2016: Waving Goodbye to Hegemony

Super Tuesday is stressful and to stop myself from nervously checking the news every two minutes, I've been immersed in a great essay by Parag Khanna from his upcoming book The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order. It's quite appropriate for this moment, since it never hurts to have some overall perspective on where America stands:


Turn on the TV today, and you could be forgiven for thinking it's 1999. Democrats and Republicans are bickering about where and how to intervene, whether to do it alone or with allies and what kind of world America should lead. Democrats believe they can hit a reset button, and Republicans believe muscular moralism is the way to go. It's as if the first decade of the 21st century didn't happen—and almost as if history itself doesn't happen. But the distribution of power in the world has fundamentally altered over the two presidential terms of George W. Bush, both because of his policies and, more significant, despite them. Maybe the best way to understand how quickly history happens is to look just a bit ahead.

[...] At best, America's unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war "peace dividend" was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing—and losing—in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world's other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules—their own rules—without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.

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