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The Lonely Superpower

Tomorrow’s “Internationalist” section of the Boston Globe features an essay by Thanassis Cambanis on my recent International Security article. Here’s the lead:

After decades of nuclear brinkmanship, Americans felt profound relief when the Cold War ended. The Soviet Union’s collapse in 1989 transformed the world almost overnight from a battleground between two global giants — a bipolar world, in scholarly parlance — to a unipolar world, in which the United States outstripped all other powers.

In foreign policy circles, it was taken for granted that this dominance was good for America. Experts merely differed over how long the “unipolar moment” could last, or how big a peace dividend America could expect. Some even argued that the end of the arms race between Moscow and Washington had eliminated the threat of world war.

Now, however, with a few decades of experience to study, a young international relations theorist at Yale University has proposed a provocative new view: American dominance has destabilized the world in new ways, and the United States is no better off in the wake of the Cold War. In fact, he says, a world with a single superpower and a crowded second tier of distant competitors encourages, rather than discourages, violent conflict–not just among the also-rans, but even involving the single great power itself.

In a paper that appeared in the most recent issue of the influential journal International Security, political scientist Nuno P. Monteiro lays out his case. America, he points out, has been at war for 13 of the 22 years since the end of the Cold War, about double the proportion of time it spent at war during the previous two centuries. “I’m trying to debunk the idea that a world with one great power is better,” he said in an interview. “If you don’t have one problem, you have another.”

Read the whole thing here.

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categories: IR theory, national security, public-affairs commentary, research, war. | tags: , , .

Posted at 10:29 am

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