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The Lonly Superpower

The Lonly Superpower

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Published by Salim Ullah

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Categories:Types, Brochures
Published by: Salim Ullah on Jul 09, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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The Lonely Superpower
 past decade global politics has changed flindamentallyin two ways. First, it has been substantially reconfigured alongcultural and civihzational lines, as I bave highlighted in the pages ofthis journal and documented at length in
 of Civilizationsand the Remaking of
 Second, as argued in that book,global politics is also always about power and the struggle forpower, and today international relations is changing along thatcrucial dimension. Tbe global structure of power in the Cold Warwas basically bipolar; tbe emerging structure is very different.There is now only one superpower. But that does not mean that theworld is
 A unipolar system would have one superpower, nosignificant major powers, and many minor powers. As a result, thesuperpower could effectively resolve important international issuesalone, and no combination of otber states would have the power toprevent it from doing
 For several centuries the classical world underRome, and at times East Asia under China, approximated this model.A
 system like the Cold War has two superpowers, and therelations between tbem are central to international politics. Eachsuperpower dominates a coalition of allied states and competes with theother superpower for influence among nonaligned countries. A
 system has several major powers of comparable strength thatcooperate and compete with each other in shifting patterns. A coalition
 is the Albert J. Weatherhead III UniversityProfessor at Harvard University, where he is also Director of the John M.Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and Chairman of the Harvard Acad-emy for International and Area Studies.
of major states is necessary to resolve important international issues.European politics approximated this model for several centuries.Contemporary international politics does not fit any of these threemodels. It is instead a strange hybrid, a
 system with onesuperpower and several major powers. The settlement of key interna-tional issues requires action by the single superpower but always withsome combination of other major states; the single superpower can,however, veto action on key issues by combinations of other states. TheUnited States, of course, is the sole state with preeminence in everydomain of power—economic, military, diplomatic, ideological, tech-nological, and cultural—with the reach and capabilities to promote itsinterests in virtually every part of the world. At a second level are majorregional powers that are preeminent in areas of the world without beingable to extend their interests and capabilities as globally as the UnitedStates. They include the German-French condominium in Europe,Russia in Eurasia, China and potentially Japan in East Asia, India inSouth Asia, Iran in Southwest Asia, Brazil in Latin America, andSouth Africa and Nigeria in Africa. At a third level are secondaryregional powers whose interests often conflict with the more powerfulregional states. These include Britain in relation to the German-French combination, Ukraine in relation to Russia, Japan in relation toChina, South Korea in relation to Japan, Pakistan in relation to India,Saudi Arabia in relation to Iran, and Argentina in relation to Brazil.The superpower or hegemon in a unipolar system, lacking anymajor powers challenging
 normally able to maintain its dominanceover minor states for a long time until it is weakened by internaldecay or by forces from outside the system, both of which happenedto fifth-century Rome and nineteenth-century China. In a multi-polar system, each state might prefer a unipolar system with itselfas the single dominant power but the other major states will act toprevent that from happening, as was often the case in Europeanpolitics. In the Cold War, each superpower quite explicitly preferreda unipolar system under its hegemony. However, the dynamics ofthe competition and their early awareness that an effort to create aunipolar system by armed force would be disastrous for both enabledbipolarity to endure for four decades until one state no longer couldsustain the rivalry.
 AFFAIRS-Volume y 8
The Lonely Superpoioer
In each of these systems, the most powerful actors had an interestin maintaining
 In a
 uni-multipolar system, this
 United States would clearly prefer
 unipolar system
 be the
 often acts
 as if
 major powers,
 on the
 other hand, would prefer
 multi-polar system in which they could pursue their interests, unilaterally andcollectively, without being subject to constraints, coercion, and pressureby the stronger superpower. They feel threatened by what they see asthe American pursuit
 global hegemony. American officials feelfrustrated
 their failure
 achieve that hegemony. None
 of the
principal power-wielders in world affairs is happy with the status quo.The superpowers efforts to create a unipolar system stimulate greatereffort by the major powers to move toward a multipolar one. Virtually allmajor regional powers are increasingly asserting themselves
 promotetheir own distinct interests, which often conflict with those of the UnitedStates. Global politics
 thus moved from
 bipolar system
 theCold War through
 unipolar moment—highlighted by the Gulf War—and is now passing through one or two uni-multipolar decades before
 truly multipolar 21st century. The United States,
 ZbigniewBrzezinski has said, will be the first, last, and only global superpower.
 quite naturally tend
 to act as if
 the worldwere unipolar. They boast of American power and American virtue,hailing
 United States
 as a
 benevolent hegemon. They lectureother countries
 on the
 universal validity
 American principles,practices, and institutions. At the
 summit in Denver, PresidentClinton boasted about
 the American economy
 as a
model for others. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has calledthe United States "the indispensable nation" and said that "we standtall and hence see further than other nations." This statement is truein the narrow sense that the United States is an indispensable participantin any effort to tackle major global problems.
 is false
 also implyingthat other nations
 dispensable—the United States needs
cooperation of some major countries in handling any issue—and thatAmerican indispensability is the source of wisdom.

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