After the end of the Cold War, the United States of America was standing victoriously. Its ideological enemy – the Soviet Union – had dissolved and thus, the bipolar world order had ended. The post-Cold War world was, for Americans, a unipolar belle Ã©poque, in which American hyper-power dominated the global scene economically and strategically.  Still, this era of American hegemony was complex due to absence of any grand design as pointed out by Bacevich  – one can argue that the end of the Cold War created panic among the United State’s political institutions that were oriented in dealing specifically with issues rising from the Cold War.
When did the post post-Cold period begin and what started it? Is the United States of America still a superstar or is its power declining? Some experts, Nye and Craig among them, predict the rise of multipolar world while some point out that we are already living in multipolar world.  As the topic points out, the purpose of this paper is to analyze how current post post-Cold War world order in view of the United States differs from post-Cold War period. However, the United States has had very unique experiences and a complex, if not to say controversial, history – having regard to this, it is understandable that many aspects dealt with in this essay are intertwined.
First and foremost, one has to deal with apparent formation of multilateral world. The main thrusters behind multilateral world that shape international politics in the coming decades are, for example according to Khanna, globalization and the geopolitical competition among three empires for global leadership and allegiance of the “second world.”  I agree that globalization triggered by Americans themselves is a very important element. It essentially makes world “a smaller place” and binds everything. Also, I concur that rise of other nations is another important factor. Khanna however, in my opinion, fails take into account possible balance between forces and continuing United States supremacy. The United States of America is clearly an empire who struggles for leadership, although not in classical sense as correctly pointed by Craig.  It would be impossible to pursuit global dominance without having imperial characteristics. Indeed, the United States has projected its power over the entire world and advances its own interests.
Still, why do we talk about rise of multilateral world? Craig, among other experts, first identifies military and economic aspect of the United State’s power.
Military power of the United States is unparalleled. In the 2009 the U.S. military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world’s defense spending combined. Total defense budged exceeds one trillion dollars.  This is over nine times larger than its geopolitical “competitor” China’s budget. Furthermore, the United States not only spends enormous amounts of money to upkeep and improve its armies, but has also the highest technology level – advanced weaponry further increases military power. Expenditures to military, needless to say, help to improve domestic economy and project such power abroad. Besides apparent possession of highly advanced military power, United States, as demonstrated in Iraq, has also will and ability to use it.
However, overemphasizing military power and especially the will to wield it  has been subject to heavy criticism both domestically and internationally. Although, the U.S. has the largest economy in the world, its economy might soon fail to support such level of military expenditure. And as pointed out by Mitchell the United State’s foreign policy is not sustainable anymore, it has to cut expenses and military tools as a part of foreign policy might be limited as well. In addition, critics like Noam Chomsky point out hazards of military power – arms race, possible nuclear war, abuse of power.  Even realists sharply and publicly criticized the U.S. foreign policy under Bush’s administration – “it has been taken over by expansionists dangerously dismissive to the caution and prudence that were the hallmarks of traditional realism” as asserted by late George Kennan.  I think that military power is seductive as huge military might compel it’s possessor to use it – viewpoint shared by many I believe. As Chomsky put it, probability of use of force is high. Also, there might be other signs of decline – lack of ability or will to the U.S. military power as an example can be given of Russia-Georgia War where the U.S. did not help newly born democracy.
Nevertheless, military is and most likely will remain vital and useful tool of foreign policy that contributes to the U.S. supremacy. Whether in future there will be decline of hard policy of using force is subject of speculation – Obama administration, at least at the moment, is against use of aggressive force in view of Iraq.
On the other hand, contrary to military power, economically it is already doubtful that the United States still is hegemony.  One of major differences between post-Cold War and post post-Cold War era is economical. Many industries have left for overseas as production of goods is much cheaper there. Also, other problems besetting the U.S. economy are mainly overconsumption, low savings, unemployment, current account and budget deficits and reliance on foreign creditors. Moreover, the economic downturn in 2008 swung dollar’s long-term prospects as the reserve currency of international system  as well as created several domestic economical problems that required immediate attention and further undermined U.S. economical dominance.
Although, the U.S. domestic issues can be solved, debt of the United States and inflation caused by printing money to revive economy and to resolve domestic problems is reaching new heights. In principle, debt can be devalued  and inflation can be limited when raising interest rates, both of these can be extremely harmful to economy and only implemented with uttermost care as such practices can unbalance delicate economical situation and turn economy to steep fall.
