The United States will never abandon its friends, but it should emphasize that it will never risk its relations with major powers by offering unconditional support for optional policies and maximalist agendas that complicate America's foreign policy efforts. The United States is not obligated to back any course of action simply because an ally chooses one preference over others. After all, the United States had little difficulty telling another island democracy facing both internal separatists and a hostile mainland neighbor not to move forward on steps we thought would needlessly inflame a volatile region. In 1998, Washington applied a great deal of pressure to dissuade the Cypriot government from installing the S-300 missile batteries, even though it had legitimate security concerns, on the grounds that this could escalate tensions throughout the eastern Mediterranean. To argue that Georgia should seek to reunify through peaceful means rather than a military campaign fraught with risks of further destabilizing an already explosive region, or that Taiwan should be satisfied with de facto rather than formal sovereignty does not qualify as appeasement of Moscow or Beijing, but as a level-headed approach to managing volatile situations.
Nor did we argue that it was unwise for Taiwan to be concerned about its security. But given that Taiwan's defense budget has declined annually over the past decade-which is certainly not the trend one expects to see from a territory under direct threat-one wonders whether Taipei genuinely feels that the PRC poses an imminent threat. This underscores Taipei's assumption of U.S. military intervention in the event of an unprovoked attack by the mainland. With regard to Abkhazia, we believe that Charles King's essay in this issue helps to illuminate what is a more complex situation than simply a Russian-backed plot to create a criminal pseudo-state on Georgian territory.
In a post-9/11 environment, we believe it is vital for the United States to have a consistent approach to foreign policy, one that is clear to friends and foes alike. Schmitt's logic is difficult to follow. Should democratic governments in Serbia and Cyprus, following his line on Georgia, feel they can take whatever means are necessary to reunify their countries? Or should ethnic separatists in Kosovo and Northern Cyprus take comfort, citing his position on Taiwan? Such conflicting signals give rise to charges about "double standards" in U.S. policy. They also give the appearance that U.S. foreign policy is based on special interests rather than national ones.
We don't harbor illusions about Russia or China (although both today are much more liberal and pluralist than they were twenty years ago). And we recognize the important contributions that smaller states can make in helping to spread zones of stability and prosperity around the world. But we remain committed to the principle that how other states aid American efforts to deal with the core threats that affect our survival should be the principal factor in shaping our foreign policy.
Working in Theory
AS A LIFE-LONG student of international relations with a penchant for theory, I feel challenged to comment on the theoretical portion of Clifford Kupchan's "Real Democratik" (Fall 2004)-in particular the prediction that "the contemporary international order", viewed as both "normatively good" and "empirically inevitable", will be marked for the next several decades by "unprecedented American unipolarity."
Like its cousins, bipolarity and multipolarity, unipolarity has been a key term of international relations. But the time has come to take another look at it. The conventional view equates polarity with raw power-a concentrated distribution of military and economic capacity. (I used this approach in my 1974 monograph, World Power Concentrations, one of the first, if not the first, attempts actually to measure unipolarity.) That is the metric (indexed by military expenses) basically used by Kupchan.
The main reason for taking another look at the "raw power" metric is the rising complexity of contemporary world politics. Most day-to-day international problems are increasingly processed in institutional and multilateral contexts, such as summit meetings, regional bodies, international financial institutions and the like. In this context, institutional power means decisional or voting power. Unipolarity here means control of a "one-party" system, and is measured by the ability to obtain favorable outcomes-and one of the relevant metrics is world public opinion.
I tend to agree with Kupchan that in today's international system, unipolarity probably prevails in terms of raw (military) power, but I do not think it obviously does so in relation to institutional power. In fact, some recent trends point toward the growth of a "bi- or multi-party" system in that area. Multipolarity is a fact in the world economy. Two or three decades ahead, unipolarity is still probable for forces of global reach (commanding sea, air and space) but not for all the aspects of military power.
If unipolarity claims to be the unique source of the public goods of world order, then its exercise labors under all the well-known burdens and criticisms of monopoly power: excessive costs combined with underperformance. Because it yields high profits but deteriorates into incompetence, a monopoly attracts competition and generates serious conflicts.
On such grounds, a monopoly is morally suspect, but there is an exception: when a monopoly naturally emerges from a process of innovation. In public life, the general interest in innovation is usually protected by patent law that grants the inventor a temporary privilege. Similarly, in world politics we might argue that world powers earn a temporary relief from the inevitable pressures and criticisms of monopoly in recognition of their inventive solutions of critical global problems. The early phases of the exercise of global leadership by the United States, Britain (twice), the Dutch republic and Portugal demonstrate that point. But does this hold for the current situation? Claims of benignity or benevolence are not enough.
All in all, Kupchan would be well advised not to use "inevitable" or "entrenched" unipolarity as the principal pillar of his analysis. As for the longevity of unipolarity, he might consider looking into the findings of the theory of long cycles.
University of Washington
CLIFFORD KUPCHAN is to be congratulated for his thoughtful and timely call on his fellow Democrats to attend to the fact, and the desirability, of unipolarity-that is, that the United States has unprecedented international power and that it ought to seek to preserve that power. Indeed, as one of those rare academics who tend to vote Republican, I would like to see a corresponding Real Republikan approach that would recognize the common interest that the United States and its democratic allies have in preserving and extending the post-World War II international order. It would strive to keep the bargain on which that order is based, including the agreement to render U.S. actions predictable by binding America to some extent through international institutions. It would also insist that catastrophic terrorism is a grave threat to that order and the countries that subscribe to it.
Real Republikan would differ from Real Demokratik, however, by recognizing just how difficult unipolarity makes voluntary international cooperation. Unipolarity not only tempts America to act in ways and regions previously off limits, it also causes other countries to worry more about whatever the United States does. When America uses force in Afghanistan or Iraq, more people than ever around the world suspect that we are building a world empire. Most concerned countries have good reasons not to try to form a serious anti-U.S. alliance, but they use various low-cost tools, including diplomacy and passivity, to block perceived expansions in U.S. power. Iraq is where the costs of this resistance are felt most keenly today.
And of course Islamist terrorism is itself partly a product of unipolarity. Absent America's unchallenged military, economic and cultural presence in the Middle East, it is difficult to imagine 9/11. The Real in Real Republikan is an acknowledgment that in an anarchical international system the weak are bound to worry about the powerful. It thus implies that the recent surge in anti-Americanism is by no means entirely the fault of the Bush Administration.
In such a world, where even America's friends try to contain it and its enemies are capable of harming it grievously without defeating it militarily, America has less freedom of action than many understand-less, in fact, than it had during the Cold War. Its dilemma is to keep itself safe and prosperous while reassuring the world that it is not seeking global domination. America must find the correct tradeoff between, on the one hand, vigor in attacking terrorism and WMD proliferation, and on the other, rendering its own future actions predictable. Excessive unilateralism against terror will alienate countries otherwise inclined to help. But excessive self-binding will lead to excessive passivity against terrorism, for even many of its friends are bound to want America to under-invest in its own security.
The frontier along which the right amounts of vigor and self-binding are traded is hard to find. But Real Republikan would insist that the frontier exists, and that America's grand strategy after 9/11 must find it and stay on it.Essay Types: Essay