Crisis of Governance and new Generation of World Leaders
Ali Asghar Kazemi
October 25, 2008
Governing the sophisticated and diverse affairs of today’s nations has become so much complicated that goes beyond the capacity of any individual leader. This requires collective knowledge, initiative and action directed and managed by good leadership towards the fulfillment of national objectives and interests. Lack of sound management usually reveals during crisis situations, especially when it encompasses global peace and order.
September 11 crisis and its ramifications upon the international order have produced new generation of political leaders around the world which is different from the past. In the United States these changes appear more pronounced to the point of altering the course of history.
As the chances for Barrack Obama to conquer the White House increases, a new typology of leadership is emerging in the fields of political science and international relations. The new generation of world leaders seems to possess common traits and characteristics different from the traditional one. We are not yet quite sure about the direction and substance of these changes, but based on similar occurrences around the world, we may be able to build the main body of tentative new propositions which will eventually supersede the traditional theories of public opinion, governance and political leadership.
Are we experiencing a radical shift in world public opinion about the qualities and characters of political leaders? Are we witnessing fundamental changes in expectations and political taste of people on traits, capacity and orientation of leaders? Are these changes a necessary outcome of confidence crisis in leadership? Are these changes conducive to peace and harmony or we should expect more conflicts and hostilities around the world?
This introductory comment is merely the product an of an off-hand hunch which should be examined more closely by students of social sciences, politics and international relations in order to arrive at a clear and all- encompassing theory about the characteristics of emerging new leadership and governance in the world.
Without plunging deep into the old times and reminding reputes of great leaders who changed the course of history, names of famous political figures of contemporary world history, such as Churchill, de Gaulle, Eisenhower, Adenauer, Gandhi, Tito, and the likes, are still remembered with respect and grandeur. Indeed, they lived at a critical epoch of historical transformation after the Second World War when people still recognized heroes for their achievement and believed that they could save their respective nations from the moral and material catastrophe and devastation of the war.
As we move up towards our present time, we see a flagrant decline in the quality of leaders. In fact, leaders with mediocre capacity, intelligence and sense of accountability are emerging here and there whose performance is damaging the political status of their proper nations and endangering peace and order in the world. Is this the necessary outcome of the so-called “liberal democracy” and power of mass media to manipulating public opinions towards the election of weak leaders? Are new leaders more to the left or right? Are they more democratic or authoritarian? Are they more pragmatic, ethical, more pacifists or the opposite? How could we explain the current economic and financial crisis which has plunged the whole world into such deep trouble? Are we facing a crisis of leadership around the world?
Though we are not yet able to form a convincing argumentation about either of the above propositions, there is no doubt that September 11 and the subsequent events have drastically changed not only our perception, but also the political configuration and quality of leadership in the world. The truth is that we don’t have yet ready answers to these queries and in fact in some cases we have evidences to prove both sides of the dichotomy. For example, in Latin America we are witnessing the emergence of rather young aboriginal and rude leftist leaders whose main trait is feuding with the United States. They are challenging American policies and power to the point that they have become strategic allies of the Islamic regime in Iran. Though they have nothing in common with Iranian hardliners except their hostile attitude toward US, the Islamic regime is investing hard in order to gain partners and influence in the region.
In the United States, President Bush, son of a living ex-president, whose poor performance brought America and the world to the brink of political and economic insolvency, will soon leave the office eventually in favor of a democrat president who promised drastic changes in the American leadership.
How shall we explain such a strange phenomenon that may pave the way for the election of an “African-American” as the leader of the most powerful nation on earth? Is it due to the alteration of people’s political taste or shall we look to other causes for this metamorphosis? How comes that the American Public ended up to prefer a clever black man without much noble background to a war hero whose father and grandfather were among high ranking flag officers of the US Navy?
In Europe the crisis of leadership is felt all over the continent. People are protesting constantly against their leaders. They have little confidence on their government’s capacity to tackle with growing problems originated on the other side of the Atlantic. US mishandling of the post-September 11 crises by means of “hard power” has put NATO’s global mission in serious qualm and member states are not quite sure about the functionality and viability of this remnant of the cold war period. New leaders of not much charm such as France’s Sarkosy, Italy’s Berlusconi, and few others, while in deep trouble at home, are trying to identify themselves with the American political leadership. They may think that this will boost their position within EU and in the world.
East European political leaders are still in transition from the era of iron curtain to be integrated into a greater liberal community whose outcome is not yet clear. In the Middle East we have an array of left to right, from revolutionary hardliners challenging the West, to traditional conservative regimes whose new leaders are liberal minded and pro-West. Radical Muslims who staged the September 11 attacks (Al-Qaeda) are among the archenemy of this latter generation of leaders in traditional societies and earnestly seek to uproot their rules.
In the vast Asian continent, we still have the remnant of the old communist intelligentsia who have transformed to the requisites of the 21st century. Incumbent Russian leaders, who come from an intelligence background (KGB), have now partly recovered from the shock of the collapse of the old Soviet empire. While Russians are trying to follow policies dictated by their geopolitics, most of the new young republics of the Central Asia and Caucasus are mired by the American hegemony and dance to the tune orchestrated by Washington. They are also in transition and their final fate is yet to be written in future. Georgian recent experience may well be repeated in other territories of the old union.
Besides China whose pragmatic leaders are distancing from the ideological dogma of the past and are now experiencing real miracle in their economy, new political leaders in East Asia are continuing to rely on American capitalism. They already have paid very onerous price for their ties with the West and are now going through further economic hardship due to recent financial crisis in the United States. Opposition leaders will soon capitalize on the matter and embark to take over the political leadership through launching anti-capitalistic slogans which now seem to please public at large.
We had no intention to cover and exhaust all the political leaders of the world in this introductory comment. We only attempted to give exemplary samples on the emerging new generation of leaders, and pose questions rather than to provide answers or justification to the main argument. The issue seems enough worthy for further academic debates and directed researches.
As a preliminary conclusion we may advance the following hypotheses to be tested through more in-depth debates and researches:
· September 11 phenomenon has changed not only world political configuration but also altered people’s perception of leadership;
· Inability of world leaders to take appropriate measures and policies to face the dangers of what is labeled as “international terrorism” has created a crisis of governance and leadership;
· People of advanced societies no longer trust their traditional leaders and are changing political taste and orientation towards unconventional faces who promise changes;
· It is not quite sure that they will get the expected satisfaction in their choices, nonetheless they prefer to test their chances;
· Only the future can reveal the rationale and benefits of this new trend and experience for peace and order in the world.