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In his classic The Anarchical Society, the scholar Hedley Bull argued that there was a perennial tension in the world between forces of order and forces of disorder, with the details of the balance between them defining each era’s particular character. Sources of order include actors committed to existing international rules and arrangements and to a process for modifying them; sources of disorder include actors who reject those rules and arrangements in principle and feel free to ignore or undermine them. The balance can also be affected by global trends, to varying degrees beyond the control of governments, that create the context for actors’ choices. These days, the balance between order and disorder is shifting toward the latter. Some of the reasons are structural, but some are the result of bad choices made by important players -- and at least some of those can and should be corrected.

The

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  • RICHARD N. HAASS is President of the Council on Foreign Relations. Follow him on Twitter @RichardHaass.

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