Years ago I was experimenting with all sorts of alternative therapies to deal with some back problems, and one was called Polarity Therapy. Well, Richard Haass in the May/June 2008 edition of Foreign Affairs has come up with an interesting paper, “The Age of Nonpolarity: What Will Follow U.S. Dominance”. His prognosis for the world and for the United States, however, is one of worry and concern, predicting a world that will be bad for America. While his insights on globalization and its effects are spot on, I do not agree that a non-polar world, one in which America is no longer a unipolar power, will be bad for America in the long run. On the contrary, as soon as American policy makers internalize the reality of “non-polarity”, a world in which there are no simple poles of superior state power, the more quickly will American resilience step to the fore once again, as it always has in history. Our economy is deteriorating rapidly as is our political influence globally. Despite massive and distorted military expenditures our military reputation is also worse than ever.
What is needed I argue is “Non-Polarity Therapy”, an understanding that the United States is not the dominant power in the world, that it is being marginalized by many other poles of power. These new poles of power include many rising states, but also the rising power of many citizen-based international entities, as Haas, among many analysts of globalization, rightly points out. The United States needs to figure out a strategy of resilience, influence, and coalition building for its basic interests with these many poles of power. This emerging trend may be feared as an evolution of chaos, but in many ways it is also the evolution of the democratization of power. In the long run it may be the single most liberating force on the planet if more and more innovative and positive international forms of linkage are established between citizens across the globe. Accepting this reality and working with it constructively is the most rational and scientific path.
This parallels the maturation of the human race since the 16th century when Tyco Brahe noticed a supernova in the sky and stated conclusively and decisively that we Terrans, earth dwellers, are not the center of the world. It took centuries to prove that we are not even close to being at the center of the universe, but are rather a small crumb in a galaxy that is one of billions, and even that galaxy is nowhere the center of the universe, if there is a center. A mature scientific approach to the world accepts one’s modest position in the world and operates from there. It also happens to be the case that a good dose of humility will do wonders for an America drunk with the false promises of a victorious military war on terror, fought everywhere.
Where are America’s strengths, and what is its added value in the community of nations and peoples today? How can we help make a safer and more prosperous world for ourselves in conjunction with all the other poles of power today, both states and citizens across the world? That is the question for this century.© Marc Gopin