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Old 06-01-2004, 05:05 PM   #1
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Superpower question

Does anyone think that there being only one real superpower on the globe right now (the U.S.) is inherently harmful to the world in some way? This is aside from what you personally think about Bush, or whoever is in the White House. Does anyone else think it's a little like having a one-party electoral system and that electoral system covers the planet? Would it be "better" somehow if, say the European Union also became a superpower, thus giving the planet two parties, according to the analogy?
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Old 06-01-2004, 05:08 PM   #2
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What do you mean by superpower? Military size, strenght or ability? Economic size? Control of trade?
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Old 06-01-2004, 05:41 PM   #3
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That's a good question. How much power does the U.S. have right now, and what kind? Maybe that should be the question.
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Old 06-01-2004, 07:35 PM   #4
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A superpower encompasses all fronts, economically, millitarily, culturally etc.

THe US is not an inherently bad superpower, of all the great powers in history the US is arguably the best as it continues the tradition of liberalism from the 19th century quite well.

We must remember that our view of the US and it's power are warped in the absence of any major powers to rival it (for now). If you look at the Soviet Union as an example of the alternative to a US dominated world then I strongly believe that some perspective is gained. Having another superpower that is opposed ideologically is very dangerous because absolutely nothing major can be done to adress the problems of the day and inevitably a lot of harm is done, we have the potential to do so much good around the world over the next 20 years and that window of opertunity must not be wasted.

It isn't perfect but it strives to achieve perfection.
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Old 06-02-2004, 07:20 AM   #5
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A_Wanderer:
So what's the difference of a good and a bad superpower?

I agree with you, the cold war was verry dangerous but it had the advantage that the USA had a good reason to live up their ideals and show that their system is better than the dictature from Moscow.
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Old 06-02-2004, 08:11 AM   #6
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A_Wanderer, you're forgetting the other half who dont care for western liberalism.

I dont believe, in practice, in the good of a superpower. It doesn't matter who it is.
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Old 06-02-2004, 08:14 AM   #7
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I would define a good superpower as one with a vested interest in preserving and spreading the freedoms and peace that we enjoy so much in the western world to the world as a whole.

I would define a bad superpower as one that executes political dissidents without trial, runs a total police state and enforces its will violently to gain direct control over other nations.

Here is where the distinction get's very blurred, can a nation with good intentions engage in bad activities to uphold the greater good? It is a question that one struggles with and creates a great deal of dilemma, how much action is to much action? Is inaction in the face fo violence criminal?

I would say that some action, for example war in Iraq is a good thing for the people of Iraq and the Middle East as well as the Western World in the long term, the benefits (if done properly) will be the introduction of liberal (critical here, distinguishes between simple democracy as a liberal democracy has strong foundations of human rights and freedom) democracy to a place where it has never existed before, if sucessful it will be an example of a positive resolution through millitary action. Millitary action can bring about democracy, we only need to look to the former Yugoslavia to see intervention is not an inherently bad thing if done properly.

A bad action would be the subversive overthrow of Carlos Allende in Chile, this was an action that was given tacit support by key players in Washington and is an example of abusing power. This type of action was wrong and I strongly believe it was not a failure of democracy, rather the concentration of executive power gone amok.

Liberal Democracy is allways a balance between two things, freedom and security. We must give and take a little of each depending on the demands being placed upon it. For more security we will need to remove more freedons and likewise when we wan't more freedom we are sacrificing security.

The critical thing and this is a really important point about a liberal democratic system is that there must allways be oversight. In open society's there is allways oversight of actions and when that fails proper punishment follows, this distinguishes a "good superpower" from a "bad superpower". When you look at your totallitarian regimes there was never proper accountability for the crimes of the state as everyone involved was just a gear in a larger machine. When you have your Nazi Germany's and Stalinist Russia's millions of people were murdered in the name of progress or racial purity and nobody would pay for the crimes. The victims did not have a voice and the people themselves were helpless to fight against it as they became part of the system itself. This contrasts sharply to the liberal democracys of the world where when abuses of power occur responsibility is found out and people are held to account (either in court or at the ballot box) and the entire society works to fix the problem. For the past one hundred and fifty years we have seen the progress that liberal democracy can bring to the people of the world while other systems have failed outright.

