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The pursuit of a world order

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We will see how the United States positions itself vis-à-vis the international order and the quest for a world order of which it would be among the main ones if not the principal organizers.

From the moment the United States emerges as a great global power, American diplomacy aims to seek a world order. The safeguarding dimension of American security policy and messianism have two notions that are permanently articulated in American foreign policy with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the period. Long-term prospects are important. The United States has been a major player in the world system since the First World War and even more so at the end of the Second World War.

It is interesting to ask whether it is a stand-alone system operating on its own logic or a relay of American foreign policy. Thus, there is a permanent oscillation between globalism and regionalism in American foreign policy.

The hesitations of American globalism [1890 - 1939][edit | edit source]

The Wilsonian project and its failure[edit | edit source]

Le Conseil des Quatre à la conférence de paix : Lloyd George, Vittorio Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, et Woodrow Wilson.

The Wilsonian project is fundamental, the Wilson presidency is the moment when the United States formulates a project of international organization. Things start before Wilson. The Wilsonian project is only the culmination of a project that had been formalised and formulated before, particularly with a whole series of pacifist and internationalist movements in the United States that had begun to reflect on the idea of perpetual peace and international order. There is a whole body of experience already in place. If one is interested in the sociology of decision-making, one often forgets that they are only chambers of echoes of things that happened before and of which they are not the inventors, but that they legitimize. The idea of this project is to propel the United States into the arena of major international powers. There is a certain geopolitical thought in the thinking of internationalist peace organizations. Governments are not the only ones who reason in terms of power, especially private actors.

The U.S. project is deployed above all on the scale of the American territory with in particular the Pan-American conferences in 1880 and in 1890 being formalized with the creation of the Pan-American Union in 1910 which is a first attempt of international organization on the scale of the American continent that is to say on the scale of what the United States envisages of its field of intervention in 1910 is the American continent. When Wilson came to power in 1912, he believed he could transform the Pan American Organization into a regional security organization. The League of Nations has a history in the South American continent. In fact, the Pan-American Union in 1910 and between the two world wars was going to compete with the League of Nations if not against the South American continent. What is important is that the questions of reflection on the international organization and the international order are first deployed on the scale of the American continent.

From this point of view, the First World War is a pivotal moment because between 1914 and 1918, on the American side, a project of world-wide scope will crystallize to apply to the whole planet something largely thought on the scale of the American continent at first. The global project formulated by Wilson will crystallize with the Fourteen Points and the League of Nations project presented to the Senate and the world. It is a completely new political project in international relations which until the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century was characterized by a club of powers organizing international relations according to their changing interests. From now on, the idea is to create a global political body managing relations between different states within the model of American democracy. There is a formalized organizational project with a political project behind it with the League of Nations as a parliament of the Nations.

The League of Nations is a compromise between three competing projects between the French, American and English projects. The Americans and the British agreed to merge their projects. The League of Nations project bears the mark of Wilson, but is also a compromise with the English and French. It is a notion of voluntary association between nations within the framework of an association of states where everyone is in solidarity with the others.

The question of ratification in Congress means that the question of the organization of the international order is not obvious internally, being strongly contested since 1919. The rejection of the Treaty of Versailles and the result of a deep rift in American political society. It is important to consider that the issue of international order is not self-evident. Those who voted "for" and "against" this project were those who voted "for" and "against" the most. It was a political imbroglio in an extremely strong debate on the role of the United States in international relations and whether it should contribute to the organization of the world or not.


The Second Life of Wilsonism?[edit | edit source]

The Wilsonian moment is the time when Wilson brings his project to life and plays a central role in the peace conference. But in 1919, his project fell to the ground when the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles. The next presidential election in 1920 brought a Republican to the presidency. Finally, throughout the interwar period, wilsonism continued.

At the League of Nations, there are member states and non-member states. As soon as it became clear that the United States was going to refuse to participate in the League of Nations, the League of Nations secretariat came up with a series of strategies to integrate the United States anyway. The secretariat of the League of Nations will consider that, while non-member states may participate in the League of Nations indirectly, they can participate directly in a range of areas of negotiation. The distinction between Member States and non-member states is legally clear, but in fact much more blurred. The participation of the United States in the League of Nations will be done through the major American foundations, allowing us to see that apart from the theory that the United States is not in the League of Nations, they are there anyway.

In the technical sections that are non-political organizations and ancestors of UN agencies today with the hygiene section, economic and financial organization, opium council and others, we find the United States as in the hygiene section and the economic and financial section financed mainly by American capital from American foundations, in particular the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

If we look at the specialized commissions that organize expert meetings, there are American experts almost everywhere represented almost as much as any other state. The Permanent Court of International Justice was broadly defined by Elihu Root and throughout the inter-war period there were American judges, including two former secretaries of state such as Frank Kellogg and Manley Hudson. The United States joined the ILO in 1934.

