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Power And Liberal Order: America's Postwar World Order In Transition

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Power and liberal order: America's postwar world order in transition

G. John Ikenberry

017 Bendheim Hall, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. 08540 USA


1 Introduction


1 Introduction

2 The American system

3 Unipolarity, liberalism, and...

4 Unipolarity and its...

5 ÐŽ®Hub and spokeЎЇ...

6 Multilateralism and...

7 Conclusion



American global power ЁC military, economic, technological, cultural, political ЁC is one of the great realities of our age. Never before has one country been so powerful or unrivaled. The United States emerged from the Cold War as the world's only superpower and grew faster than Europe and Japan in the decade that followed. American bases and naval forces encircle the globe. Russia and China remain only regional powers and have ceased to offer ideological challenges to the West. For the first time in the modern age, the world's most powerful state can operate on the global stage without the fear of counterbalancing competitors. The world has entered the age of American unipolarity.

The United States is not just a powerful state operating in a world of anarchy. It is a producer of world order. Over the decades, and with more support than resistance from other states, it has fashioned a distinctively open and loosely rule-based international order. This order ЁC built with European and East Asian partners in the shadow of the Cold War and organized around open markets, security alliances, multilateral cooperation, and democratic community ЁC has provided the foundation and operating logic for modern world politics. For better or worse, states in the postwar era have had to confront, operate in, or work around this far-flung order.

Both the Atlantic and East Asian regional orders were shaped by ЁC and today bear the deep marks of ЁC the exercise of America's postwar hegemonic power. A half-century after their occupation, the United States still garrisons troops in Japan and Germany ЁC the world's second and third largest economies. America's political-security relations with Europe have loosened in the years since the end of the Cold War, but the Atlantic region remains organized around an American-led Western partnership. American relations with East Asia have also evolved over the decades, but they still reflect this hegemonic reality: Japan, South Korea, and other countries in the region are dependent on American military protection and the American market. Indeed, American extended deterrence and regional trade linkages are at the heart of this East Asian order. The Atlantic and Pacific regions exhibit different hegemonic patterns: American relations with Europe are organized around multilateral economic and security cooperation, whereas the East Asia region is organized around bilateral ties and loose multilateral economic relations (see Ikenberry, 2003a, 2004c).

Today, however, this American global order appears to be at a turning-point. Indeed, some observers argue it is in crisis or breaking apart. In recent years ЁC and certainly since the September 2001 terrorist attacks ЁC the character and future of this postwar order have been thrown into question. The Bush administration's war on terrorism, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, expanded military budgets, and controversial 2002 National Security Strategy have thrust American power into the light of day ЁC and, in doing so, deeply unsettled much of the world. In the background, the postwar rules and institutions, political bargains, communist threats, shared visions, and communal bonds that shaped and sustained this United States-led order appear to be eroding. For most of the postwar era, America's pursuit of its national interest and the construction of a progressive and mutually agreeable global order went hand in hand. But today, America and the world seem increasingly estranged. Anti-Americanism is a prominent feature of politics in many regions of the world. The most fundamental questions about the nature of global politics ЁC who commands and who benefits ЁC are now the subject of conversation among long-time allies and adversaries alike.

The world is trying to make sense of this new reality. Diplomats are trying to figure out how an American unipolar order will operate. Will the United States break out of its postwar commitments to multilateral and alliance-based partnerships and attempt unilaterally to dominate the world? Should American power be appeased, engaged, or resisted? Scholars are also asking fundamental questions about the character of American domination. What are the restraints on American power? Has the American-led postwar order evolved from an open and liberal system to an old-style empire? Looming in the background is the question of whether American unipolarity is consistent with multilateral, rule-based order.

The view that America is making a grand historic turn toward imperial rule is reflected in a growing body of scholarship that evokes the images of empire. ÐŽ®No one can deny the extent of the American informal empire,ЎЇ argues Niall Ferguson (2002, p. 368), who likens today's imperial order to its British precursor. But for Ferguson the organization of the global system around an American ÐŽ®liberal empireЎЇ is to be welcomed: the United States provides order, security, and public goods. His fear is that America will fail in its imperial duties and interests (Ferguson, 2004; Bacevitch, 2002). Others see an American empire that is coercive, exploitative, and destructive. Chalmers Johnson (2004) argues that America's far-flung Cold War military alliance system has been consolidated over the last decade into a new form of global imperial rule. Driven by triumphalist ideology, exaggerated threats, and a self-serving militaryЁCindustrial complex, the United States is ÐŽ®a military juggernaut intent on world dominationЎЇ. Others see American empire as a impulse rooted in a US unipolar power and military dominance that is ultimately incoherent and doomed to failure. America's imperial reach will exceed its grasp and destabilize



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