Niall Ferguson interviews Henry Kissinger at Yale

Historians in the News
tags: Yale, Henry Kissinger, Niall Ferguson



Nobel laureate and two-time Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger spoke on Friday to a full Levinson auditorium, calling for a re-examination of the 21st century world order.

Hosted by the Yale Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy, Kissinger was joined by Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson to discuss the building of a shared international order by 2025, using diplomatic history as a tool for predicting the future. Kissinger drew on his extensive diplomatic experience in China and the Middle East, explaining the complexity of establishing order in a world with diverging conceptions of international norms.

After opening remarks from University President Peter Salovey, Ferguson and Kissinger discussed how historical peace treaties, such as the Treaty of Westphalia or the Congress of Vienna, could be used to understand present circumstances more clearly.

“There’s never been a world order before. What used to be considered world order was a regional order,” Kissinger said.

Kissinger went on to say that what Americans call “world order” originated from the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the 30 Years’ War, and was not designed for international adoption. The Western concept of world order — sovereign states interacting peacefully through a balance of power and shared responsibility — is not shared among all countries in the world, he said.

Ideas about world order that conflict with the West’s include those of China, Russia and countries with theocratic regimes. A central challenge is convincing other nations to buy into a certain set of norms, Kissinger said. ...

China’s unique conception of a hierarchical universe explains some of the problems the U.S. has had in negotiating with China, Kissinger said. In Kissinger’s view, China’s emergence on the world stage threatens the West-centric world order.

“When one speaks of world order, we tend to say that Russia or some other country is violating international order. You have to ask yourself what they think they’re doing,” Kissinger said.

Ferguson, who specializes in British history, suggested the possibility of a new world “disorder,” and said he thinks the world has forgotten the need for order in the time since the Cold War ended over three decades ago.




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