Etats-Unis : puissance hégémonique ou prédominante ?

CAMBRIDGE – Aucun autre pays de l’histoire moderne n’a disposé d’un pouvoir militaire mondial aussi considérable que les États-Unis. Certains analystes affirment pourtant aujourd’hui que les Etats-Unis  suivent les traces du Royaume-Uni, la dernière puissance hégémonique mondiale ayant fait l’expérience d’un déclin de sa sphère d’influence. Cette analogie historique, bien que de plus en plus souvent évoquée, est trompeuse.

La Grande-Bretagne n’a jamais été aussi prédominante que les Etats-Unis le sont aujourd’hui. Elle a assurément maintenu une flotte deux fois plus grande que les deux suivantes en taille et son empire, sur lequel le soleil ne se couchait jamais, régentait un quart de l’humanité. Mais des différences notables existent dans les sources de pouvoir relatives de l’empire britannique et celles des Etats-Unis aujourd’hui. Avant la Première guerre mondiale, la Grande-Bretagne se situait au quatrième rang seulement des grandes puissances en termes d’effectifs militaires et de PIB et au troisième rang en termes de budget militaire.

L’administration de l’empire britannique reposait en grande partie sur l’utilisation de troupes locales. Sur les 8,6 millions de soldats britanniques de la Première guerre mondiale, près d’un tiers provenait de ses possessions d’outre-mer. Le gouvernement de Londres a donc éprouvé des difficultés croissantes à déclarer la guerre au nom de l’empire lorsque les sentiments nationalistes se sont intensifiés.

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