If there were any doubt that the rules of the international game have changed for good, the events of the past few days should have dispelled it. On Monday, President Bush demanded that Russia's leaders reject their parliament's appeal to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Within 24 hours, Bush had his response: President Medvedev announced Russia's recognition of the two contested Georgian enclaves. ...
...what is clear is that America's unipolar moment has passed - and the new world order heralded by Bush's father in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1991 is no more. The days when one power was able to bestride the globe like a colossus, enforcing its will in every continent, challenged only by popular movements for national independence and isolated "rogue states", are now over. For nearly two decades, while Russia sunk into "catastroika" and China built an economic powerhouse, the US has exercised unprecedented and unaccountable global power, arrogating to itself and its allies the right to invade and occupy other countries, untroubled by international law or institutions, sucking ever more states into the orbit of its voracious military alliance.
Now, pumped up with petrodollars, Russia has called a halt to this relentless expansion and demonstrated that the US writ doesn't run in every backyard. And although it has been a regional, not a global, challenge, this object lesson in the new limits of American power has already been absorbed from central Asia to Latin America. [Emphasis added]
While Mr. Milne quite appropriately points out that Europe (both "old" and "new") hasn't been fully persuaded of the end of the unipolar world, certainly the other regions have noticed. And what they have noticed is that when it came down to crunch time, the US didn't deliver and probably couldn't have. It was simply stretched too thin, especially militarily.
It's not only that the US and its camp followers have trampled on international law and the UN to bring death and destruction to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the early 1990s, the Pentagon warned that to ensure no global rival emerged, the US would need to "account for the interests of advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership". But when it came to Russia, all that was forgotten in a fog of imperial hubris that has left the US overstretched and unable to prevent the return of a multipolar world. [Emphasis added]
So, are we now facing a new Cold War in which the US and Russia will continue to face off over issues like Georgia, mandating a return to even more excessive military expenditures? Probably not. Neither country can afford it, no matter what the neocons and Pentagon dinosaurs claim. What will happen, it seems to me, is that the next administration will have to re-engage the rest of the world on a more rational basis, one that does not depend on the threats of bombs and missiles. Even more importantly, the US will have to re-learn how to abide by international law rather than flout it.
This multipolar world will demand as much, and, quite frankly, I welcome the shift.
Labels: Foreign Policy