Book offers new roadmap for tackling transnational threats

As fallout from accelerating climate change and the economic meltdown reveals, today's gravest threats are transnational, demanding unprecedented cooperation among competing nations to find lasting solutions. The policies and strategies developed for the balance-of-power rivalries of the 20th century no longer apply in this one, according to the authors of Power & Responsibility, a book launched March 17 at Stanford.

"Transnational threats create security interdependence between the most powerful states and the weaker states," author Stephen J. Stedman said during the panel discussion hosted by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. "The United States can't defend itself against any threat without sustained international cooperation from others."

Stedman, a faculty member at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Bruce Jones of New York University and Carlos Pascual from the Brookings Institution, said their book seeks to promote the concept of "responsible sovereignty" to rebuild international order and strengthen international institutions such as the United Nations. In other words, the authors argue, their notion of sovereignty demands responsibility from states in addition to according privilege. Furthermore, nations should be held responsible for the harmful international effects of their domestic policies-whether it's producing massive amounts of carbon dioxide or failing to secure national borders and financial institutions, thus enabling terrorist groups to attack targets thousands of miles away.

The book's publication follows a policy oriented Plan for Action booklet released last November on the heels of the U.S. presidential election. Timed to coincide with the start of the Obama administration, the 360-page book, published by Brookings Institution Press, highlights seven issues that demand transnational solutions: nuclear proliferation, climate change, bio-security, civil violence and regional conflicts, terrorism and economic security. According to Stedman, the book was received positively during recent launches in Europe, Asia and Washington, D.C. and, earlier this month, the authors presented their findings to senior White House officials.

While U.S. power is in decline, Jones said, it is the only nation with the military, diplomatic, economic and political power needed to take a global lead in tackling transnational threats. The world's rising powers-China, India and Brazil-recognize that the alternative to U.S. leadership is "entropy and chaos," he said, and that every state stands to benefit more from the former as long as it is geared to structured cooperation.

"This is not a love fest of great powers," Jones continued. "There are real interests here and there [would] be tough and sustained negotiations." But the alternatives-maintaining the status quo where global decisions are made by the outmoded G-7 group of industrialized nations, or establishing a "league of democracies" that would exclude critical players such as China-are simply unworkable. "We recognize that our model is tough but we think it's the most likely to have impact on the threats that face us," Jones said.