FRANCIS Fukuyama’s 1989 proclamation of the “end of history” is perhaps the most memorable of the myriad endeavors to herald the dawn of a new era in which democratic governments would dominate the world and be primarily occupied with overseeing the “satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands.” Nuances notwithstanding, the general conclusion was that a door was opening to the establishment of a permanent system of universal governance subsequently termed the “rules-based liberal international order.”

THIS IS hardly the first time that the promoters of a new global framework believed that it would both render obsolete inter-state warfare and become entrenched in the very fabric of world politics for good, much like the contemporaries of the congresses of Vienna, Versailles, or San Francisco. But those who embraced the “end of history” and the Washington Consensus paradigms did not foresee the brevity of the unipolar era.

HISTORY did not come to its end. The waging of wars and other violations of UN member states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity did not enter into remission, as the populations of Yugoslavia, Iraq, or Libya can grimly confirm. Their cumulative impact on public opinion in the states of the Global South helps explain the lukewarm response to Western entreaties to join the sanctions regime against Russia, brought forth in response to the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

TODAY, “realist” worldviews are vigorously disputed in the West; yet the return of history is no longer. The question now is how to influence the flow of history in the time ahead. Seventeen truly distinguished authors from all corners of the world offer penetrating insights into this critical question in this issue of Horizons.

HOWEVER much they may differ, our authors concur that the international system is “fundamentally broken,” in the words of one of them. One would hope that a crisis of the present magnitude can serve as the wakeup call to fix it. The question remains will whatever comes next be the product of “dialogue or dictation,” as another of our authors might ask.

ADVOCATES OF all options ought to see the advantage of deepening engagement with regions like Central Asia. The development of transport connectivity between East and West today requires a strategic emphasis on the Middle Corridor—a route that inescapably traverses its most important country: Kazakhstan. Its vast natural resources also hold a key to the diversification of supply not only for East and South Asia, but Europe as well. Getting these to market safely has never been more critical. The hour of Central Asia may thus very well be at hand.

THE FINAL theme of this issue is the Middle East. The future of the Kurds and Iraq, as well as Iran and its neighbors in the Gulf, remains notoriously difficult to forecast. And this raises a question one of the Arab world’s elder statesmen examines in our concluding essay: can we change the global culture?

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