I am not going to argue that the US is the greatest example of democracy in the world, it is not. It is however in the position to become a truly great power when it whole heartedly embraces the cause of freedom and peace around the world. I do not believe that a real peace may be achieved with dictators who will cut deals at the negotiating table while their people die, the abhorent abuses of human rights that occur in totallitarian societies must be stopped through whatever means at the disposal of the civilized world. If this means being tough on a political/diplomatic front then so be it, if this means having to enforce sanctions so be it, if this means war as a final option then so be it. I do not wan't to advocate some type of total war against the rest of the world but I do think that in some situations we shouldn't be afraid to use our power properly.

The use or abuse of power is at the core of the whole problem. How can one wield power without becoming corrupted by it?

This is another problem, one that I will certainly be considering before my next reply post. In summary - Good Superpowers do not opress people and will work hard to bring freedom to the world by eliminating totalitarianism from it. Bad superpowers opress the people and the power is concentrated within the top echelons of a select few.

I must apologise for the post's length and somewhat shallow nature however it is a really, really good question that is best discussed over a bottle of scotch and an entire evening.
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Old 06-02-2004, 08:27 AM   #8
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Just a little extension, can anybody consider the state of affairs without great powers to control and balance?

Europe throughout the past 1000 years is a good example where you had various kingdoms and nation-states that were in a constant sate of conflict, organisation of these nation-states into proper federations is what brought about peace and ultimately a unified makind will bring about a true peace on earth. Of course for this to work one must remove nationalism from the equation which is not going to happen anytime soon.

Nationalism is the fundamental problem with the world as it is inherently dividing. Religion and Race are often cited as the root causes of conflict however nationalism in many ways gave rise to religion and is an extension of race.

----------------------------------
I do not wan't to see a US empire rule over the globe that preaches free trade only as an excuse to rule over every other country, that is a nightmare of mine.

I would like to see a world where every person has a decent chance at life, where countries are held together not by the barrel of a gun but the will of the people. It may sound utopian but I see it as a progression of the past 50,000 years of human history. We wen't from warring tribes to villages. From competing villages to unified kingdoms, from kindoms to countries and from countries to economic unions, the end progression should be a humanist/globalist world vision etc. It may sound utopian but it is not, peace on earth only need be as hard as peace in a neighbourhood, if one neighbour is being a problem we should resolve the problem with the council rather than march over to their house with a shotgun, if they still don't comply then the police should be sent in.
/end somewhat crummy allegory of idealized world view
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Old 06-02-2004, 01:45 PM   #9
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Re: Superpower question

Quote:
Originally posted by verte76
Does anyone think that there being only one real superpower on the globe right now (the U.S.) is inherently harmful to the world in some way? This is aside from what you personally think about Bush, or whoever is in the White House. Does anyone else think it's a little like having a one-party electoral system and that electoral system covers the planet? Would it be "better" somehow if, say the European Union also became a superpower, thus giving the planet two parties, according to the analogy?
I totally agree with your view. In the thread about Europe I gave an almost similar answer. I'll repeat it here, more or less.
Quote:
Originally posted by Popmartijn in the thread 'Europe'
[I think too that the] EU needs to become a counter balance against the US. This has nothing to do with anti-US feelings. Currently, the US is the sole superpower in the world (Russia stopped to play a role in the early Nineties and India/China are still too weak economically). I think it's best for the balance of power if there's at least one other superpower, to prevent one country to have too much influence in the whole world.
Compare it to a democratic country. There you also prefer to have at least 2 powerful parties instead of 1 (yes, even in a democracy).
C ya!

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Old 06-02-2004, 04:15 PM   #10
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Marty, I ripped off your idea. I decided it'd make a cool thread.
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Old 06-02-2004, 04:26 PM   #11
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See, that's why you need another superpower. Like two great minds, they need to spar so that the whole will be more than the sum of its parts. Genius sparks genius.




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Old 06-02-2004, 04:52 PM   #12
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I'd like to see a full strength EU balancing the US.
The US isn't a 'bad' superpower at all when compared to virtually any other throughout history, but I don't like the singular dominance. Thats nothing against the US, I wouldn't like there to be any singular dominant country.

Actually, more than anything else, I'd like to see the US lose it's cultural dominance.

