Even among democracies, many have divergent national and regional interests in dealing with an international order that was created by others. Globalization with rising powers should not become a reversion to 19th century mercantilism and balance of power politics.
Third, market capitalism is again facing ideological challenges. The financial crisis, recession, Euro-crisis, and massive debt in the transatlantic economies have all created a lack of confidence, diminished discretionary resources, and engendered a broader perception of a failing capitalist system.
By contrast, the more authoritarian model of China is seen by others around the world to be delivering rapid growth and large surpluses.
Likewise, Islamist extremists point to the unfairness of a world organized around a Christian West, and to secularism as a source of moral decay. These arguments are then used to justify the imposition of a harsh, antidemocratic system in place of open societies and market democracy.
Fourth, the drive by states like North Korea and Iran to acquire nuclear weapons – part of a growing problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – has replaced US and Russian nuclear arsenals as the preeminent mass destruction threat in the world today. Combined with the effects of globalization and ideological extremism, the prospects are chilling.
Fifth, energy supplies and energy-generated wealth have become the new tools of exercising regional and global power. Suppliers have the upper hand; net consuming nations are dependent.
Many major exporters are not fully democratic, and in the worst cases even contribute financially to sustaining these other global challenges. Democratic states must invest in diversifying sources, routes, and types of energy simply to retain their day-to-day freedom.