- GEOPOLITICAL MONITOR - Jan 19, 2021 -
After a few highly turbulent months, the Trump era will end on January 20, 2021. But the past four years have not only demonstrated that the United States is losing its ability to control the global system, but it has also made it clear that the domestic order is beginning to deteriorate back home. A much more painful period awaits America and the global system in the years ahead. America’s difficulties constitute its soft belly. These weaknesses could not only whet the appetite of the United States’ rivals, but also its allies and partners. This period has important similarities with the troubled decades between the two world wars. Therefore, it would be appropriate to question whether we are heading into a new ‘Thirty Year’s Crisis,’ with reference to Edward Hallett Carr.
Realism is on the rise
The most important proposition of realism is that the world system has an anarchic structure. No authority exists in this anarchic structure and power is the fundamental concept that determines the relations between states. Although the world system does not generally have a structure that determines the rules that all states must obey, forcing obedience and punishing those who resist, one state inevitably emerges that is relatively stronger than the others. The periods when such a state has the capacity to affect the entire globe in military, political, economic and cultural terms are referred to by the name of the state in question. For instance, Pax Romana denotes the ‘Roman Peace,’ when the Roman Empire was the dominant power in the world system and was able to impose its hegemony and set rules and norms. In such periods, realism is declared dead, or at least less important. Idealism prevails. This is at least so far as the dominant power of the system is concerned.
After the end of the Cold War, such a period was experienced due to the absence of a peer competitor for the United States, which emerged as the only hegemonic power and thus the victory of liberal democracy was declared. Furthermore, it was even claimed that history had ended – a world of eternal peace had emerged under the leadership of the United States. However, it turned out that it was not possible for eternal peace to reign. Wars continued in many parts of the world, states continued to be the main and indispensable actors of the international system, and national interests remained paramount for these states. The absence of a state capable of balancing US power led Washington to try and create artificial enemies. Although international terrorism helped to fill this role, it was not enough to achieve the desired momentum. As Huntington argued in his book Who Are We?, in which he examined the national identity of American society, a nation formed by immigrants like the United States always needs a common enemy or adversary. The Soviet Union fulfilled this need during the Cold War, but it took a long time for such a power to emerge in the post-Cold War period.
A great shift in global politics
Today, global politics is undergoing a great shift. This change is largely due to the rise of China (or the return of China, as some claim), globalization, interdependence between countries, and violent movements that transcend national borders. It is evident that the United States is now losing its influence in every aspect, particularly following the 2008 global financial crisis. As stated above, a hegemonic power which determines the rules and norms of the global system and forces other states to comply with these rules and norms is in fact the assurer of stability in such a system.
According to hegemonic stability theory, the existence of a hegemon acting as a central government in the international system is inevitable. The hegemonic state in question not only alleviates the tensions that arise from the anarchic nature of international relations, but also prevents the emergence of large-scale wars and supports the free trade. Naturally, it is the hegemon that benefits the most from liberal trade. It goes without saying that the globally recognized currency is also the currency issued by the hegemonic power. Based on this theory, the United States fulfilled all these functions after the World War II and in the post-Cold War period.