Friday, April 14, 2006

Multiple Superpowers: The Growing Dilemma

I don’t know if it’s happenstance or if people are actually reading my posts on the superpower issues the world faces today, but since I posted Wednesday on the nature of a world with no superpowers, I have received more votes for multiple superpowers (although I still have some for no superpowers).

Well guess what, everybody; you may fish your wish on this one. Because I believe we will be living in a multiple superpower world before we hit 2008.

The Advantages

There are many advantages to a world with multiple superpowers. First and foremost, all the superpowers serve and checks and balances for the others, as well as acting as watchdogs for the smaller countries in the world. In many ways, this world is extremely secure as a result of the multiple superpowers, as all countries have to avoid upsetting any two of the superpowers.

Again, with multiple superpowers it is reasonable to expect that people would be able to move between countries fairly easily, as much of the tension that arises between two superpowers would be avoided. Advanced communication would allow people to be aware of opportunities, and I suspect such a world would see a great deal of moving around by people and communities as they find their comfort zones.

Further, the rivalry between superpowers could, and should, lead to advancements in technologies, medicines, the arts, literature, and exploration, similar to what we will see in the two superpower scenario. As superpowers and their allies attempt to attract citizens, money will be invested in these activities, and countries will try to outshine their neighbors.

The Potential Downside

While I suspect the multiple superpower scenario will be more stable than other options, it has be potential to fall apart suddenly, as lust for power can be accommodated if any superpower can win the allegiance of any other superpower, or enough of the non-superpower countries.

Further, the natural balance that was experienced in the other scenarios would not be realized, as there would most probably be consistent jockeying for the support and allegiance of the non-superpower countries. I would expect to see minor wars regularly and occasional larger conflicts over more influential countries.

A Real Life Example

Let’s say, for a second, that my vision of the future is realized, and that Russian and China ally to be a superpower, while the majority of the Middle East allies behind Iran to become the second superpower, with the US as the third.

Because of the balance of technology, numbers in the troops, and established information channels, the US is still probably the most powerful. The troops are loyal for the most part and believe in the cause of democracy, and the country has the ability to cause mass destruction in a worst-case scenario.

Iran would have more ground troops, but would be limited in their technology and would not have the ability to create mass destruction. Russia and China would be close in technology to the US, but would not have the number of ground troops, and loyalty in each nation would be a question mark.

No one superpower in this scenario would be able to inflict its will on the other two, and what’s more, attempting to do so could cause the other two to gang up on you. Great results!

One would expect, again, that the allegiance of some countries would be crucial, and would be fought for. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Denmark, and Afghanistan, amongst many others, have significant Muslim populations, which may push for alliances with Iran. Where would Taiwan, North Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong show their allegiance? To expect these questions to be answered without bloodshed is naïve.

Furthermore, as time goes on, and superpowers solidify their position, logic would indicate that two superpowers could try to extend their influence further.

Let’s say that Iran can somehow convince China and Russia that the US is still a problem, still pushing democracy, and must be eliminated. Now you combine the weaponry of Russia and China with the troops in Iran and the Middle East, and you have a certifiable nightmare.

The Conclusions

I’m attracted by the multiple superpower scenario, but I see the danger that is inherent in such a system. I would favor this over any of the world orders we have discussed, but I worry that the stability we would find would have a finite life span.

In the next post, regarding the two superpower world, we will determine if there could be better results from a two superpower world, or if the multiple superpower world will bring us the stability we strive for.

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Posted by Scottage at 6:09 PM / | |