The Twilight of Unipolar American Power

The Twilight of Unipolar American Power

In 1962 the former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson quipped that: «Britain had lost an Empire and yet to find a role». Well, perhaps the same can now tentatively be said of the United States in these early, but profoundly debilitating days, of the Trump administration and its chaotic, incoherent foreign policy. The Trump administration's approach to traditional American allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia has been belligerent, nonsensical and highly neurotic. American foreign policy is a complete mess and the only people and country this is inflicting real damage on is the United States. For too long the United States’ global strategic posture has been one of extreme dominance, interference and intervention. Dominating Europe through NATO by pushing for unwise expansion of NATO's borders all the way right up to Russia's backyard. Dominating the Middle East through CIA interference, absurd and dangerous alliances with repressive Islamist backing Gulf Monarchies such as Saudi Arabia or barbaric secular military dictatorships such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the 1970s and 1980s. Dominating the Asia-Pacific with its aircraft carrier (Japan) and certain puppet governments in South Korea; brutal and misguided interventions such as the grotesque Vietnam War and ludicrous/unnecessary «freedom of navigation» and «freedom of overflight» operations in the South China Sea. 

America now must learn the hard truth of it's global position during this period of the Trump administration and beyond: the days of the United States dominating the world in an arrogant, absolutist, heavy-handed fashion and dictating to other nations what they can and cannot do (in particular in other nations territorial spheres of influence and backyards such as the South China Sea) are over and the United States must come to realise this and make the required if painful adjustment. It is no longer the only superpower on the planet and the days of American unilateral leadership are over whether it be political leadership, economic leadership or military leadership. The European Union is just as powerful economically as the United States when you combine the EU27 GDPs or PPPs. Russia is resurgent on the world stage, in particular in the Middle East, and most likely will be the main broker of peace in Syria. China is catching up economically fast on the United States and will undoubtedly overtake it economically within a few years (if it has not already) to become the planets number one economy while the days of American extreme and reckless military and political interference in the Middle East and Asia have produced nothing but chaos, violence, death & destruction and should be heavily curtailed with the prime examples being Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Korea. 

With the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union some foreign policy intellectuals in the United States such as Francis Fukuyama spoke of a period of World Affairs reaching the «end of history and the last man» with the triumph of American style democracy, American style free-market capitalism and American style politico-military interference, intervention and dominance. For a brief period of time under the Presidency of Bill Clinton during the 1990s this appeared to be the case. Yet it was a fleeting moment in time. The world has reverted back to a 19th century/early 20th century state of global geopolitics with no one power strong enough to completely dominate the entire planet. Indeed the state of international relations and global power politics in 2017 resembles what Europe was like on the eve of World War I with many rival and competing powers vying with one and another, none of them strong enough by themselves to exert total control and dominance. If this can be managed correctly with an emphasis on multilateral cooperation, mutual collaboration and mutual respect among these diverse Great Powers of 2017 then that is a positive development in World Affairs and World History rather than a unipolar Pax-Americana. 

There are other models of democracy rather than just the American (or indeed for that matter British) system such as the Chinese model of «consultative democracy». There are other forms of capitalism rather than just the American model of laissez-faire, free-market fundamentalism such as the German social market or the pragmatic Chinese Deng Xiaoping blend of state socialism and free enterprise. There are other schools of international relations rather than the Bush-Blair American militaristic hyper-interventionism such as global multilateral alliances dedicated to fighting Climate Change like the EU-China partnership or Russian diplomacy circa 2011-2012 re Syria rather than invading countries and engaging in «regime change» or whipping up opposition groups into a frenzy of violence without thinking matters through and understanding what one is interfering with. There are other philosophical traditions for underpinning ones society such as the supremely wise and enlightened Chinese philosophical tradition of Confucianism (which places paramount emphasis on harmony both internally within the self and externally within the collective community) rather than the American emphasis on extreme individualism and extreme competition which inevitably leads to conflict and individual/societal breakdown.

As with every country and every individual there is a great amount of good and bad. America is an amazing country with many great qualities, achievements and attributes. It is one of the greatest countries on the planet. But it is not the only one. Thus, this concept of American exceptionalism must be jettisoned once and for all. The immortal line of Charles Dickens «A Tale of Two Cities» rings so true regarding America and for that matter many other nations: «It was the best of was the worst of times». There are a few simple steps American foreign policy can take to correct itself and set itself on a much healthier and harmonious course. Firstly, the United States should butt out of and back away from the South China Sea and stop interfering in that part of the world. Quite frankly, the South China Sea is really none of America's business and it should stop interfering in matters and whipping things up which are none of its business or in reality its actual concern. How would the United States feel if Asian countries started conducting «freedom of navigation» and «freedom of overflight» operations off the coast of Florida or off the coast of California? We all remember how the United States reacted when Cuba began basing Soviet missiles on Cuban territory. 

So no more double standards and no more unnecessary and counter-productive interference and intervention in the waters of the Asia-Pacific, specifically the South China Sea. Secondly, if the United States had listened to Russia in the early days of the Syrian conflict when it started in 2011 the situation may never have gotten so out of control, become so violent and dragged on now for six years. Ergo, the United States should listen to and respect Russian interests in the Middle East or NATO's role in Eastern Europe just as the Americans constantly lecture Russia to take account of American interests. Thirdly, the United States should back the Franco-German axis as the inner core of EU leadership and should back strongly deeper EU political, economic and military integration and give its blessing to an EU army. Fourthly, the United States should cease all arms shipments, military aid and CIA politico-military interference in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it would be best for everyone involved - the Arab states, Israel, the United States, Europe, everyone - if the United States effectively pulled out of the Middle East and dismantled its military bases there and a few other of its 1000 military bases scattered around the world and used these resources instead to focus more on putting the American house in order domestically.

Tags: Globalism  Fukuyama