Our journey into the 21st Century has been marked by events such as terrorism, financial meltdown, and war. Amidst all this turmoil, traditional power structures are being challenged by the onslaught of violence taking place across the globe. The United States is in the beginning stage of a major shift in its ability to assert its long-standing status quo as the gatekeeper of international stability, though it is too soon to define the United States as a power in decline. The U.S will still wield considerable power in the next coming decades. What will matter is how the U.S wants to re-define its role amongst emerging powers.
There are also a considerable amount of domestic issues within the U.S that require careful examination as well. There is an ever-increasing wage gap as wealth is being concentrated in fewer hands than ever before. At the same time, corporations have grown more powerful and are integrating themselves within established political institutions. The Supreme Court has given corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns with the 2010 ruling of Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission. Many have suffered due to the decisions made on our behalf by leaders both elected and un-elected. We have officials who sell out to polarizing ideological agendas that do not benefit the social and economic dignity of the American people. Whether it is on a global or local scale, we must ask ourselves if democratic institutions are being used in the interest of power or the interest of people.
In the international arena, there is a concert of dominant countries making decisions that shape the outcome of nations that are still trying to emerge from the shadow of colonialism. Although we now have codified standards for warfare (through the institution of the UN), there exists no binding power behind resolutions set forth by the UN General Assembly to ensure violators of the law are brought to justice. Other institutions within the UN, such as the Security Council, are bound by the parameters of international custom and/or treaty. The permanent members that make up the Security Council do not have the power of legislating norms (although some exceptions exist). The traditional notion of state sovereignty is currently upheld as the most legitimizing tool for the behavior of political actors.
In the Middle East, the framework of the United Nations is put to the test. The four-year old civil war in Syria has not only disrupted the regional balance of power but has produced violence at an unsettling record. Unfortunately, the legal institutions within the United Nations are not being used to mandate an end to the conflict. Currently there is no formal diplomatic solution to end the humanitarian suffering in Syria. This is giving rise to non-state actors seeking to redefine old political boundary lines of nation-states in the Middle East.
We are now entering a Post-Cold War international order. The nature of American hegemony will continue to be challenged. As American power softens, we are likely to see the world order contract into smaller regional powers. How the United States will define its relationship with rising powers will be the most important task of the coming decades.
This is the age of a geopolitical shift that is challenging the present definition of statehood, political legitimacy, and economic regimes. Statecraft as survival of the fittest has re-emerged as the primary political tool states use to re-organize their interests to create valuable alliances. Powers of the past are working on resurrecting past glory by realigning interests towards regional security and economic stability. We are living in a transformative era, one in which today’s events will shape the way we define the world of tomorrow. This is our nation affairs.