Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Nature of Superpowers and Who May Apply for the Position

I knew that the last two stages of the superpower project were going to be difficult, because there are so many points of view, and all of them are valid. Many views on potential superpowers have been put forth on the comments section of my top post on superpowers, but rarely do I have the opportunity to debate the point out to its necessary end with the writer, and creating this post without debating the validity of some potential superpowers, and hearing a variety of alternative opinions would be as empty as debating Barry Bonds’ accomplishments as a hitter without addressing the steroid issue.

So I enlisted the help of a friend, and a very insightful person who is just beginning to blog, James. I’ve mentioned James here before, and I totally appreciate his help. Within the next 24 hours, he is going to publish a response to this post, stating his sometimes opposing opinions with regards to who is aligned to become a superpower in the near future. We sat down to dinner, discussed specific countries, who belonged as a potential superpower and who didn’t, and who other countries would be aligned with. It was a fascinating dinner!


First, we needed to define what constitutes a superpower. The conclusion we came to is that a superpower is any country which holds both economic and military influence over half the world. That does not mean a superpower is aligned with over half the world, only that the country can sway the actions of a particular country with either their military or economic might. There were some disagreements, such as whether terrorism is part of a country’s military might; I believe terrorism is a military weapon, and thus one aspect of a country’s military might, and that’s what we’ll agree upon for purposes of this article. Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty straightforward definition, but I encourage other opinions.

The United States

The United States is the only true superpower in the world today. It exerts economic influence over every country in the world today including those (maybe especially those) that refuse to trade with the US (or vice versa), like Cuba. The US also exerts military influence over nearly every country in the world today, though there are some countries that are small enough to fly under the radar and not really sense the roll of the United States as the watchdog of the modern world. Additionally, China is only moderately affected by the United States’ military might because they are so far removed from us geographically, and because they have such an insular society.


China is just on the verge of becoming a superpower, if they have no achieved that status yet. China is tremendously strong militarily because of its vast numbers, leaving the perception that, should a war occur, they have enough resources to outlast any country. Their technology is mediocre at best, as they are presently in their own industrial age, and their weapons show it, but this has not diminished their economy, as China has an amazing trade surplus and no debt to other countries. Many countries are in debt to China, and they continue to produce the textiles and other hard goods that lend themselves to industrialization.


Iran’s power is rapidly growing. Iran’s economy is all about oil, and as such the economy is good. Oil is used not only as a commodity, it is used as a weapon, and the threat of restrictions or even destruction of major portions of the world’s oil supply continuously acts as the largest weapon in Iran’s arsenal. Still, the growing threat of a nuclear Iran is becoming a great weapon than the oil reserves, and even the new weaponry showed off at war games two weeks ago threaten a must strong Iran in the military department. Assuming that Iran can increase the number of soldiers it is allied to, either by aligning with other countries around the Middle East or by aligning to pockets of Muslims in countries around the world, then it will become a superpower sooner than later, nukes or no nukes.


India is a very odd case. Economically, they skipped the industrial revolution and moved right into the communication revolution. This has given the country an excellent trade surplus, but a horrible standard of living. Their labor is highly skilled, with good ability to work with technology, but it is doubtful that India would have a technologically adept military, as much of the weaponry hasn’t been built for the absence of industrialization. Nuclear capability is only one piece of the military puzzle, and that puzzle has not been solved yet for India, leaving the country short of superpower status.


While the Russian military technology is scary indeed, the country is falling apart economically, and perhaps socially, and as such we’re not looking at a country who could perform effectively in a war. The economy, and even the government to some extent, is being run by the Russian mafia, where justice is meted out to the highest bidder. The next obvious question then is, will the weapons be sold to the highest bidder as well? Russia remains a wildcard in the whole equation, as they clearly fall short of being a superpower but have the military technology to be a very strong ally to an emerging superpower.

European Union

The European Union has the military might and the economic sway to become a superpower; they just have to speak with one common voice. Thank that’s easy? Guess again! The EU has increasing shown that while enjoying the benefits of alliance, they can rarely agree on anything. On the most crucial issues that face our day to day lives, issues like Iraq, Iran, the Mohammed Cartoons, and Israel, we hear one opinion from whoever is running the EU at that particular moment, and anywhere from 3-6 other opinions from the EU’s members. In this state, it is more convenient to leave the responsibilities of a superpower to a third party country, and share only the rewards or their alliance. As such, certain member nations have a great chance of becoming a superpower than the EU itself.


There many be no better candidate in the world for superpower status than Germany. Time and again, Gernany has show the ability to rapidly deploy an adept military to any situation. They have used the first Iraqi war as an excuse to retool their military, and have abstained from the second Iraqi war, allowing for hording their military might. Their economy is not exactly robust, but their inclusion in the EU allows Germany to hold a great deal of economic influence. Plus, there is still a bitter taste in the mouths of many Germans regarding their treatment after WWI and WWII, leaving many to long for the day when Germany is a world power again. All that holds Germany back from reaching this status is the memory of many Europeans of how they treated power when they have received it in the past.


England has the military power, and England has the economic strength to be a superpower. The British Air Force is as a good as they come, probably only trailing behind the US and maybe Israel, and the country has a long history of being able to muster massive ground forces when need be. Economically, the country retains its roll as a trade partner with a huge percentage of the world, and even those areas that are anti-West maintain trading ties with England. England’s economy was hurt, however, by their inclusion in the EU, and by moving away from the consistently-strong British Pound. Extracting the country from the EU, as a result, will be difficult and costly. Additionally, the massive Muslim population inside of England leaves the country wary of establishing themselves as a superpower against Iran.


To me, it appears that we are destined to have three superpowers: China, Iran, and The United States. As many people mentioned during my other posts on world superpowers, this may or may not be our favorite world status, but it appears to be the status we are going to face in the near future.

Other Notes

Not included in this post was Poppy, who felt there should be three superpowers but one should be him. Sorry Poppy, I didn’t know enough about you to write knowledgably, but I suspect you would be a great superpower.

Sheila is from Australia, and she says the poll is directed to American voters. I’m trying to direct it to Western voters, Sheila, but I should be mentioning that more explicitly. I do mention it in the first post about superpowers, but I haven’t mentioned it since. It’s a great point, and thanks for bringing it out.

Finally, I just today I received an excellent post from Omar on the advancement of China in the world order. This is one section of it:

Communism and Capitalism are being used by China wisely to control the world. Everybody was skeptical about the turnover of Hong Kong and Macao to Communist China. Both economic and financial world centers have continued using Capitalism to promote world commerce and trade. China intelligently maintained the status-quo.

Right now the President of China is visiting the United States. Its first visit was meeting Bill Gates at his private mansion in Seattle, Washington. Symbolically, Microsoft is a technological Powerhouse which can help China to upgrading its IT structure.

I don't think any other country has the growth potential of China, nor the political savvy to become a world Superpower.

Well done, Omar, a lot of food for thought in your comments. I also got this picture from his site.

OK, so one more superpower post down, one final superpower post to go. I hope you’ve been enjoying them so far. The raffle will be held tonight, the last superpower post will be posted Friday, and there are 3 or 4 posts scheduled in between with more upgrades being made to my site almost every hour.

technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by Scottage at 11:30 PM / | |