As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the lead in realigning the global power architecture.
Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.
The first of these verities is that the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power. But neither is any other major power.
In those days,
When civilization kicked us in the face
The vultures built in the shadow of their talons
The blood stained monument of tutelage…
Given all this, a long and painful road toward an initially limited regional accommodation is the only viable option for the United States, Russia, China, and the pertinent Middle Eastern entities. For the United States, that will require patient persistence in forging cooperative relationships with some new partners (particularly Russia and China) as well as joint efforts with more established and historically rooted Muslim states (Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia if it can detach its foreign policy from Wahhabi extremism) in shaping a wider framework of regional stability. Our European allies, previously dominant in the region, can still be helpful in that regard.
A comprehensive U.S. pullout from the Muslim world favored by domestic isolationists, could give rise to new wars (for example, Israel vs. Iran, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, a major Egyptian intervention in Libya) and would generate an even deeper crisis of confidence in America’s globally stabilizing role. In different but dramatically unpredictable ways, Russia and China could be the geopolitical beneficiaries of such a development even as global order itself becomes the more immediate geopolitical casualty. Last but not least, in such circumstances a divided and fearful Europe would see its current member states searching for patrons and competing with one another in alternative but separate arrangements among the more powerful trio.Aconstructive U.S. policy must be patiently guided by a long-range vision. It must seek outcomes that promote the gradual realization in Russia (probably post-Putin) that its only place as an influential world power is ultimately within Europe. China’s increasing role in the Middle East should reflect the reciprocal American and Chinese realization that a growing U.S.-PRC partnership in coping with the Middle Eastern crisis is an historically significant test of their ability to shape and enhance together wider global stability.
*The author acknowledges the helpful contribution of his research assistant Paul Wasserman, and the scholarship on the subject of colonial brutality by Adam Hochschild, Richard Pierce, William Polk, and the Watson Institute at Brown University, among others.