E. H. Greenwood, U.S. Delegate, and Harold B. Butler, Secretary-General, with secretarial staff of the first International Labour Conference in Washington, D.C., October–November 1919,
in front of the Pan American Building

In the late 1930s, the United States came very close to the League of Nations in the technical sections, particularly the Hygiene and Economic and Financial Section. In fact, the United States is in the League of Nations. Wilsonism has failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, but wilsonism is reflected in the activity of non-governmental organizations at the League of Nations carrying out the American international project with the League of Nations.

The Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations operate both within and outside the League of Nations. These foundations set up health campaigns on almost the whole world, devising an international health policy in complementarity and competition with the League of Nations. It should be noted that this is not just about health. These organizations also have political implications such as the dissemination of international law with a corpus corresponds to American foreign policy through the Carnegie endowment for international peace.

Banking Diplomacy [1919 - 1929]: A Variant of Dollar Diplomacy[edit | edit source]

The action of the American government was still important in the inter-war period. The United States was not isolationist between the two world wars, particularly through private organizations. The government is there with ideas. During the inter-war period, during the 1930s, Republicans in power did not have the same plans as Wilson, but they did not have any ideas for international reconfiguration. The reconfiguration of the international order requires the reorganization of the world economy to reconfigure relations between countries. The idea of American presidents and consider setting up an international economic order managed by the United States in which the United States intervenes.

There is the issue of Allied Debt, which was the number one problem in the 1920s. It was the loans made by the United States' allies who had to repay them after 1918. In the minds of Europeans, especially in the minds of the French, the issue of debts and intimately linked to the issue of reparations considering in the 1920s; paying its debts in the United States if Germany pays reparations to the tune of 132 billion mark-or. It is not the view of the United States that Allied debt must be paid by the English and French at all costs. The financial stakes are enormous and there is also a geopolitical issue.

At the end of the Second World War, the United States was the first economic power, but the second financial power behind England. If the United States wipes off the debts, it will de facto restore British financial power as before 1914. The objective is to get reimbursed, but also to take the place of the world's leading financial centre ahead of England. The issue at stake in interallied debt is the passage of the financial centre of the world from London to New York. The Americans do not intervene in European affairs, but in financial matters.

Interallied debt is a fundamental element of bank diplomacy as manifested in the 1920s. We see how the United States influences the course of political history in Europe. With France's operation of the Ruhr in Germany, France is setting itself against its allies, including England and the United States, who will press for its withdrawal. The years 1924 and 1929 are an example of American banking diplomacy, since the day after France withdrew from the Ruhr, the London conference was convened, where the Americans were very powerful in finding a solution to the question of reparations and the Allied debt. Repairs are too high and Germany is unable to pay and the American objective is to get a reduction in the amount of repairs and to have it accepted by France. France wants to weaken Germany as much as possible within the framework of revenge, while the United States wants to reintegrate Germany into international trade in order to reintegrate Germany into world trade. The United States is getting a decrease in the amount of repairs. At the end of the conference, the Dawes plan was put in place to lighten the German reparations and set up a tripartite system with, on the one hand, American loans to Germany which allowed Germany to repay France and which enabled France to repay the United States. The idea was to re-establish an international trade circuit, a circulation of money and produce. The American objective at this 1924 conference was to intervene in European geopolitics and the European trade circuit.

The Dawes plan is characterized by the diplomacy of the 1920s being voted for 5 years, when a new plan was renegotiated: the Young plan which eased repairs. The economic history of the 1920s cannot be envisioned without the intervention of the United States. Banking diplomacy and a variant of dollar diplomacy where U.S. Bank lending is conditional on a number of structural changes. This is the context of American intervention supported by political power because they are risky loans. It is a synergy between bankers on one side and politicians on the other.

This whole building collapsed in 1929, since from 1929 onwards, American banks were no longer able to lend to Germany, which could no longer repay France, which could no longer repay the United States. In the inter-war period, there is no American isolationism, there is a presence that takes place in different ways, with a strong presence in the organization of international relations in the inter-war period directly and with the presence of non-governmental organizations.

The construction of a new international system: 1939 - 1947[edit | edit source]

At the time of the declaration of war, the political discredit of the League of Nations should be noted. This political discredit adds to the idea that once the war is over, it will be necessary to rebuild a new organization on what the League of Nations failed to organize. As early as 1940, the United States played a major role through a series of reflections.

