Institutions: Anchors and Rockets

In the shadows of the Second World War, international institutions sprang up faster than the GDPs of recovering Marshall Plan countries. Generally speaking, these served two very distinct and equally important purposes. They can cement the current power structure of the day. The victors take the momentary advantage in relative power to create an institution wherein they have the best possible opportunity to maintain that power in the future. A prime example of this in the world is the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The second type of institution is where a region voluntarily bands together, and in the process forming stronger economic and political bonds. These are often regions of the world that were previously colonized, but not always. In glaring contrast, sometimes the countries are the former colonizers. Western Europe was an area that decided to come together beginning with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a forerunner to the European Union. Other examples of this include the likes of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and dozens of others.
The differences between these can help or hamper relations both within the region and as a bloc in the world political theater. As mentioned in Fareed Zakaria’s piece as well as Amitav Acharya’s, the world is becoming increasing multipolar. Both are quick to say that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the United States is “falling behind,” but rather that the rest of the world is simply becoming more developed, alongside having more influence and power. This isn’t limited to the world stage, but the rising powers are oftentimes a regional powerhouse.
With concern to the hotspots on the globe-Ukaine, South Sudan, and Syria-perhaps the solution involves using both types of institutions. The postwar institutions anchored by the great powers of the day certainly have pull, but the real power lies in regional organizations. The context of the conflict is better understood on that level. Utilizing both to come to an agreement hopefully ensures that a deal is lasting (coming from the likes of a United Nations) and that it’s done within a cultural context (any local institution).


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