Anyway, it won't happen under the current Administration. Wolfowitz's gang at the PNAC group see a united and strong Europe as a threat, not a friend, and they are none too keen on seeing it happen. Small, backward minded.
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Old 06-02-2004, 08:15 PM   #13
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Do you think the Bush Administration can block the formation of the European Union as a cultural or political force to be reckoned with? I don't. They may see European unity as a thread, but what the hell? How much can they do? You can't lead people where they don't want to be led, and you can lead people where they do want to be led. The direction of the world outside of the U.S. is up to them, at least potentially, is it not?
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Old 06-02-2004, 08:25 PM   #14
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Be careful about an EU superpower, you are overlooking the obvious contenders for the next 50 years, China and Russia. Or here is a possible scenario, Iran invades Iraq and the Gulf and gains control of the entire set of oil fields creating a strong theocratic superpower across the middle east.
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Old 06-02-2004, 08:32 PM   #15
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Iran and the Sunni-dominated Arabic countries (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf States, Egypt) couldn't be allies. Iran is the only Shia Muslim state in the world. The only state Iran could ever make any headway in, politically, is Iraq, because of its Shia majority. Let's not forget that Sistani is a native of Iran. Also, there are those damaging allegations against Chalabi as per those secrets. Russia a future superpower? Aren't they too weak economically? China? Quite possibly another superpower in the future. I don't know if I'm liking that scenario.
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Old 06-02-2004, 09:23 PM   #16
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Things come and go, people. I do think for what it's worth that greater competition or balance among world powers is a healthy thing - and you could hardly call a future EU and the USA ideologically worlds apart.

It doesn't matter whether we like or dislike it. Things come and things go. A century ago the British Empire was (although declining) dominant across the world. Now it's non-existent.

Less than 200 years ago the US was so vulnerable that Washington DC could be torched by Canadian troops.

Things change, and they keep changing.
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Old 06-02-2004, 09:26 PM   #17
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My personal view is that any wildly dominant superpower (a la British Empire, Roman empire etc) is an unhealthy thing, as the process of expansion and acquisition breeds a culture abroad that is far less 'idealistic' than the home culture.

British oppression abroad bore little resemblence to the democratic traditions at home in that little island called England.

Not sure it's that different nowadays (although obviously imperialism takes different forms now).
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Old 06-02-2004, 09:32 PM   #18
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And before anyone gets wound up about my comments on the British Empire's oppressive ways, why do you think America seceded, so to speak?
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Old 06-02-2004, 10:46 PM   #19
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I never said anything about alliance in the ME. I think it would be possible for one state with suitiable weapons to conquer the entire region without forging any alliance with the Sunnies, I am talking about a full scale invasion to sieze control of the resources of the ME in which millions would die but the spoils of war would remain untouched. From our position one thousand lives is a lot however from the perspective of Arab/Persian leaders it is nothing. There is the will should the situation demand it to sacrifice greatly within the region and I don't think that scenario is entirely out of the realms of possibility.

The reason Russia could work is that it has/can gain control of all the neccisary raw materials to rebuild should there be a strong reformist agenda that eliminates the corruption and unites the people.

China is the obvious contender as it has the workforce and it is really trying to push ahead in the world, should there be a technological breakthrough that shifts the balance of power I think its safe to say China will be a beneficiary.

-------------------------
In regard to the British Empire I think that as a system it was totally corrupted in the name of profit and control. The ideological leaders in the beginning held a strong conviction that they could spread peace throughout the world through free trade and democratic institutions however as the empire grew the political situation changed and control of the colonies became the primary driving force.

I loath the concept of god given right to rule type empire, I dislike the concept of protectorates and "white mans burden" but we should at least reciognise the good the the British Empire gave to the world by spreading technology and science as well as the foundation for the global economic and political systems that we see today.

Today empires cannot exist in any real context, there is no interest in fighting wars in far away places to expand direct control of governments, you do not see the US directly ruling over sattelite nations like the Soviet Union. What we have is best described as a benign hegemony, the US is first among equals in many respects however the sheer size of it's economy and influence prevent it from being isolationist.

I must raise this question, Where do we wan't to see the world in the next 50 years?

I would like to see how people would like to see it and how people think it will actually turn out.
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Old 06-03-2004, 03:42 AM   #20
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A_Wanderer:
Thanks for your great answer!

After i read it i am convinced that the US is not a good, but certainly not a bad Superpower either.

Quote:
The use or abuse of power is at the core of the whole problem. How can one wield power without becoming corrupted by it?
Yes! We can see this in history and of course still today.

Another problem we saw in history and we can still see today is that we value the lifes of people differently. Our citizens are worth more than other humans. Especially in dictatures far away we accept that they are sub-humans, guilty until proven innocent.
With this view it's much easier that a Superpower is tilting to the "dark side".

Anyway as long as there are enough honest men and women in a country there are allways people fighting against the tendency of abuse of power.
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