THE LONELY SUPERPOWER
, By: Huntington,Samuel P.,Foreign Affairs, 00157120, Mar/Apr99, Vol. 78,Issue 2
THE NEW DIMENSION OF POWER
DURING THE past decade global politics has changed fundamentally intwo ways. First, it has been substantially reconfigured along culturaland civilizational lines, as I have highlighted in the pages of this journaland documented at length in The Clash of Civilizations and theRemaking of World Order. Second, as argued in that book, globalpolitics is also always about power and the struggle for power, andtoday international relations is changing along that crucial dimension.The global structure of power in the Cold War was basically bipolar; theemerging structure is very different.
There is now only one
. But that does not mean that theworld is unipolar. A unipolar system would have one
, nosignificant major powers, and many minor powers. As a result,the
could effectively resolve important international issuesalone, and no combination of other states would have the power toprevent it from doing so. For several centuries the classical worldunder Rome, and at times East Asia under China, approximated thismodel. A bipolar system like the Cold War has two
, andthe relations between them are central to international politics.Each
dominates a coalition of allied states and competeswith the other
for influence among nonaligned countries.A multipolar system has several major powers of comparable strengththat cooperate and compete with each other in shifting patterns. Acoalition of major states is necessary to resolve important internationalissues. 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 uni-multipolar system withone
and several major powers. The settlement of keyinternational issues requires action by the single
butalways with some combination of other major states; thesingle
can, however, veto action on key issues bycombinations of other states. The United States, of course, is the solestate with preeminence in every domain of power -- economic, military,diplomatic, ideological, technological, and cultural -- with the reach andcapabilities to promote its interests in virtually every part of the world.