Welcome to Power Vectors. As the name suggests, the blog will be a continuing discussion of the evolution of current day power in both the domestic and international spheres as well as how they relate to one another. What is happening? Where is it going? What are the ramifications? How in the world did we get HERE? What are the options?
The fleeting unipolar moment, to the extent that it ever really existed, has passed. However, there appears to be something of an overreaction in some quarters to the concept of “US decline”. This reaction in parts of both the Left and Right political spectrums in the US and the reported perception of other nations has led to what seems a crisis of confidence more than an actual “decline”. Changes in relative position vis-a-vis other nations, however, is undeniable (and normal when viewed long-term). Much hand wringing ensues. The Right becomes more and more exercised by the relative losses as many on the Left appear to welcome, even encourage, “decline” in service to a more cosmopolitan world. And, as always, pity is due the poor policy maker whoever he or she may be as they try to bridge this gulf.
The US faces many problems which we will discuss over time including some intractable (and perhaps inevitable) ones associated with being the leading nation among nations in the international system. This phenomenon is sometimes described as the US being a “reluctant hegemon” and is sometimes, in rhetoric, erroneously combined with “American Exceptionalism”, which it is not. On the domestic side, the current hardening of opinion on both Left and Right as well as serious economic difficulties contributes to an overall unease, reflected in poll after poll, that “things just aren’t going right” which has implications for both the domestic politics and international relations of the US.
History indicates to us that, when times get tough, electorates look for easy answers first – a position ripe for exploitation by politicians and other power brokers. This has unfortunately sometimes taken the form of looking for a knight on a white horse to lead a nation to better times. From ancient Greece to the present day we find example after example of this mentality. The need for effective leadership is unquestioned but the oversimplification of the (often empty) promises of politicians ultimately sets up the seeds of dissatisfaction in the electorate that only grows over time. The worrisome factor in times like these is that the electorate, in its worry, decides to hand over their rights (and responsibilities) to a person or persons on to whom they project their concerns and hopes. Whether it is the cry for “law and order”, “America first” or “hope and change” and “putting people first”, politicians will seek to exploit whatever mood may exist at a given time. Whether that bears any relation to policy effectiveness is questionable at best.
The introduction was a bit long but I will work to keep it as succinct as possible over time. You are welcome here. The whole point is to illuminate the possibilities and search for real, workable answers to current and future “power”. Everyone should remember that all the easy questions have been answered; all that remains are the hard ones. Next up: Define power.