It is a world where national security is interdependent with global security and where sovereign states acting alone are incapable of protecting their citizens. It is a world for which we are woefully unprepared.

It is also a world in which American leadership has been shallow and sometimes misguided, but is greatly needed. It is a world where major and rising powers must agree to cooperate through strong international institutions and embrace new standards of responsibility for all states, so that their peoples can be safe and prosper. This book proposes how.


A profound but underappreciated truth about globalization is the extent to which national security and international security have become inseparably linked. This is true even in the most powerful countries. In the United States, for example, most Americans would agree on a short list of threats to their national security: transnational terrorism, proliferation of nuclear weapons, a pandemic of a new deadly disease, global warming, and economic instability and crisis. What stands out is that these threats can affect every country's security.

Nor do the threats that preoccupy other parts of the world stand in isolation. Poverty, civil wars, and regional conflicts are all connected to what threatens the United States. Transnational terrorism uses ungovernable spaces for sanctuary and to gather recruits, capital, and weapons, and it uses a narrative of grievance stoked by protracted civil and regional conflicts. Climate change exacerbates competition for land and water and places greater burdens on the poor. Poverty not only increases the risks of civil war and state failure but also precipitates the emergence of deadly infectious diseases.

The interconnectedness of these threats and their cumulative effect pose grave dangers to the ability of states to protect their sovereignty. For many states the domestic burdens of poverty, civil war, disease, and environmental degradation point in one direction: toward partnerships and agreements with international institutions. Entering agreements or accepting assistance does not weaken sovereignty; it preserves it. Even stronger states, to preserve sovereignty, must enter into agreements to counter transnational threats such as deadly infectious disease and nuclear proliferation that cannot be overcome in the absence of sustained international cooperation.

U.S. foreign policy has yet to come to grips with the implications of security interdependence. Especially in the last seven years, Washington has elevated one threat-transnational terrorism-above global warming, poverty, deadly disease, and other dangers, neglecting to notice that terrorism is the least salient threat to many states and that most of these threats affect each other. The United States has not seen the wisdom of placing threats to its security in a global framework. And that neglect has cost it much in the way of international cooperation. The reality of a world of interconnected and transnational threats is a simple one: you have to cooperate with others to get them to cooperate with you.


Writing in 2008, we are seventeen years into the post-cold war era and seven years into the post-9/11 era, and some pundits now advocate the need for a "post-post-9/11 foreign policy," without much indication of what that might be. All of which is to say that we live in a foreign policy void, bereft of vision. We understand that the world has changed, but our institutions, policies, and leaders have not fully comprehended how profound that change has been.

Our international institutions to promote cooperation for peace and prosperity were all designed in a different era of different threats and different power relations. This does not mean they are obsolete. Some have shown remarkable resiliency, while others have adapted in rather ad hoc fashion to changing realities. It is better that we have them than not, but they are inadequate to produce the capacity and collective action to address predictably today's new threats. Similarly, new international norms have emerged, but these have been of the "what should be done" as opposed to the "what will be done" variety. As a result, international order is now frayed; we have commitments without compliance and resolutions without resolve. We lack predictability and confidence in international responses to today's challenges.

International order requires a source of power, and since the Second World War, the United States has been that source. The United States led in the creation of international security and financial institutions, and when those institutions work effectively, they help meet America's security interests as well as those of its friends and allies, and indeed those of all but the most recalcitrant states.

For much of the second half of the twentieth century, key allies of the United States and many of their citizens regarded the United States as a vital provider of international order. That belief has vanished. Fewer people around the world accept or trust American power-or regard it as legitimate. International public opinion polls over the last several years show that many people believe that U.S. foreign policy has made the world a more dangerous place since 2001.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq casts a long shadow on America's standing in the world and its relations with friends and competitors alike. But it would be wrong to trace all of America's difficulties to the decision to go to war or its conduct of the war. Rather, America's standing in the world today reflects a fifteen-year failure to create the rules and institutions of international order.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, American military strength was unrivaled. Democracy and liberal capitalism, the ideological alternatives to communism, were triumphant. America's economic wealth and power were ascendant. Both U.S. presidents since 1992, William J. Clinton and George W. Bush, had historical opportunities to reinvigorate international cooperation and put in place new international institutions, rules, and understandings appropriate for today's world.

The end of the cold war was a moment akin to the end of other great-power wars, a time ripe for making sweeping international changes to refashion international order. The Clinton administration in the 1990s understandably believed that the U.S. challenge at hand was to incorporate Russia and Central and Eastern Europe into a democratic community-and beyond that to fashion post-cold war diplomacy into a driver of global peace and prosperity. They expanded NATO and sought to anchor Russia, and later in the 1990s, China, into international financial institutions. They worked hard to address the effects of the Soviet breakup on nuclear proliferation, instituting new programs to deal with loose nukes, working with new governments in Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to give up nuclear missiles on their territory.

Beyond the challenge of cold war reconstruction, there was the need to bring cohesion to an increasingly diverse world, characterized by more actors that could disrupt, fewer actors that could control, and greater opportunity in global markets, yet greater risk in the movement of pollution, disease, and weapons across borders. The Clinton administration concluded international negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, global warming, an international criminal court, and a new World Trade Organization.

