A Paradox of America Power

The 1990s was an odd decade in international affairs. We had the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, leading to an unbalanced United States remaining on the world stage. But, there was some US arrogance. Charles Krauthammer (columnist at The Washington Post) wrote in June, 2001 of a “new unilateralism.” While Bush was somewhat muted in the campaign his administration has shown elements of arrogance in foreign policy, for example, pulling out of various international arrangements and treaties. Then 9/11 happens. Suddenly Congress appropriates money to pay UN dues and there is a feeling of multilateralism. But with the victory in Afghanistan by mid-December the pendulum began to swing back to unilateralism. Yet realists have always warned of unilateralism because of the balancing phenomenon. The theory is that other countries will balance against us if we become too powerful or arrogant in the use of our power.

And the United States does dominate. The U.S. defense budget is more than those of the next eight countries combined. US economy is bigger that those of the next three countries combined. There really is no other viable challenger to the United States.

However, there are deeper trends in world politics, mainly in the areas of the information technology revolution and globalization. First, we’ve seen a revolutionary reduction in the cost of communications. Second, globalization has had an effect. Globalization is merely the rise of worldwide networks of interdependence and a resulting shrinkage of distances. In sort, as distances decrease, it becomes harder to isolate oneself. The new unilateralism is severely mistaken. The new unilateralism focuses much too closely on the military aspects of power. A more accurate description of the issues is a three-dimensional chess game. US win on the military level but US need to cooperate with another power such as China, Japan and EU on economic board. On the final board – that of transnational relations – we see both bankers and terrorists. There is no principle of order there. While the new unilateralism focuses on the military dimension, we are playing a 3-dimensional game. And therefore the US needs to cooperate. Problems will call for a proper mix of both hard and soft power, but the latter is always much cheaper. Soft Power and Hard power are related because they are both aspects of the ability to achieve one’s purpose by affecting the behavior of others. So, what do you think about Soft or/and hard power in world politics?

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