III. with it consequences that international actors to
June 5, 2019
III. A Unipolar System and Soft Balancing
A unipolar system eventually emerged from the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the cold war, the first time in history that so much power was held by one state with global interests and a global reach. This system brought with it consequences that international actors to that point not be forced to confront, including significantly altered alliance choices and bargaining strategies, among others. There is no consensus, contend Walt and others, about whether the current period of unipolar balance will be harmful or beneficial over the long term. Although proponents of hegemonic stability theory believe that a single, hegemonic leader can benevolently impose a greater degree of peace and order on the international stage, others fear that a single, unchecked power can lead to a sense of imperialism and unilateralism. Evidence of both can be found since the survival of the United States as the lone global superpower. Critics point to the Bush Doctrine, which advocates unilateral action and the possibility of preemptive war, as evidence that a unipolar distribution of power can bring about conflict in the international system. In fact, some contend that the current unipolar arrangement is more illusion than reality and that the system is poised for a return to multipolarity.
However, states in the current distribution are not nearly powerful enough to effectively challenge the power and capabilities of the United States. It is also true that, with the spread of democracy and a capitalist economy to previously undemocratic and non capitalist countries, states are much less likely to risk war over policy or ideological differences. So what can weaker states do to counter the predominance of a lone superpower? The answer may be soft balancing, which entails smaller states countering the hegemonic, using diplomatic, economic, and other nonmilitary means to counter the dominant power. Joffe and others contend that this type of behaviour could very well be both an acknowledgment that no power could effectively match the United States’