Warning: instability ahead.

Author:Bremer, L. Paul III
Position:Indications of international political reforms on US foreign policy

The challenges to America in a post-Cold War World of constant warfare, shifting coalitions, betrayals, uncertainties, and general destabilizaton.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and of communism has brought about the most dramatic redistribution of power that the world has seen in the last 50 years. That is going to have an important effect on the political and economic environments in which the United States will be doing business over the next 10 to 15 years. The situation presents risks and opportunities and has important implications for how America conducts its foreign policy and economic policy.

As a result of the Soviet Union's collapse, there has been a lot of talk about a New World Order, about the "end of history," about a unipolar world in which the U.S. is going to operate. I think all of this talk is largely nonsense. There is nothing orderly about the world we are living in now. Far from ending, history has returned with a vengeance, as seen in the former Soviet Union and the Balkans. And, despite our performance in the Gulf War, I don't think it is going to be a unipolar world either.

The Gulf War revealed two important weaknesses in America's position in the world today. First, the United States lacks a conceptual basis for our engagement in the world as it is now developing. Second, our military strength is not matched by economic strength. There is a real difference between our military posture, which is that of being the only superpower, and our economic strength. As a result of that dichotomy, it may well be that the United States has the power to do any one thing it wants to do in the world. But we can no longer do everything. The implication is that for the first time as a country we are going to have to be very clear in setting our priorities - what it is that we want to accomplish in foreign policy, and what it is that we want to accomplish in our foreign economic engagements.

We are entering a very unstable world. While that may seem obvious, it needs to be stated and recognized. There are both structural reasons and substantive reasons for this instability.

On the structural side, we are entering into not a unipolar world but a multipolar world: a world in which there are many different competing powers, and where power is measured not just in terms of military power, or the classical measures of national security, but also in terms of economic power. The trouble is that multipolar worlds are not very pleasant places to live in.

In a multipolar world there are many international players on the field. This gives international relations lots of fluidity which, in turn, makes miscalculations much more likely and deterrence much more difficult. This is the kind of world which was introduced to Europe by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, when the modern nation-state was born. The 150 years that followed the Treaty of Westphalia saw constant warfare, shifting coalitions, betrayals, uncertainties, and general destabilization.

Beyond that, as the bipolar world disappears and the superpowers withdraw around the world, they will create power vacuums. These will tempt medium-sized regional predatory powers to expand into these areas. The invasion of Kuwait...

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