During the conflict, the League of Nations did not die, but a series of its branches were transferred to the United States. The United States played an important role in post-war construction as early as 1940, but this reflection was also led by a series of European experts who moved to the United States during the war. It is not only the federal administration that has unilateral plans at the beginning of the war, and European experts, especially economists, draw the attention of State Department officials to a whole series of points, and in particular to the economic recovery of Europe. The reflection of Europe, which is developing in the United States on the organisation of the post-war international system, is not only the work of the American administration, but also of European experts.

Document contenant les clauses de la charte de l'Atlantique.

The founding act of this reorganization was the Atlantic Charter in 1941 and the declaration of the United Nations Charter in 1942, which established a whole series of organizations between 1942 and 1945. The new organization that was set up after 1945 has the genealogy of Wilsonism and New Deal. Roosevelt was to widely spread the Wilsonian conception and the New Deal in order to organize an international order and create an interventionist system within the framework of a liberal planning policy. Many of the New Dealers are experiencing a serious domestic defeat, but they will have a win on the outside, as many of them will be applying their plans internationally. The system of international organization as set up by the UN system is a projection of the New Deal on a global scale.

The United States will encourage the participation of non-governmental organizations created by section 71 of the Charter to create non-governmental status. The U.S. government is among those who have been most supportive of the integration of non-governmental organizations. It is clear that in the mindset of American politicians and NGO actors, the fact that the future international organization welcomes non-governmental actors will be a means of involving civil society in the international order, because the state is only one part of American politics. It also points to a geopolitical reality that since civil society is extremely active, that there are many private actors who project themselves internationally, it is also a way to increase the United States' influence at the United Nations.

Finally, it is questionable whether section 71 of the Charter is a projection of American political culture into the international political system by helping to establish a system in which governments are represented, but also private actors, certainly with an advisory role. The official entry of private actors into the United Nations organization chart is, among other things, the mark of American influence.

The International Order in the Cold War: 1947 - 1970[edit | edit source]

The UN: multilateral organization or relay of American diplomacy?[edit | edit source]

The two competing logics are that of the two superpowers, but there is also the logic of a supranational organization to enforce an international order in different fields. We can ask ourselves the question of what is the status of the UN, its role and place, but also whether the UN is a true multilateral organization with a project or whether it is the relay of American power.

The United Nations is a universal organization, but it is a universal organization where the weight of the United States is decisive. In 1945, half of the UN budget came from the United States, decreasing in the 1970s to 25% of the UN budget. The impact of the weight of the United States on the United Nations and its political system is questionable. It is clear that during the Cold War, from the outset, the United Nations became a place of confrontation between the United States and the USSR. This is an arena where the two superpowers oppose each other.

With the example of Korea, there is a strong opposition between the United States and the USSR and a very clear and stronger influence on the United States' UN than the USSR. With the intervention in Korea between 1949 and 1950, the Soviet delegate was absent from the Security Council to protest that despite the Communist victory in China, the Chinese delegate's chair was still owned by Taiwan. At the time of the intervention in Korea, the United States is easily voting for an intervention in Korea. As a result of this vote, the Soviets are returning to vote on the Ashton resolution, which stipulates that when the Security Council is prevented from taking a certain number of decisions, the UN General Assembly can substitute for it. That is why the following resolutions on Korea were passed in the General Assembly.

The United Nations is an international organization being an arena between the USSR and the United States, but this does not prevent the dominant power in the United Nations from remaining the United States, especially with the intervention in Korea conducted under the aegis of the United Nations. In those years, the UN was a driving force behind American foreign policy. Between 1945 and 1960, the importance of the United States' influence on the United Nations and UNESCO should be noted.

The United States and the Bretton Woods Institutions[edit | edit source]

We need to look at the relationship between the United States and the Bretton Woods institutions, particularly with the IMF and IBRD, which are theoretically part of the UN system, but in practice not part of it. At the UN, the rule is a country equals one vote, at the IMF the rule is a dollar equals one vote knowing that the United States represents 32% of the capital in 1945. The United States therefore had a blocking capacity until the 1970s. It is understood from the outset that the IBRD President will be American. The IMF is the World Bank are structurally more closely linked to the US political sphere than the UN sphere. From there, there is the question of the influence of the United States and the role that these institutions should play.

The IMF and the World Bank played a minor role until the 1970s. From the outset, the question of their role has been very complicated to define as a compromise between Wall Street's banking circles, which are opposed to any form of monetary regulation of the international system, and new-dealers are in favour of liberal planning with the intervention of public authorities in the economic field.

There is a rivalry within the American arena that does not allow consensus to be reached on the role of the IMF and the World Bank. The IMF and the World Bank will be marginalized fairly quickly because when the Cold War breaks out, the United States will consider that it is easier to carry out development assistance on its own than through an international organization. The Marshall Plan bypasses the IMF and the World Bank, which is a sign of the nationalisation of development aid. The Cold War led to a marginalization of the Bretton Woods institutions over which the United States had influence, but which took less place in the international sphere.

