Robert D. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington and a contributing editor at "The Atlantic."
Robert D. Kaplan on
When I look out and travel around the world, what I see in many places is an increasing lack of central authority. For decades, we have been used to strong authoritarian states in the greater Middle East, from Morocco all the way to Pakistan. So we're going from strong authoritarian states that were suffocating in their repression to the loss of central authority. That creates more freedom.
The biggest ethical question in international affairs is how great distant powers can operate so as to reduce suffering that is in turn caused by weakening central order in societies throughout the former colonial world.
Now I think a global ethic means we will feel the same responsibility and love for people in distant countries of no relation to us the same level as we used to feel towards one's own tribe. But it is a very thin and superficial global ethic because it is mainly one subscribed to by what one can loosely define as the elites of the world. Once one gets into the depths of many individual places, one finds that expressions of love and responsibility even today do not extend beyond that of the region or the tribe or the sectarian group.
You could have periods of relative peace versus relative disorder, or relative violence versus periods of less relative violence. I don't believe you will have world peace as such because you cannot have that unless there is an agreement on what is the best form of human development and progress. For various geographical, religious, ethnic, and other reasons, there will never be that point of agreement.
Moral leadership means making decisions even if the opinion polls point in the opposite direction. It means the willingness to be unpopular in order to do the right thing. It means the communal good as opposed to the individual good
It's inevitable that a significant number of authoritarian states will decentralize into regions, into region-states, into micro-states. I think the goal should be, the wish should be, to allow that, yes, there will be many more smaller and smaller entities, but that they have peaceful relations internally and with each other.