Recently, there has been a tendency to reduce US military superiority in the world. A number of foreign experts believe that the United States is gradually losing its influence in the world, including by reducing the advantages in the field of military potential. September 21, the American edition of The National Interest, published a new article by Patterson Robert Farley, Assistant Professor at the School of Diplomacy and International Trade, on the current situation. In the material Yes, America’s Military Supremacy Is Fading (As We Should Not Panic), as its name implies, (“Yes, American military superiority disappears. And we don’t have to panic”), the author tries to understand the peculiarities of the current situation, determine the prerequisites for its occurrence and to predict further developments.
Instead of a subtitle, the article contains a thesis filed under the ironic title of “urgent News". It is argued that Washington will no longer be as powerful and invincible militarily as it was in the nineties. First of all, for the reason that the end of the last century was a unique period in stories modern geopolitics.
Not so long ago, the US Air Force General Frank Gorentz made an alarming statement. According to him, the advantages of the US air force over China and Russia are declining. R. Farley notes that this is not the first message of this kind. In recent times, such statements are a continuous stream. Officials and analysts regularly talk about the deteriorating situation of the United States in the international arena. In particular, the American army can no longer "go where it wants and do what it wants there." Official Washington is still trying to maintain good relations with its allies, but a crisis has already appeared on the horizon.
The author asks the question: Does all this mean that the global influence of the United States is declining? If the answer is yes, then another question arises: who is to blame for these problems, the current president or the previous one? Here R. Farley found it necessary to refer to The Washington Post journalist Dan Drezner, who earlier in his article on events around Ukraine argued that the outcome of the crisis depends on how and when it began.
In the early nineties, the situation in the world changed beyond recognition. Because of the collapse of its main rival, the United States was able to take a dominant position. Such a military-political leadership of one of the countries was hardly in the whole history of mankind. One of the reasons for such superiority was the stability and steady growth of the developed American economy. In addition, the favorable geographical position of the country and the absence of a strategic adversary helped Washington gain world leadership. In this situation, the rest of the players in the international arena decided to join the United States.
R. Farley also notes US military superiority. The Pentagon has effective precision weapons, good funding and a well-developed personnel training system. All this made the American army "unsurpassed." Thanks to a developed army, the country was able to influence the situation both through diplomacy and direct military intervention.
It is unlikely that in the nineties someone could have imagined that the current dominant position of the United States could change. The opinion was expressed that during this period, Washington, unlike the first post-war years, could independently establish a new system of world order, the stability of which would allow the reduction of the armed forces to begin.
At the same time, the neoconservatives insisted on retaining the existing military power. Thus, their draft strategy for the Defense Planning Guidance 1992 of the year implied the preservation of the army as it was, even in the absence of an obvious rival, as the USSR was. This project was rejected, but some ideas from the proposed document were taken into consideration and even implemented in practice.
Both of these points of view had certain perspectives, but in some cases they came into conflict with reality. For example, already in the early nineties, the economic potential of China and India became clear. The economy of these countries grew faster than the American one, and also actively established relations with other states. All this, among other things, could have consequences of a politico-military nature.
The emergence and development of new unexpected players in the international arena set new requirements for US policy. It was necessary to find a common language with India and China, making them their allies, or to ensure military and political superiority over them. Both ways of responding to new challenges from Asia were associated with certain difficulties. In addition, Washington had to take into account the possibility of increasing the potential of Germany, Russia, Japan and other possible rivals. For example, it was possible to develop cooperation with them.
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R. Farley admits that some of the plans have been implemented. So, at the moment Berlin and Tokyo remain allies of the United States and do not try to harm their partners or go against their will. India, in turn, is considering a rapprochement with the United States. Russia is trying to maintain influence on the states that were previously part of it. China is developing its army, and also enjoys the fruits of unprecedented economic growth. At the same time, the Chinese command is carefully studying the situation in the East and South China Seas, wishing to increase its influence in the region.
Back at the beginning of the two thousandth, some American analysts began to talk about the impending change of the existing unipolar system. In their opinion, the established order of things could persist for some time, but later the situation in the world had to change. Here R. Farley asks the question: so what is the reason for concern?
