Home / Articles / New Issue of Orbis: Navigating Dangerous Times
Three years ago, in an epilogue to the Fall 2020 issue, we noted, “The United States remains the dominant power in the international system, but global affairs are showing more signs of multipolarity, but also nonpolarity. Competition between major states—rather than coordination by a hyperpower—is becoming the defining feature of the mid-twenty-first century. . . . [T]he rules of the international system are changing at the same time that the tools available to both state and non-state actors are evolving. . . . [P]olicymakers and strategists in this coming decade must be prepared for sudden, major, discontinuous changes. Assessments that the immediate future will look a lot like the recent past will not prepare us for a variety of black and gray swan events.”
This Winter 2024 issue of Orbis addresses these challenges. Our first section, “Understanding Your Competitors,” draws on the charge that General H.R. McMaster provided in these pages: “Understanding the other cultivates an approach [to] strategy and policy based on what the situation demands, rather than on what we might prefer.”Olena Snigyr looks at Russian narratives over the past two years. Lonnie Henley presents the factors shaping the “cultural psychology” of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, while Frzand Sherko outlines how Iran plans to deter challenges in its maritime space.
That latter piece sets up Paul Bracken’s examination of naval forces in the second nuclear age, as part of the “Enduring Challenges” section of the issue. Frank Hoffman and Axel D’Amelio, drawing on themes explored in our Fall 2020 special issue on “Emerging Technology and National Security,” examines the impact of artificial intelligence on the enduring nature of war. Finally, Antonio José Pagán Sánchez plumbs the limits and potentials of US alliances in the Indo-Pacific to constrain China.
Mohammed Soliman, who notes how many countries are seeking to hedge against any US-China clash, contributes to our third section on “Fragilities of the Emerging Order” by examining the potential of the proposed India-Middle East-Europe (IMEC) corridor. Of course, the Middle East keystone interconnector for this project is currently in turmoil in the aftermath of the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel. Relatedly, James Ryan interviews Joshua Krasna and Lior Sternfeld, continuing the conversation of a Foreign Policy Research Institute event to provide further historical context. And Leon Hadar reviews two assessments from “fatigued and disillusioned” former senior US diplomats—Martin Indyk and Steve Simon—on the track record of US efforts in the region. Amidst that crisis, Douglas Ollivant offers an overview of the dynamics and challenges of the shift in energy to a post-hydrocarbon future amidst these geopolitical fractures, while Surya Kanegaonkar sees in all these recent developments the outlines of the “financial shape of things to come.”
When we consider the great events that shape the international system, we can lose sight of the individuals—and their relationships—who create the context for policy. Dov Zakheim takes us back to another momentous period a century ago—America’s rise to global great powerdom. In reviewing Laurence Jurdem’s new biography of Theordore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, Zakheim focuses us on the lives and the relationship of these two men who did so much to shape this era. One wonders—in an Orbis book review section a hundred years from now, what political and personal partnership might be seen as one of the defining hallmarks of the age we are living through now?