US Policy Changes Vol.31 (Foreign Policy Vol.4 – international relations)

Here is an academic article on international relations: Power and liberal order – America’s postwar world order in transition (PDF; 2005) | G. John Ikenberry @OxfordJournals. Excerpt is on our own.

1 Introduction
… ‘No one can deny the extent of the American informal empire,’ argues Niall Ferguson (2002, p. 368), who likens today’s imperial order to its British precursor. But for Ferguson the organization of the global system around an American ‘liberal empire’ is to be welcomed: the United States provides order, security, and public goods. His fear is that America will fail in its imperial duties and interests (Ferguson, 2004; Bacevitch, 2002). … Chalmers Johnson (2004) argues that America’s far-flung Cold War military alliance system has been consolidated over the last decade into a new form of global imperial rule. …

2 The American system
… The United States is situated at the center of this complex liberal order – but it is an order built around the American provision of security and economic public goods, mutually agreeable rules and institutions, and interactive political processes that give states a voice in the running of the system. …
… One grand strategy is realist in orientation. Forged during the Cold War, it is organized around containment, deterrence, and the maintenance of the global balance of power. This strategy has been celebrated in America’s history of the last half-century. … The touchstone of this strategy was containment, which sought to deny the Soviet Union the ability to expand its sphere of influence outside its region. …
… The most important have been the NATO and United States–Japan alliances. …
This grand strategy has been pursued through an array of postwar initiatives that look disarmingly like ‘low politics’. The Bretton Woods agreements, the GATT and WTO, APEC, NAFTA, OECD, and democracy promotion in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and East Asia together form a complex layer cake of integrative initiatives that bind the democratic industrial world together. …
… Democracy provided the foundation for global and regional community. Trade and capital flows were seen as forces for political reform and integration.
… The realist grand strategy created a political rationale for establishing major security commitments around the world. The liberal strategy created a positive agenda for American leadership. The United States could exercise its power and achieve its national interests but do so in a way that helped deepen the fabric of international community. American power did not destabilize world order; it helped create it. …
Importantly, this American system is tied together in a cooperative security order. …
This American system is built on two historic bargains that the United States has made with the rest of the world. One is the realist bargain and grows out of its Cold War grand strategy. …
The other is a liberal bargain that addresses the uncertainties of American power. …
Three features of this order make American power more stable, engaged, and restrained. First, America’s political institutions – open, transparent, and organized around the rule of law – have made it a relatively predictable and cooperative hegemon. … Second, this open and decentralized political process works to reduce foreign worries about American power. … Finally, the postwar web of Western and global institutions create a framework for order that helps to establish credible commitments and restraints on American power. …

3 Unipolarity, liberalism, and empire
… In shaping world order, power and liberalism are a much more potent mixture than simply the exercise of crude material power alone. But the question remains whether the resulting American-led order is an empire.
…internationally, power has been distributed among states, while, domestically, governments have had what the German sociologist Max Weber termed a ‘monopoly on the use of violence’ within their nation-state territory.
… The rise of American unipolar predominance and the simultaneous unbundling of state sovereignty are a new world historical development. In historical terms, this is a radically new distribution and manifestation of state power, and so it is not surprising that the world is rethinking and worrying about the new rules and institutions of global order.
…Vittorio Emanuele Parsi (2003)… One is a shift from a pace d’equilibrio (‘peace of equilibrium’) to a pace egemonica (‘hegemonic peace’). …
The other grand transformation is the shift in security threats, which makes the Westphalian flip even more provocative and potentially destabilizing. This is the rise of non-state terrorism. …
… In a Hobbesian world of anarchy, the United States must step forward as the order-creating Leviathan. …

