Gaza crisis unveils major flaw in global order

Mohamed Fayez Farahat
Tuesday 28 May 2024

Some regional and international crises acquire a special character due to their role in unveiling many important global phenomena.


The crises that have occurred during the past three decades, since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, have revealed the erosion of many foundations and principles on which the global order was established after World War II.

It started with the decline of the sovereignty concept in its traditional sense and its redefinition to expand the right to external intervention.

This ended with a decline in the relative weight of the UN system as a framework for managing and resolving international and regional crises.

The Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip is the most indicative of the extent of the global order’s flaw and the erosion that afflicted its basic principles.

Erosion of global order’s moral foundation

The first phenomenon revealed by the current crisis was the serious erosion of the global order’s moral foundation.

The relationship between international relations, values, and ethics is dialectical.

Contrary to international relations theories that defended the conflictual nature of these relations, the centrality of power and interest concepts, and so on, other theories defended the importance of values and ethics in international relations.

Such theories even considered them one of the forms and sources of state power.

There have been many high values that governed international policies, including the right to self-determination.

What is more dangerous is that this Gaza crisis revealed another aspect, the serious decline in the ethics of international policies.

This has manifested in the rooted double standards, media deception, false narratives, attacks on international law and international humanitarian law, human rights violations, encroachment on the UN and its officials, and other practices that undermine the moral foundation of the global order and international policies.

US failure to act as a responsible superpower

The negative effects of this trend are deepened by its association with the dominant superpower at the top of the global order, the US, and some of its allies.

This accelerates the undermining of this order’s stability conditions.

One of the keys to establishing and stabilizing global order is the existence of a superpower that accepts the international community's assumption of the hegemony state over this global order.

In return, this power assumes the provision of basic international public services, especially global security, protecting international law, freedom of international navigation, freedom of trade, and facilitating access to international financing opportunities, particularly during periods of economic recession.

Some international relations theorists argue that two main factors exist behind the dominant state's assumption of this responsibility: first, moral responsibility; second, no other state can bear the costs of providing these services.

The international community's recognition and acceptance of this hegemony state remains conditional on the ability of this superpower to provide and protect these services.

The Israeli aggression against Gaza revealed two major flaws.

First, the United States could not act as a superpower responsible for protecting security in the Middle East — one of the most important and sensitive regions for global security.

Second, it was unable to distinguish between its responsibilities as a superpower towards one of the most dangerous crises that the region has experienced and its responsibility as a strategic ally of Israel.

Erosion of confidence in US hegemony

These two major strategic mistakes are added to a series of previous ones or signs of weakness associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war.

In the first example, there was an expansion in the politicization of a technical issue, which led to the undermining of the World Health Organization, which represented a primary target in the American attack against China.

This led to undermining opportunities for multilateral cooperation to face a non-traditional global challenge.

In the second, there was an expansion in the sanctions mechanism outside the multilateral system that undermined the principles of free global trade.

Moreover, these strategic mistakes undermine the opportunities for stability of the beliefs of international actors to maintain the US hegemony over the global system.

They shake their beliefs that this hegemony still achieves the required gains for them, given the importance of the international services that the superpower provides to the global system.

The stability of these services is a prerequisite for the stability of the global economic system, global trade, and economic growth.

The danger here is the significant change that occurred in the pattern of power distribution in the international system at the present stage, compared to the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The latter was characterized by a large gap in power between the United States as a superpower that inherited the bipolar system and the powers following it directly.

This did not create any opportunity at that time to compete for the seat of the great power, as the following powers accepted the dominant position of the United States in the international system.

However, now the power distribution pattern (in economy, military, technology, and culture) is more widespread globally.

In addition, the gap between the United States and the powers following it has become much smaller than at the beginning of the American unilateral dominance stage.

In that stage, the costs and burdens of maintaining hegemony have increased, increasing the costs of providing global public services and leading to a decline in the economic returns of hegemony.

Likewise, the number of middle powers in the international system has become more than it was after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is a segment no less important than the next power in the international system, as it is the one most interested in the stability of the international system and key global services, and whose development experiences are linked to the stability of these services.

As the decline in these countries' conviction in the continued effectiveness of the current hegemony will certainly affect the ability of this hegemony to continue, this important international category may turn to challenge it.

This challenge may not necessarily take a military form; neither will the use of military force by the dominant power be sufficient to maintain hegemony.

The sources of the American hegemony decline are not limited to its performance at the international level and the decline in its ability to provide services.

However, they include many internal problems reflected in the final analysis of the strength and attractiveness of its political and moral model.

The exposure and erosion of the foundations and justifications for American hegemony were certainly not linked solely to the current Israeli aggression on Gaza.

It began years ago, but this crisis revealed the depth of this trend, which will worsen further if not addressed quickly through a deep review of the American mistakes.

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