Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Uber-Gulliver: Wonderful piece, courtesy of Arts & Letters, on the role of the U.S. as the only superpower left. The author first defines what the U.S. is, and how unprecedented our nation's power can be:
America is unique in time and space. Others might be able to defy the US, but they can neither compel nor vanquish it-except in the meaningless sense of nuclear devastation that will be mutual. The sweep of its interests, the weight of its resources and the margin of its usable power are unprecedented. None other than Hubert Védrine, the French foreign minister, has made the point in all its glory--though grudgingly, one must assume. 'The United States of America', he proclaimed, 'today predominates on the economic, monetary [and] technological level, and in the cultural area . . . In terms of power and influence, it is not comparable to anything known in modern history.' In short, the U.S. is a hyper-puissance, a 'hyper-power'.

Next, he analyzes whether we can sustain the pace, and who is most likely to slow us down and how:
To recapitulate. One, Gulliver is an Über-Gulliver. Unique in time and space, he has the largest pile of chips on all significant gaming tables: military-technological, economic and cultural. Second, hard balancing, the anti-hegemonial tool of choice in history, has not set in because this Gulliver, for the time being, is more of an elephant than a T. rex. Third, as the last decade has shown, the international system will exact its revenge, and so, 'soft balancing' and 'balancing-on-the-sly' has already set in, as international relations theory correctly predicted once bipolarity-the mutual stalemating of nos. 1 and 2-was dead. Now, to my fourth and final point: Can Gulliver go it alone?
The answer is no. Given No. 1's exalted position in the international hierarchy of power, one must assume that he would want to remain what he is-Gulliver forever. If so, he has two, and only, two choices. One would seek to undercut or outmaneuver countervailing coalitions, a latter-day British grand strategy, so to speak. The other is a strategy that would emphasise cooperation over competition, a kind of retake of the Golden Age of American diplomacy of the early postwar decades.

So, what to do? Read on, read on...

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