Part of the fury directed at George Bush had to do, I have no doubt, with how he seemed to be harking back to an earlier age, one that should have been on its way out were it not for his obstructionism. Some of the acrimony surrounding the definition of the enemy facing humanity after 9/11 had to do with the degree people were willing to admit that the emerging new world order was perhaps not realistic after all.
Last November, when I added the "multilateral sovereignty" tag to this blog, it was in response to the audacity of the Goldstone Report in admonishing Israel for minor issue with no bearing on its mandate, and the insistence of a law professor that yes, the Report is fortunately the face of the future.
Probably not. A major weakness of the entire philosophical edifice is that it's based on Europe - the rich but declining former center of the world - and assumes everyone else is interested in following. What if they aren't, all the rest? What if lots of people are actually enjoying their national sovereignty, and have no intention of whittling it away anytime soon? What if this camp is headed by the rising power: China?
In Brussels it is hard to overestimate the shock caused by the EU’s failure to achieve its goals at December’s climate-change summit in Copenhagen. In the EU hard problems are fixed like this: call a summit of leaders, set out public goals for action, declare a final deadline and then thrash out a compromise behind closed doors. Deals are done with a judicious blend of appeals to principle, arm-twisting and redistribution towards less wealthy nations. That model failed utterly in Copenhagen...Much that China does is regrettable; many of the particular values of the post-sovereignty brigade are appealing. That's life; that's human history. It's not about to change. Live with it.
China was amazingly rude at Copenhagen, sending a deputy minister to shout at with Mr Obama, for instance. Such assertiveness punctures happy Euro-dreams of a multipolar world. It turns out that the only thing that alarms Europeans more than a swaggering American president is one who seems weak. And Copenhagen popped yet another bubble—the idea that leading by example can be used to coerce others. Europe’s strategy was to press others to match its own concessions on carbon emissions. But the EU barely existed at the talks.
(PS. If they'd ever get their act together, the real rising power could be India, which would be a more appealing proposition; and the US isn't going anywhere, and will likely stay at the top for this century, at least - so democracy and its fine attributes aren't on their way out. But that's a matter for another day).