Balance of Power Revisited: Predicting the Next World Order

Harvard International Review, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Balance of Power Revisited: Predicting the Next World Order


On November 9,1989 the government of East Berlin announced that it would begin dismantling the Berlin Wall, which for 28 years had stood as a concrete symbol of the global divide between Eastern and Western blocs. Two years later, the Soviet Union officially disbanded and the United States, at least for the moment, appeared to be the lone superpower on the world stage.

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Indeed, the position of preeminence held by the United States following this shift in power dynamic was so unprecedented that respected Princeton political scientist Francis Fukuyama was led to proclaim the end of history--Western liberal democracy had won, and history, inasmuch as it represented the struggle of ideologies against one another, was over. But a year after Fukuyama's controversial book, Samuel P. Huntington published an even more contentious essay, "The Clash of Civilizations," which argued that history was far from over: following the collapse of the Soviet Union, nations would soon return to a multipolar, pre-Cold War order whose blocs would form along cultural lines. As he argued, "the fault lines of civilizations are the battle lines of the future." Others in Washington foresaw a period of permanent US hegemony and formulated a new brand of neo-conservative foreign policy with the ultimate goal of preserving and extending US preeminence.

In other words, the 1990s were marked by a profusion of contending theories and predictions about what the future world order would look like and who the dominant players would be. But in the last five years, this debate has fallen a bit by the wayside--it was not resolved, but in a sense, talked out--and barring more evidence there was little to be added to the discussions of the past decade.

In this symposium we seek to revisit this debate in light of recent developments, including the consolidation of the European Union, the resurrection of the nonaligned movement, the rise of China, and recent US military activities abroad. What do these developments portend for predictions of the future world order? …

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