But the Clinton administration, by its own admission, never formulated a global vision of order, and it was largely silent on how the rest of the world would fit into a peaceful, democratic community. Like many other governments, it dimly understood that the challenge of international order was changing dramatically. In a remarkably prescient article published in 1992, James Goldgeier and Michael McFaul described a world that was rapidly splitting in two: a largely peaceful democratic and liberal core, where Kant triumphed over Hobbes, and a violent periphery of weak, fragile states, corrupt and feeble markets, and ideologies hostile to liberal ideas. Analysts like Robert Kaplan and John Steinbruner observed that if the security issues of the periphery could not be contained, they would corrode the order and predictability necessary for prosperity and peace.

Despite its larger support for international institutions and partnerships, the Clinton administration frequently derided the one international institution with operational responsibility for failed states: the United Nations. The Clinton administration blamed the organization for failure in Somalia, which entrenched anti-UN sentiment in Congress, and in the immediate aftermath of the Somalia debacle, it supported the withdrawal of peacekeepers during the genocide in Rwanda. In Iraq, the administration's early cooperation with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) deteriorated into what one analyst described as "creeping unilateralism," in which the Clinton administration took upon itself the right to decide how UN Security Council resolutions would be implemented. It was the Clinton administration, in 1998, that declared regime change as the U.S. goal in Iraq.

The U.S. failure to strengthen the United Nations and address the security issues of the periphery-poverty, weak states, civil war, and regional instability-made the world a more dangerous place over the last fifteen years. And those security issues erupted on September 11, 2001, when terrorists based in one of the world's poorest, most violence-torn regions carried out the most deadly attack on U.S. territory in history.

The 9/11 attacks changed American views about security. The Bush administration began to understand that failed states and ungoverned space in the international system were resources for transnational terrorism and organized crime. But whereas 9/11 changed threat assessments, it powerfully reinforced the administration's unilateral tendencies.

It is easy to forget the outpouring of international empathy, concern, and friendship for the United States after the September attacks, and the many offers of assistance. The battle against transnational terrorism, shared with China, India, and Europe, presaged the possibility of extensive cooperation among these powers. American policy and leadership at that moment could have transformed international order.

Instead, all the goodwill became a second wasted opportunity. The United States shut out its NATO allies from Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, only to realize by the summer of 2002 that it needed them. Instead of focusing on defeating al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters in Afghanistan, the Bush administration declared a global war on terror-with no boundaries and no finite end-that alienated allies and potential collaborators in the Arab world and beyond. Its willful, driven pursuit of war in Iraq poisoned international cooperation. Coupled with a new national security doctrine that embraced preventive war, along with casual references to forcible regime change as its preferred method of dealing with rogue states, the United States set itself up as self-appointed sheriff and judge of the international system.

The global war on terror squandered one of the United States' great assets: its reputation for protecting and promoting human rights and the rule of law. Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, torture, and rendition destroyed U.S. credibility on human rights in large parts of the world, especially in Muslim-populated countries.

Like the end of the cold war, 9/11 was a potentially transformative moment. Leaders could have rebuilt international cooperation to last deep into the twenty-first century. Unlike President Clinton, who strove toward a stronger international order, but did not have the vision and strategy to reach it, President Bush did not even try.

Historically it has taken war or crisis to bring about a fundamental transformation of international order. The failure to seize the opportunities afforded by the end of the cold war and 9/11 creates a much more difficult challenge: to use the urgency of looming existential security challenges to prompt global action before their worst consequences are felt.


Rebuilding international order will require focusing on specific institutions for addressing specific threats-and making them effective. But as a prerequisite it also requires a vision, a foundational principle that gives a moral value to order and brings coherence to expectations about how states should act across multiple issue areas. Such a principle must appeal to diverse populations in every region of the world, win the support of key states, and resonate with America's self-image.

We believe that responsible sovereignty, or the injunction that sovereignty entails obligations and duties to one's own citizens and to other sovereign states, is such a principle. Responsible sovereignty differs from the traditional interpretation of sovereignty (sometimes called Westphalian sovereignty) as noninterference in the internal affairs of states. As initially articulated by African statesman and scholar Francis Deng in the 1990s, responsible sovereignty meant "that national governments are duty bound to ensure minimum standards of security and social welfare for their citizens and be accountable both to the national body public and the international community."

In this book we refine and extend the concept and apply it to diverse transnational threats to formulate solutions. We argue that responsible sovereignty requires all states to be accountable for their actions that have impacts beyond their borders, and makes such reciprocity a core principle in restoring international order and for providing for the welfare of one's own citizens. In a world of interdependent security, states cannot exercise their responsibility to their own citizens without also exercising it in concert with other states. Responsible sovereignty also implies a positive obligation on the part of powerful states to provide weaker states with the capacity to exercise their sovereignty responsibly-a "responsibility to build."

Why an order based on responsible sovereignty? We emphasize sovereignty because states are still the primary units of the international system. As much as globalization has diminished the power of states, and as much as sovereignty has been used as a shield to protect governments from accountability for their behavior, it is hard to think of any major international problem that can be addressed without responsible, capable states. States create incentives and disincentives for social and economic actors, from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to businesses, within their borders. And we know from example the horrific consequences for citizens of states that fail. Sovereignty also reaffirms states as the central decisionmakers in international cooperation. As a former head of state told us, "International cooperation depends first and foremost on decisions taken by governments to cooperate."


Excerpted from Power and Responsibility by Bruce Jones Carlos Pascual Stephen John Stedman Copyright © 2010 by Brookings Institution Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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