On Foreign Policy, US Mulls What Comes After the Liberal International Order

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The travails of the rules-based international system have set off a vigorous debate within U.S. foreign policy circles over the most promising institutional foundations for world order in the 21st century. The Washington establishment is united in its repudiation of Donald Trump’s “America First” orientation. But it remains divided on what form of U.S. internationalism is best suited to a historical moment defined by two powerful, countervailing trends: the rise of transnational challenges that can only be resolved through collective action and the resurgence of geopolitical competition that hinders international cooperation.

The four distinct models of multilateralism currently vying for primacy can be characterized as the charter, club, concert and coalition conceptions of world order. Each of the “4 Cs” can lay claim to a distinctive virtue: legitimacy, solidarity, capability and flexibility, respectively.

The first, a charter…

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