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Op-Ed: Western system of alliances is nothing more than a Cold War relic

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    14:20, July 30, 2018

(File Photo) President Trump and other G7 countries leaders.

Scholars of international relations are worried that the United States under President Donald Trump is creating a dangerous place for America. In The New York Times, 35 scholars of international relations signed a statement titled “Why We Should Preserve International Institutions and Order” (later an online petition titled “Preserving Alliances"), calling on scholars in the field to defend the US-led alliance system, but ignoring the fact that alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are Cold War relics and should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

The signatories of the statement argue that the post-World War II world—defined largely by the Western system of military and political alliances, provides important benefits to the United States and its allies, and they warn that Trump’s recklessness poses a threat to the future security and prosperity of America and its allies.

The statement warns that Trump is hurling a wrecking ball at the strategic alliances that underpin American influence, but it also acknowledges that the international system needs reform. “We should reform but not destroy the system that has served the United States and its allies well for over seven decades,” the statement reads. “The global order is certainly in need of major changes,” it adds.

It goes on to say that institutions—the rules that govern cooperative behavior—are much harder to build up than they are to destroy. “Almost nobody benefits from a descent into the chaos of a world without effective institutions that encourage and organize cooperation,” the statement reads.

Without question, it is much easier to undermine trust and cooperation among countries and regions than it is to build up partnerships and institutions for cooperation. Take for example the Paris Agreement. For the first time in history, almost every country in the world joined together to combat climate change. It was a history-making agreement that took years to negotiate and a great achievement in international politics, and the world was shocked and angered when America undermined it.

Trump’s assaults on multilateralism are indeed reckless, and countries should push back against his attempts to kill multilateralism and weaken cooperation. Not only did he pull out of the historic Paris Agreement, but he also abandoned the multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran, among other things, and his trade policies are a menace to the global economy. Utter disdain for the mechanisms and principles of multilateralism, as enshrined in the UN-based international order, will not keep the world safe or create a more prosperous future for all.

Nevertheless, Trump’s disdain for, or at least his questioning of whether it is worth preserving the US-led alliance system—a relic of the Cold War, is a positive development, because it shines a spotlight on the need for reform of the international system. We should move beyond the traditional theories of international relations and build on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter to make the world a better place for all countries and not just for America.

Preserving US alliances is not the best way to encourage and organize cooperation among countries and regions. What is needed is a new type of international relations that better reflects the interests of all countries and that values partnerships over alliances and win-win cooperation over zero-sum competition.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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