Moreover, much of the United State’s foreign debt is owned by private investors from Asia, but the relationship between China and the United States is unique. Although, China is the biggest owner of U.S.’s foreign debt,  latter is also biggest market (besides China’s internal market) to China’s goods – meaning that both powers are somewhat dependant on each other.
Still, China is a major creditor for the U.S. and as the rising star of Asia has had the fastest-growing major economy for the past 30 years with an average annual GDP growth rate above 10% and is replacing the United States as lead consumer. As even Obama has acknowledged hope that Asia will be future engine of economic growth, it is safe to say that economically the world is already multipolar.
Perhaps the most important aspect concerning rise of economical multipolar world order is that economic crisis the world is currently battling furthermore raised questions about success of America’s economic model. Today, rise of alternate models, like China’s post-communism state capitalism, and support for them creates competition between those models and liberal “open-door”  free market capitalism of the United State. Bluntly put, economy of the United States is prone to crises as history as shown and might not be suitable for stable economy.
To further arguments in favor for multipolar world order, rise of other powerful States, cultures and multilateral actors must be noted. First of all, integrated Europe in form of European Union is advancing its power already having technology level comparable to the U.S.’s. Brazil and India, once considered third world countries, have significantly increased economic production and military power. Former superpower Russia still has stake in the game as DeHart points out.  Lastly, China already is a regional and economic superpower – and unlike Russia, which only speaks about “near abroad” sphere of influence, China actually has sphere of influence. 
Also, besides emergence of powerful States, different cultures have arisen and provide alternate models to post-Cold War world order. For example, one of these alternate models is fundamental Islam that gains supporters rapidly. Rise of other models and cultures is important as it provides alternatives to order set by the U.S. Respected scholar Samuel Huntington has even argued that in the future, conflicts will be between cultures, not between nations.  These developments (rise of other powers) are main reasons why American cooperation with traditional allies has become much more important than it was a decade ago.
Significant difference between post-Cold War and post post-Cold War period will be changes in international law and reforms in international institutions as well as rise of numerous multilateral actors. As a lawyer, I know that international law is generally well observed as States do not want to be pictured as villains. Still, Iraq war set precedence of waging anticipatory self-defense.  Iraq war that was supposed to be quick victory for democracy and good against evil oil emperor is winding down. Furthermore, international community and majority of experts of international law consider actions of the United States in Iraq as illegal and not permissible under the United Nations system. This precedent is dangerous as many experts believe – and was used by Russians in recent Russia-Georgia War.
In view of terrorism as a global threat, it has to be noted that terrorist attack on September 11 helped Bush administration a lot. They found a new enemy (instead of former Soviet Union).  Due to these attacks, Bush Jr. was able to acquire domestic support to continue Clinton’s hard policy. However, although this declared war on terrorism helped the post-Cold War U.S. to find new course and is largely funded by the U.S. itself, this war might backfire and in return create terrorism and diminish the U.S. credibility in international arena (as it is being viewed as an aggressor). For example, Chomsky points out that terrorist attacks in Iraq have tripled and many experts have issued alarming reports of rising terrorist threat that is only fueled by war on terror.
Although, Noam Chomsky provides harsh and linguistically somewhat forcefully bound criticism on the United States and its foreign policies, he does have many valid points. In essence he claims that the United States is an outlaw, rogue state that creates binding international law norms for other states but excludes itself from these rules.  In essence, the United States defies the principle of universality. This doctrine is well expressed by Madeline Albright that “the United States is the indispensable nation.” Chomsky gives a good example of the practices of this doctrine – judgment of International Court of Justice was deemed inappropriate as it condemned the U.S. policies and thus was simply ignored. Chomsky’s ironies are almost inexpressible indeed as he describes that the same western powers who gave Saddam Hussein equipment to develop weapons of mass destruction, invaded Iraq under pretext of stopping development of WMD-s, but while guarding oil fields they allowed pillaged equipment for developing WMD-s to cross Iraqi border to some unknown destination. In his viewpoint (most likely shared by many Arabs) the real terrorist is the United States of America. Thus, being pictured as a rogue state and an aggressor undermines the U.S. credibility in international arena (among friends and foes alike).
As mentioned, new post post-Cold War period most likely changes structure of international organizations, primarily the system of the United Nations.  Notwithstanding the numerous vetoes the U.S. (and others) has made in Security Council that it deemed inappropriate as well as still the United Nations being “locked” in 1945, truth is that the system of United Nations is in need for reforms. The rise of soft policy and more diplomatic measures of Obama administration give hope that such reforms might be possible and thus the framework of international law reorganized. Maybe, in post post-Cold War, rules of international law that have formed throughout centuries and were almost shredded within a short period of time (during Bush administration), can be re-strengthened. In my opinion it is necessary as collective security system could prevent new wars. Other possible alternatives to reforms of the United Nations system are briefly described by Nye (and of course other prominent experts) namely benefits and downfalls of world federalism, functionalism, regionalism, ecologism and cyber feudalism.  Nye concludes that whichever model will be used, in the near future, world will be multilateral.
