The International Consequences of 1989

VIENNA: The Soviet Union's termination, which brought to an end the bipolar world, ushered in an era of U.S. hegemony. Hegemony, however, should not be confused with omnipotence. Hegemony is not omnipotence, but is certainly preponderance. As we look into the future, one of the first questions to think about concerns the future of that hegemony.

Is the future of this American hegemony terminal, or is its future transitional? If it is terminal, then, given the present power relations in the world, it can only lead to one alternative, namely international anarchy, because there is no existent system and no possible combination of states that can supplant the role which the United States currently plays. But if it is transitional, then the question arises: transitional to what, and how?

A second great change that took place with end of the Soviet Union is related to this American hegemony. It involved the termination of the great global ideological divide that shaped the course of this century: how to organize society, and how to distribute political power within society. Our century was one of fanatical dogmatism dominated by the desire to create a coercive utopia in the social dimension of human life. The question arising from the end of this conflict is this: what are likely to be the intellectually and emotionally mobilizing forces of political discourse in the future?

Let me attempt to dissect these two issues simultaneously. If American hegemony, which truly exists today, is to be transitional – ie, if it is to end in a benign fashion and not by a sudden displacement producing anarchy, nor by an unilateral American desertion from the global scene, which would also produce anarchy – fundamental systemic changes must take places in the process of this hegemony's evolution. These changes must focus on those regions of the world which are most important and hold the greatest potential for change – Europe, Russia, China, Japan and the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. These are the regions in which changes can have significant dynamic consequences, and thus the process of adaptation and the evolution of new political relationships has to be conducted in a fashion that is conducive to stability.