The America that Can Say No

A multipolar order implies that several emerging powers hold competing views about how the world should be run, and are prepared to act to advance their global agendas. That is not the case; instead, we are witnessing the birth of a non-polar order, with America’s chief competitors preoccupied with problems at home and in their immediate neighborhoods.

NEW YORK –­ Early this month, Kyrgyzstan’s president Kurmanbek Bakiyev went cap in hand to Moscow to ask for financial aid. To make his request more palatable, Bakiyev announced that he was demanding that the United States close its airbase in Kyrgyzstan, which resupplies NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan. Similarly, late last year, Iceland’s government asked Russia to help bail out its banking system, while Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visited China in hopes of securing an emergency infusion of cash.

Some observers cite these episodes as evidence of decline in America’s international clout. But there’s a larger point: so far, except for relatively small sums offered to the Kyrgyz, Russia and China haven’t offered much help.   

Amid much talk of a “post-American world,” many observers see a shift from a US-dominated international order toward a multipolar system, in which countries like China, Russia, and several others compete for global leadership on a range of common challenges and risks.

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