Regionalisation of the international system[edit | edit source]

At the heart of American reflections on the organization of the world in 1945 and thereafter, there is always the question of whether to create a single unified global system or a series of regional systems under the aegis of a global organization. This debate existed before 1945, but was accelerated by the Cold War, since the United Nations was soon paralyzed by the Cold War logic. This system of collective security is largely paralyzed by the Cold War logic, and the United States will create a series of initiatives to regionalize the international system in order to control things better rather than through a multilateral organization.

The United States intervenes in Latin America in order to avoid the communist contagion leading to the deepening of the integration of the Pan American Union and the transformation of the Pan American Union into organizations of the States of America. The 1947 Rio Convention established a system of collective security throughout the Americas. Until the mid-1960s, the OAS was to be a relay of American policy in Latin America and a tool that could be seen in a whole series of interventions by the United States in the context of government overthrow, particularly in Guatemala in 1954 and in the Dominican Republic in 1965. Following the intervention of the CIA, it will gradually contribute to delegitimize the OAS as a tool of American foreign policy and from the 1960s onwards, Latin American states will refuse to deepen this system, which helps to strengthen American power in the region.

In Europe, there is a similar process. The creation of NATO as a military and collective security alliance is a small UN for Western Europe that responds to the Cold War logic. This is to fix the idea that after thinking of a universal system with a large organization, the Cold War will lead to a regionalization of the collective security system and the United States will regionalize its relations with the regions of the world. In the Middle East, it is the Baghdad Pact in 1955, ANZUS in 1951 in Asia or OTASE in 1954. The United Nations was created in 1945, but it was redoubled from the United States, reflecting a regionalization of collective security issues. This does not preclude bilateral agreements such as those with South Korea in 1951 and Taiwan in 1952. There is concomitance with global, regional and bilateral strategies with some partners. What we are seeing during this period of the Cold War is a web of regional alliances that is doubling the international system as it was created in 1945 with NATO. Between 1947 and 1954, the United States created an immense network of regional alliances.

The United States and the international system at a time of multipolarization[1970 - 2013][edit | edit source]

The United States' view of international organizations and international organization as a concept changes.

Removal from the United Nations[edit | edit source]

From 1960 onwards, the situation of the UN changed with the accession of the former colonized countries, which changed the balance of power. The American magister on the UN is quickly challenged through UNCTAD, the NOEI and the NOMIC which is the counterpart of the NOEI, as well as the NOEI contests Western dominance of the world economy and the imbalance between developed and underdeveloped economies. Organizations related to NOMICs point to the means of communication in Western countries that participate in an imbalance in the construction and dissemination of information. In all three cases, it is the United States that is the first to be challenged and, more generally, the Western countries.

This will translate into a reaction that will result in the removal of the United Nations in general. The United States' contribution to the United Nations budget is decreasing, with a growing accumulation of late payments and a number of organizations leaving the ILO from 1977 to 1980 and leaving UNESCO between 1985 and 2003. We can see very clearly how far the United States is from the UN multilateral system, which it no longer controls. In the late 1970s, there was a gradual removal of the United States from the UN system. Since the election of Barack Obama, there has been a certain rapprochement without any significant rapprochement.

There is also an increase in American influence on the IMF and the World Bank, which are more or less disconnected from the UN system. The influence through these organizations will be more and more linked to the American sphere of power than the UN sphere of power. One can see an indirect influence and a rise of experts who are economists from the Chicago School within these institutions. There is a direct link between the increased presence of these economists and deregulation policies as mandated by the IMF in the late 1980s. These economists are on a line extremely close to the Reagan administration in the late 1980s. That's the Washington consensus. If we look at the relationship between the United States and the UN, we see a distancing and increasing influence on the IMF and the World Bank. These institutions only point to hypotheses due to the lack of work on this topic.

Post-Cold War: with or without the UN?[edit | edit source]

There is a very strong difference between what is happening in the immediate post-Cold War period with the First Gulf War and the deterioration of relations between the United States and the UN system in the 1990s. George Bush's arrival represents the pinnacle of American unilateralism. Barack Obama's arrival is marked by more multilateralism in words, but in fact, he continues to practise unilateralism.

Reform of the international system[edit | edit source]

The United States is one of those who are strongly opposed to Security Council reform, but also to the inclusion of certain institutions in the UN system, such as the IMF, the IBRD or the WTO, which would mean a loss of influence within these organizations. If we look at the international agreements of late 1990, we can see that the United States is abstracted from them, as with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and its opposition to the International Criminal Court in 1998. The United States is behind the international order today. The United States was a pioneer in thinking about the international order, but today on the defensive.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]