4 Unipolarity and its implications
… Growing power – military, economic, and technological – also gives the United States more opportunities to control outcomes around the world. But unipolarity also creates problems of governance. Without bipolar or multi-polar competition, it is not clear what disciplines or renders predictable US power. …
… Finally, to the extent that the unipolar state anticipates that its power advantages will wane in the near future, it has incentives to embed in the international order rules and institutions that will lock in some of its advantages in the out-years when it is in a relatively weaker position.
…the absence of alternative options gives the unipolar state bargaining advantages. …
But another implication of the disappearance of a rival pole is that one benefit of aligning with the United States also disappears – or is radically reduced – namely, the benefit of security protection. …
…American ‘unipolar dilemmas’. First, a unipolar distribution of power creates ‘legitimacy problems’ for the lead state…
… After the Cold War, the Clinton administration legitimated American power by championing globalization and open markets – ‘engagement’ and ‘enlargement’ were the watchwords. … But fear of terrorism is not a sufficient legitimating cover for American power.
Second, unipolarity also appears to have created problems in how the world sees the American provision of public goods. In the past, the United States provided global ‘services’, such as security protection and support for open markets, which made other states willing to work with rather than resist American preeminence. The public goods provision tended to make it worthwhile for these states to endure the day-to-day irritations of American foreign policy. …

5 ‘Hub and spoke’ governance
… One strategy is the multilateral rule-based strategy of the postwar era, manifested most fully in America’s relations with Western Europe. The other strategy is what might be called ‘hub and spoke’ bilateralism. …
… As the ‘hub and spoke’ security organization of East Asia suggests, there are incentives for the United States to operate a global order where it deals bilaterally with key states in all the various regions.
… Britain, France, and other major states were willing to accept multilateral agreements to the extent that they also constrained and regularized US economic and security actions. American agreement to operate within a multilateral economic order and make an alliance-based security commitment to Europe was worth the price: it ensured that Germany and the rest of Western Europe would be integrated into a wider, American-centered international order. At the same time, the actual restraints on American policy were minimal. …
… Rather than operate within multilateral frameworks, the United States forges a ‘hub and spoke’ array of ‘special relationships’ around the world. Countries that cooperate with the United States and accept its leadership receive special bilateral security and economic favors. More so than multilateral agreements, ‘hub and spoke’ bilateral agreements allow the United States more fully to translate its power advantages into immediate and tangible concessions from other states – and to do so without giving up policy autonomy. …

6 Multilateralism and unipolarity
There are three types of incentives for the United States to continue to operate within a loose multilateral order rather than simply disentangle itself from rules and institutions or pursue bilateral ‘hub and spoke’ relations. … First…as global economic interdependence grows, the need for multi-lateral coordination of policies also grows.
… Bilateralism requires the United States to bargain for favorable outcomes. It will win in most instances – given its power advantages – but bargaining also entails transaction costs. …
Second, American support for multilateralism will also stem from a grand strategic interest in preserving power and creating a stable and legitimate international order. The support for multilateralism is a way to signal restraint and commitment to other states, thereby encouraging the acquiescence and cooperation of weaker states. …
… There are two ways that the creation and strengthening of regional multilateral institutional order in East Asia might serve America’s long-term hegemonic interests. One is simply to create regional institutional structures that will shape and constrain China’s rising power. Chinese power will be rendered more predictable as it is embedded in wider regional institutions. Second, the more general strengthening of global governance institutions will serve America’s interests ‘after unipolarity’. As American relative power declines, its capacity to run the global system or even secure its interests will decrease. …
… The enlightenment origins of the American founding has given the United States an identity that sees its principles of politics of universal significance and scope. The republican democratic tradition that enshrines the rule of law reflects an enduring American view that polities – domestic or international – are best organized around rules and principles of order. America’s tradition of civil nationalism also reinforces this notion that the rule of law is the source of legitimacy and political inclusion. This tradition provides a background support for a multilateral-oriented foreign policy.

7 Conclusion
… it would be an era of American global rule organized around the bold unilateral exercise of American military power, gradual disentanglement from the constraints of multilateralism, and an aggressive push to bring freedom and democracy to counties where evil lurks. But this neoconservative vision is built on illusions about American power. …
…perhaps a more important international development, namely, the long peace among the great powers – or what some scholars argue is the end of great power war. … American success after both World War II and the Cold War is closely linked to the creation and extension of international institutions, which both limited and legitimated American power. In exercising unipolar power, the United States is today struggling between liberal and imperial logics of rule. …