The Fall of the Hyper Power

Listen carefully these days to Israelis and South Koreans. What they are hinting at is no less than a tectonic shift in the international system: the shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world.

Israelis are rediscovering Europe. They intuitively sense that they can no longer rely only on the absolute security guarantee represented by the United States’ combination of active and passive support. The war in Lebanon, so frustrating for Israel, accelerated that subtle change. Now Europe and its various contingents are playing a leading role in picking up the pieces there.

America, of course, remains Israel’s life insurance policy, but enlargement and diversification of diplomatic alliances is starting to be seen as crucial by Israeli diplomats, if not by Israeli society. The Quartet (the US, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations) used to be regarded as “One plus Three,” but that is no longer the case. Europe and Russia no longer see themselves as secondary players, because the US, not to mention Israel, needs them.

As for the South Koreans, they are counting on China to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis. They, too, see the world through a prism that makes America continue to appear essential, but no longer preeminent. Recently, a high South Korean official listed in hierarchical order the countries that mattered most in the North Korean nuclear crisis. China came first, followed by the US, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, whereas Europe was absent.