“Toward A New World Order Worth Fighting For: Pax Democratica”


Director, Center for Security Policy

before the


Arlington, Virginia

4 March 1991

The NWO: Fact versus Fiction

On Wednesday, March 6th, President Bush will explain to a joint session of Congress what the war with Iraq was all about. To an even greater degree than he has done previously, the President is likely to portray this conflict in terms of a New World Order — one of the most widely employed, yet least precisely defined political slogans of modern times.

In his speech, President Bush will probably describe his vision of a NWO — as the acronym mongers are calling it — as an international arrangement whereby all states, regardless of differences of ideology or of governmental system, join together to prevent aggression. In the event aggression nonetheless occurs, the NWO provides a means by which such states act in concert to defeat it.

The cornerstones of the President’s vision of the New World Order are:

  • A cooperative, constructive and reliable partner in the Soviet Union;

  • Acquiescent — if not actively supportive — attitudes among key allies (notably the United Kingdom and France) and leading "non-aligned" nations (especially China); and

  • As a result, the opportunity to use the United Nations Security Council as the vehicle for bringing collective pressure to bear against aggressors (especially, through the imposition of sanctions and the mandating of corrective actions).


It would be dangerously misleading if the President were to contend that such a New World Order is in place today — or, if not, that it had had something to do with the success of the war against Iraq. Certainly, no one should believe that such an arrangement has been permanently enshrined for the future.

The Factors that Produced Success

The truth of the matter is that the key ingredients for success in the Gulf war were:

  • Determined and largely effective U.S. leadership;

  • Broad-based support among fellow Western democracies (the Germans and Japanese being the notable exceptions insofar as they were palpably squeamish about participating and initially dodgy about contributing in other ways; Tokyo, at least, did not actively subvert U.S. initiatives by supporting Soviet "peace proposals"!); and,

  • A series of narrowly based — and undoubtedly expensive — marriages of convenience with various totalitarian regimes.


The success these regimes had in parlaying their acquiescence at the United Nations into tangible benefits should be as carefully studied by diplomats-in-training as Gen. Schwarzkopf’s brilliant tactical deceptions and lightning thrusts will be by future soldiers. For their part, the Soviets turned UN votes into leverage for unprecedented access to Western economic, financial and technological assistance. China was keen on ending the last remnants of post-Tiananmen Square blacklisting. Syria’s Hafez el Assad got a moral embrace by Bush, de facto absolution from the stigma of being a state-sponsor of terrorism, and new access to the largesse of the Gulf states.

Don’t Count on This Drill Working the Next Time

Still, it is far from clear that the circumstances under which the totalitarian members of this grand coalition were enlisted can be replicated — or that the United States could afford to try to do so. After all, it took a ninety-minute "telephone summit" between President Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev — and as yet undisclosed U.S. concessions over and above the $1.3 billion previously provided to the Soviets in taxpayer-subsidized credits and loan guarantees — to keep the Soviets from breaking ranks completely in pursuit of the Kremlin’s insidious eleventh-hour cease-fire proposals.

This price was, of course, paid on top of the $7 billion in forgiven Egyptian debt and who knows how much more in diplomatic and other favors to the Ethiopians, Cubans, Colombians and the like — nations whose support in the UN the Bush Administration felt compelled to buy (or at least rent) to keep them part of the anti-Iraq coalition.

A Better World Order — Pax Democratica

Fortunately, we have an alternative to resting a brave new world order on so tenuous a basis: Pax Democratica — an international arrangement whose leading nations all are responsible to their people insofar as their people determine the form, policies and priorities of the government that rules them.

A NWO based on democratic political systems and their economic counterparts — free markets — has three things going for it. First, the freedoms and opportunities inherent in such systems are what people the world-over, from Albania to the USSR, have indicated so dramatically over the past two years that they earnestly want.

Second, political liberty and economic opportunity are essential ingredients if such countries are to have any hope for decent standards of living — a necessary precondition for domestic stability. It goes without saying that achieving such a transformation would also be very much in the interest of developed nations facing immense demands on limited foreign aid resources.

Third — and most importantly, at least from the standpoint of international order and security — where nations share the traditions, ethics and institutions of Western liberal democracy (including, respect for individual civil rights, private property and due process of law, all protected by limited governments presided over by freely elected representatives), they tend to have certain desirable qualities: They are generally not tempted by aggression and are reluctant to go to war; they tend to respect international law and treaty commitments; and their reliability as allies — or partners in a "world order" — is a function of these shared values, not cynical calculations of short-term advantage.


Bringing about a New World Order worth having, Pax Democratica, will require the United States and other democratic nations to do more than simply support the development of free political and economic institutions in nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, however. Important as this is — and President Bush reportedly will underscore the necessity of that step in his remarks Wednesday — it will be wholly inadequate if it is not complemented by a more far-reaching effort to promote democracy.

Simply put, the United States and its fellow Western democracies must also support democracy and free market systems in nations where the potential for aggressive behavior persists, for example in the Soviet Union, China, Syria, North Korea and Vietnam. If the West fails to support those who seek in such countries to bring about genuine, structural reform along democratic and free market lines — against the concerted opposition of the central authorities — we will have neither a stable NWO nor conditions in which the danger of aggression and instability are appreciably reduced.

The Bush Administration’s willingness to align itself universally with such democratic forces will be the true test of its attachment to an effective NWO — and the best hope for bringing one about.

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