Ikenberry et al, 09. G. John Ikenberry is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, Michael Mastanduno is a professor of government and associate dean for social sciences at Dartmouth College, and William C. Wohlforth is a professor of government at Dartmouth College. “Unipolarity, State Behavior, and Systemic Consequences,” World Politics, Volume 61, Number 1, January 2009
The United States emerged from the 1990s as an unrivaled global “unipolar” state. This extraordinary imbalance has triggered global debate. Governments and peoples around the world are struggling to understand to how an American-centered unipolar system operates—and to respond to it. What is the character of domination in a unipolar distribution? To what extent can a unipolar state translate its formidable capabilities into meaningful influence? Will a unipolar world be built around rules and institutions or be based more on the unilateral exercise of unipolar power? Scholars too are asking these basic questions about unipolarity and international relations theory. The individual contributions develop hypotheses and explore the impact of unipolarity on the behavior of the dominant state, on the reactions of other states, and on the properties of the international system. Collectively, they find that unipolarity does have a profound impact on international politics. International relations under conditions of unipolarity force a rethinking of conventional and received understandings about the operation of the balance of power, the meaning of alliance partnerships, the logic of international economic cooperation, the relationship between power and legitimacy, and the behavior of satisfied and revisionist states. American primacy in the global distribution of capabilities is one of the most salient features of the contemporary international system. The end of the cold war did not return the world to multipolarity. Instead the United States—already materially preeminent—became more so. We currently live in a one superpower world, a circumstance unprecedented in the modern era. No other great power has enjoyed such advantages in material capabilities—military, economic, technological, and geographical. Other states rival the United States in one area or another, but the multifaceted character of American power places it in a category of its own. The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire, slower economic growth in Japan and Western Europe during the 1990s, and America’s outsized military spending have all enhanced these disparities. While in most historical eras the distribution of capabilities among major states has tended to be multipolar or bipolar—with several major states of roughly equal size and capability—the United States emerged from the 1990s as an unrivaled global power. It became a “unipolar” state.
Military, economic, institutional and cultural hegemony in the SQO
Walt, 09. Professor of international affairs at Harvard University.
Stephen M. “Alliances in a Unipolar World,” World Politics, Volume 61, Number 1, January 2009, Lexis.
Despite these ambiguities, Wohlforth is almost certainly correct in describing the current structure of world politics as unipolar. The United States has the world’s largest economy (roughly 60 percent larger than the number two power), and it possesses by far the most powerful military forces. If one includes supplemental spending, U.S. military expenditures now exceed those of the rest of the world combined.21 Despite its current difficulties in Iraq and the recent downturn in the U.S. economy, the United States retains a comfortable margin of superiority over the other major powers. This capacity does not allow the United States to rule large foreign populations by force or to re-create the sort of formal empire once ruled by Great Britain, but it does give the United States “command of the commons” (that is, the ability to operate with near impunity in the air, oceans, and space) and the ability to defeat [End Page 92] any other country (or current coalition) in a direct test of battlefield strength.22 Put differently, the United States is the only country that can deploy substantial amounts of military power virtually anywhere—even in the face of armed opposition—and keep it there for an indefinite period. Moreover, it is able to do this while spending a substantially smaller fraction of its national income on defense than previous great powers did, as well as a smaller fraction than it spent throughout the cold war.23 The United States also enjoys disproportionate influence in key international institutions—largely as a consequence of its economic and military capacities—and casts a large cultural shadow over much of the rest of the world as well.24 In short, America’s daunting capabilities are a defining feature of the contemporary international landscape, the debacle in Iraq and its various fiscal deficits notwithstanding. U.S. primacy shapes the perceptions, calculations, and possibilities available to all other states, as well as to other consequential international actors. Although other states also worry about local conditions and concerns, none can ignore the vast concentration of power in U.S. hands.