The Balance of Power: Stability in International Systems

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This, he argued, had created valuable political-military allies who rebuilt the world's economic foundations, promoted political democracy, and played the crucial role in halting communist expansion. In due course, these nations began competing with American business for world trade and investments because the United States had encouraged European economic unity and a prosperous Asia-Pacific rimland. Freedman foresaw that these European and Asian allies would press for a greater post — Cold War role in international affairs and, if Washington accommodated their expectations, all parties would benefit.

If, however, the United States chose to deal unilaterally with economic and trade issues, there could be greatly increased tensions or even military conflict. Both Freedman and Nye anticipated that states outside the American-European-Japanese centers would likely pose the gravest threat to global stability. During the Cold War the super-powers had been able to dampen most conflicts in Third World regions; it proved more difficult thereafter.

The demise of bipolar constraints made violent confrontations stemming from festering ethnic, tribal, nationalist, religious, and territorial disputes more likely. And indeed, as John Lewis Gaddis reminded us, the first post — Cold War year "saw, in addition to the occupation of Kuwait , the near-outbreak of war between India and Pakistan , an intensification of tension between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a renewed Syrian drive to impose its control on Lebanon , and a violent civil war in Liberia.

IR 1.25 What is balance of power -- UPSC PREPARATION

In Nye's view, attempting to deal unilaterally with these and other looming upheavals would place a heavy burden on the American treasury and national will. Far better, he argued, to seek multilateral cooperation to control the peripheral troubles. Failure to contain regional conflicts could put global stability in jeopardy. President George H. Bush's formation and direction of an international coalition to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in and had the trappings of both unilateral determination and multi-lateral cooperation. In his victory speech of 6 March , Bush called for a "new world order" that would enable the United Nations to fulfill its obligation to provide for the collective security of the weaker nations, and for a U.

Bush's visionary statement generated much discussion in the months thereafter, but skeptical voices were quickly heard. Henry Kissinger , now a political commentator, lauded President Bush's building of a coalition to defeat the Iraqi aggression, but he derided the notion of a new world order.

The Balance of Power : Stability in International Systems

In fact, the new international order will see many centers of power, both within regions and among them. The power centers reflect different histories and perceptions.

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We do not have the resources for domination, nor is such a course compatible with our values. So we are brought back to a concept maligned in much of America's intellectual history — the balance of power. Kissinger was correct to point to Americans' complicated relationship with the balance of power, but it was also true that the nation's leaders had often — and especially after — consciously sought the equilibrium he so valued. The s witnessed numerous regional, ethnic, and nationalistic struggles; U.

When they did intervene, humanitarian concerns were a key motivation — the American military and economic response to such episodes as upheavals in Somalia , Haiti , Bosnia, and Kosovo were aimed in large measure at reducing human suffering and restoring local political stability. Even then, intervention happened at least in part because Washington policymakers determined that these upheavals, if allowed to spread, could in fact upset the regional balance of power.

American decision makers understood that the military component of the global equilibrium increasingly shared center stage with other elements as the world became more interconnected. The impact of technology, most notably personal access to various forms of global communications — worldwide telephone systems and television networks, and later the Internet — was impossible to ignore, and the s witnessed economic interdependence that found manufacturing, banking, and merchandising virtually ignoring national borders.

In search of continued economic growth and prosperity, Americans increasingly embraced the idea of globalization. President Bill Clinton stressed the interconnectedness of global economic affairs and the necessity of U. Few in Washington disagreed, and the presidential campaign saw much more agreement than disagreement between the two major candidates about how the United States ought to exercise leadership in the world arena.

Once in office, however, the administration of George W. Bush immediately moved to adopt a starkly unilateralist approach of the type espoused by Charles Krauthammer and others.

The Bush team ignored or refused to endorse several international treaties and instruments, most notably the Kyoto agreement regarding environmental pollution standards, and insisted on pursuing a missile defense system that would involve the abrogation of the ABM treaty and, perhaps, stimulate a new arms race. Even though these policy decisions provoked serious objections from America's allies, and more strenuous protests from other nations, there seemed little concern in Washington about searching for an international consensus.

Critics of George W. Bush and of unilateralism complained that the approach indicated a failure to see the fundamental limits of American power, even in a one-superpower world. The critics achieved a measure of vindication with the terrorist attack on the United States on 11 September The assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon exposed America's vulnerability to a new destabilizing force: global terrorism.

The Bush administration, while not disavowing its unilateralist inclinations, appeared to recognize the desirability of a "global coalition" to meet a newly recognized challenge that largely ignored the traditional international power structure.

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Trade Coalitions and the Balance of Power | SpringerLink

There were differences of opinion inside and outside the administration on how best to wage the struggle against terrorism, but on one thing all could agree: the United States could not do it alone. The history of modern international relations, and of the American part in them, then, suggests a certain pattern. Americans, though often professing a distrust of European-style balance of power politics, have nevertheless sought precisely such a balance of power, or equilibrium, in world affairs. That preference survived the important shift from a world of very slow social change to a world of awesomely fast social change.

It survived the end of the Cold War. It had not prevented wars nor served effectively to restrain any state that sought advantage from an active policy; it meant only that at the eleventh hour, coalitions formed to oppose serious attempts at world dominion. In this process the United States played an appropriate part, allowance being made for the great security provided until the mid-twentieth century by its geographical position.

The practical preference for an international balance does not always give rise to anything that can be called a theory of the balance of power, nor even to the use of the term in political discussion.

In This Article

At times when the balance is a "simple" balance — as during the Cold War or the years immediately preceding World War I — there is little discussion of a concept to which appeal cannot usefully be made, and what discussion there is, is apt to be critical. Equally, a period of great international complexity and uncertainty does not seem to be one that a theory of the balance of power can helpfully elucidate.

Somewhere between these extremes the greater flexibility provided by a "complex" balance allows the idea of a balance, as something desirable and as a positive interest of the contending parties themselves, to be advanced. Because the balance is at its most stable when people need not consider its maintenance or even its existence, the discussion of balance is at best an indicator of strain in international affairs; but it may indicate the least amount of strain that mankind is likely to achieve. Allison, Graham, and Gregory F.

Treverton, eds. New York , A stimulating collection of essays by leading thinkers. Butterfield, Herbert. Diplomatic Investigations.

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London, Cronin, Patrick M. Foreign and Defense Policies. Washington, D. Dehio, Ludwig. The Precarious Balance. Translated by Charles Fullman. Gaddis, John Lewis. New York, Gulick, Edward V. Europe's Classical Balance of Power.

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Balance of power

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