Although, as discussed, international community is changing, the United States consists of vast geographical area and has maintained global vision presence.  Its embassies are everywhere. That is why it must be noted that whatever the world order might be in the near future, the U.S. has significant impact on it. One might confidently argue that the United States is still a superpower that can, at least to some extent, write the rules of post post-Cold War period.
This global presence, mentioned in previous paragraph, of the United States is closely intertwined with global perception of the United States – Chomsky’s second superpower that is global public opinion. The United States of America has been portrayed as benevolent Hegemony. Tools of its foreign policy include soft power – financial assistance, loans, international aid and so on. Many foundations, church groups, non-governmental organizations promote democracy, human rights, education and so on. This is the reason why Americans are proud of selves and cannot comprehend why are Americans often hated.
On the other hand, global perception and presence has a dark undercurrent that might explain controversial feelings towards Americans. One stream of this undercurrent manifests as a legacy from the war of hearts and minds – the Cold War. During that era, the United States supported many brutal regimes and dictators that performed unspeakable atrocities – it is understandable that those who experience horrific suffering are not positively inclined towards the U.S. Had U.S. not intervened, maybe democracy would not have survived as pointed out.  The other stream is reaction towards arrogance and ambitions of the United States. Statement that “we are the indispensable nation” raises question whether other nations are dispensable? Also, securing key resources of economy, particularly oil, has been main ambition of the United States for a long time. Unfortunately, many of these resources are located within other countries – using hard power to acquire these resources has created many conflicts for the United States. For example, in the eyes of Arabs, Americans are not liberators and bringers of light, but aggressors whose arrival is interlocked with arrival of suffering – in a manner of speaking, Americans are viewed as harbingers of misfortune. These strong undercurrents play an important role at the moment as global public views, according to Chomsky, Americans negatively and this undermines its ambitions to remain a superpower.
Nevertheless, the United States of America is in unique position to alter the course of world. When analyzing different world order in post post-Cold War that started with Obama administration, one has to pay attention to domestic situation of the United States. For a long period of time, instabilities within the United States remained untouched. So to say, Clinton’s and Bush’s administrations utilized an ancient principle governing – when you want to divert public’s attention from domestic problems, you should go to war – heeding that both presidents of the U.S. utilized well. Still, domestic issues remained. Currently, it seems that Obama administration is working hard to resolve some domestic issues, for example by reforming health care system,  and by redefining others like national security. Nevertheless, most pressing instabilities within domestic system derive from economy – subject already discussed above. In addition to these problems, current administration must also battle with legacy of Iraq war and public opinion thereof. Although, Obama was and is against presence of American troops in Iraq, it is quite difficult to remove forces from that area while leaving still infant Iraqi democracy without direct support. To summarize, the United States has some problems domestically, but it is still quite capable and strong to solve them – question is how much these issues affects the United State’s foreign policy.
Lastly, after the Cold War, environmental issues have become important. Largely ignored by previous government, President Barack Obama has expressed serious concern about global warming and will be attending climate conference in Copenhagen in beginning of December. This is radical change in the United State’s foreign policy as Obama administration is the first government of the United States that acknowledges environmental problems.  As indeed, warning of scientist are alarming, we need to act together to prevent Kaplan’s coming anarchy  – wars due to scarcity of resources. This change of direction is received well by international community and helps the U.S. to repair its somewhat damaged reputation.
Still, does the post post-Cold War era mean the end of United State’s power – its rule of unilateral world has ended? Perhaps, as pointed out by, the most important change will be the limits on American Power – as it was not able to help allies like Georgia.  The world has enjoyed Pax Americana, at least western world, but in multipolar world, is the U.S. able to deal with the challenges posed by economic and financial turmoil, energy scarcity and global climate change?
Even though, the U.S. dominance is not what it was after the post-Cold War period and is “only” great superpower among other lesser superpowers, it has enough power to change the course of the world. Current Obama administration is a new hope for Americans and to citizens of other States alike – this was maybe the first global election. The challenge will now be to identify new emerging changes and deal with already known issues. Failure to solve these problems could lead to demise of humankind and fulfillment of predictions of Kaplan and Chomsky. Quoting a famous scientist – I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones – we cannot afford to fail in this task.
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