Umair Jalali describes a gradually emerging scenario
Global multipolarity traditionally military power was the only decisive factor in assuring a balance of power among states and this military strength ensured their expansion and influence while its weakness precipitated their decline. Though, it is still an important element, many other factors like economy, ideology, political stability, statesmanship and diplomacy have played substantial role in determining the status of a country among the comity of nations in this globalisation world. The World Order has been more dynamic due to the unprecedented developments in international affairs in the last century-ranging from multipolar, bipolar and unipolar. The US has enjoyed unilateral and unparalleled status in the international affairs but as history repeats itself, the might of American power is visibly diminishing due to neoconservative and imperialistic policies, and new centres of power are emerging to shape the multipolar world order.
It is quite obvious that whenever any major power or state has shown its ambition to conquer the world and set up hegemonic empire, it has created resistance from other forces or alliance of forces. This clash of power has been the characteristics of all the periods, though; the 20th century is significantly an example of unprecedented struggle between the countries to acquire world supremacy. In the multipolar world, the conflict between European countries led to two World Wars which established an international foothold for the US. The aftermath of conflict of interest and ideology between the US and the USSR shaped Bipolar World Order and Cold War.
Eventually, Cold War ended with the disintegration of the USSR and emergence of the US as sole super power of the world– economically, militarily and politically and spearheaded the so-called new world order that was essentially unipolar in content. The US has enjoyed a prominent status and role since then; its economy grew with tremendous pace, its military strength has been unmatched, its political influence in the international affairs has been uncontested, and its ideology of democratic principle earned its world leadership. Moreover, it has maintained commonalty of interest with other major powers. However, it has not been able to acquire absolute power due to increasing competition from other major powers, particularly emergence of China, resurgence of Russia, and union of European countries globally and Iran, Venezuela regionally.
As has happened with global positioning other powers have challenged the hegemony of the US in the international affairs. Though, no power has individually surpassed the US in any of the elements of balance of power, they are poised to do in the near future, given the changing paradigm. Economically, the US is still the largest economy of the world but closely followed by Japan and China. The per capita income of Japan is higher than that of the US and China has a very growing economy with sustained growth rate of over nine per cent for the last one and a half decades.
EU’s collective GDP is now greater than that of the US. Since the launch of Euro currency in 1999, dollar had been losing its value against it constantly. Economy of Russia has been bloating since 2000 and its GDP has been tripled. The rising oil and gas prices have added enormous impetus to Russian economy. Although US’ GDP accounts for over 25 per cent of the world total, this percentage is gradually on the decline given actual and projected differential between US growth rate and those of Asian giants.
Militarily, US military force is said to be the strongest in the world but its superiority is not assuredly marked in contrast to the military forces’ capabilities of other major powers like Russia, China, France and Germany. Almost all the major powers are nuclear states. Russia claims to have antiballistic missile capability successfully developed and tested during the Cold War; China has tested a direct anti-satellite missile and carrier cruise killer. Moreover, in the current scenario militarilism and terrorism have undermined the strength of quite larger armies. The 9/11 attacks showed how a small investment by terrorists could cause extraordinary level of damage.
It must be appreciated that though, emergence of new powers was natural, the status of the US could remain unchallenged, had Washington transformed its attitude and policies from a unilateralist to multi-lateralist approach but the unilateral and unjustified policies of the US on several accounts from Iraq war to climate change crises have only unveiled fissures in its power structure. Besides, the globalisation has transformed the world into an interdependent multipolar world. Nation States have been losing their monopoly on power and are being challenged by regional and global organisations, and non-governmental organisations and corporations. Globalisation has strengthened ties and connection in economy, politics, science and technology, culture and society around the world as has been evident by the fact that 186 countries, though reluctantly, signed the challenging Kyoto Protocol. TW