Before answering this question, the author proposes to delve into the theory. He recalls a curious thesis from The Science of Muddling Through Science, and the American political analyst Charles Lindblom’s translation The Science of Finishing Something is also possible. According to this scientist, those responsible for making important decisions are almost not inclined to revise the initial data when making new decisions. For this reason, they are not in a hurry to study the background of the problem, but choose two or three main solutions based on some predetermined data. Thus, the responsible persons rarely look at the big picture, including because regular study of the whole situation rarely gives them any valuable information necessary to solve daily tasks.
In the framework of strategic planning, however, such “confusion” or “finishing it up somehow” leads to some positive results. Such a superficial approach to business allows the organization (in this case, the state, namely the United States) to refrain from in-depth theoretical studies and make a decision based on correct and easily accessible data. As a result, in some cases, the “somehow” approach leads to better results in comparison with deepening into fundamental theories.
However, as R. Farley reminds, the “somehow” approach is very susceptible to the wrong choice of solutions. If you do not have the necessary intellectual base to help you understand the situation and the existing advantages, there is a risk of overestimation of some short-term phenomena. Conversely, if we take some ephemeral factor as a basis (for example, “zenith” or “nadir” of national power), then there is a risk of losing understanding of trends in the international balance of power.
R. Farley is forced to admit the rightness of some analysts who expressed their opinions in the nineties. Theorists who expressed concern about the viability of American power in the distant future seemed to be right. The long-term trends they predicted should have led to a gradual reduction in the influence of the United States in the international arena. Indeed, at the very end of the 20th century, the United States had great advantages over Russia, China, and other countries. However, all these advantages were ephemeral. Returning to a “normal” balance of power leads to a reduction in American supremacy.
The question now is not whether the world will remain unipolar or how long the American leadership will remain. According to R. Farley, the concepts of "unipolarity" and "superiority" do not necessarily apply only to military and economic power or the ability to dictate their conditions to Russia and China, approaching their borders. These terms can now have a different interpretation. In the future, the United States will no longer be able to feel as invulnerable as it was in the nineties, since this decade was extremely strange from the point of view of geopolitics.
The author of the article recalls the statement of a wise person who noted that it is characteristic of a person to adhere to those truths that correspond to his point of view. Including for this reason, the United States now feels more secure than in the seventies or eighties, and even enjoys superiority over all possible opponents or coalitions. Nevertheless, Americans often forget about various specific stories, for example, about "Russian troops operating freely in Ukraine."
The point is not that the United States has shown unprecedented arrogance and now deserve retribution. Geopolitics is not a Shakespeare drama or a moral game. It should be remembered that the increased potential of some countries, such as Russia, China, etc., will allow them to operate freely in their regions. At the same time, however, one should not expect that these states will act solely and fairly and will not infringe upon their weak neighbors.
According to R. Farley, all this does not mean that the administrations of Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama do not deserve condemnation for their foreign policy. Problems in the international arena are a direct consequence of the previous mistakes of the country's leaders. In addition, there is nothing wrong with those measures that were taken by the American leadership to maintain military superiority in the future. The future actions of official Washington, of course, will not be able to bring back the specific situation of the nineties. Nevertheless, the United States has the opportunity to prepare for a confrontation with potential contenders for world leadership.
In the current situation, the question of the future strategy of the United States will sound like “will these measures help to maintain superiority?” And not how “will these measures ensure superiority?”. In the future, the military department will have to take into account the new situation in the world, in which the advantages of the United States will be noticeable, but not overwhelming. However, this will have to be tolerated, since the nineties will not return.
In his article, Robert Farley came to curious conclusions. It turns out that at present the superiority of the United States in the international arena is really melting. Russia, China and some other states are increasing their influence in the world, because of which the role of the United States is gradually diminishing. For this reason, the world can no longer be unipolar, and its structure is changing, adapting to the new "centers of power".
However, R. Farley does not see anything terrible in these processes. Indeed, the United States is not as influential as it was two decades ago. However, the main reason for this is not in current events, but in the rapid growth of the influence of the early nineties. During this period, the United States remained the only real superpower and took advantage of it. Currently, the situation in the world is moving away from such a scheme, which affects the capabilities of states. Thus, the current trends really are not a reason for panic, but they require Washington to take further steps that will allow it to maintain its favorable position even in a changing world. Whether the American leadership will cope with this task - time will tell.
The article Yes, America's Military Supremacy Is Fading (And We Should Not Panic):