The recent unilateral take by the US followed by backflip on several of its global policies from its traditional approach as a global cop is no less than a landmark in the international politics. Last time it was the Bush era when we saw an America embarking on a “unilateralist drive” – in the words of then EU Secretary of Foreign Affairs. But it is obvious now that the time has changed. The world no more believes in unilateralism, neither is the 1990s bandwagoning possible in this era of complex interdependence. Take, for instance, the relationship of the US and China which itself testifies the fact that whatever the extent of rivalry be there are trivial prospects of military confrontation in this world of economic interdependence. There are no possibilities of – tight – unipolarity or bipolarity in today’s world. In the foreseeable future, we will watch the passing of Charles Krauthammer’s “Unipolar Moment” or the end of unipolarity as we know it.
The threatening attitude of the United States in the UN over the Palestine issue and its improvised recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel have broken the fundamental principles of democracy and the decision has rendered a spoiler to the international image of the US – at least in the Muslim world. The US that claims to be the promoter of liberal democracy, who believes in the rule and right of the majority, the same US which contributes to the promulgation of freedom of choice and action has embarked on a track that intersects the very notion of freedom and liberal democracy. The words of US representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, still echo the UN parliament which marked an end to the US acknowledgment of global democracy and multilateralism. The unilateralist drive by the US is surely one of the biggest blunders that it should avoid in any possible way.
US decision over Jerusalem has provoked a backlash in the Muslim world. But as a matter of fact, the recent US decision on Jerusalem is not a shift of policies but a shift of behavior. The retrospective nonchalance of the US towards Israeli settlement is an example in point that the recent decision is a mere acknowledgment of how the US has been seeing this conflict since the beginning. The decision has invoked anti-US sentiments in the Muslim world. The one-sided voting against the US move on Jerusalem that was not even backed by the United States’ close friends proves that the decision was a policy failure.
America’s South Asia strategy is another episode which so far indicates one more policy blunder by the new US administration. Losing the trust of a long-standing ally, Pakistan, in the War on Terror in Afghanistan would be no good for the US. The fact of Afghanistan being a landlocked country and having no other – safe, effective and cheap route – makes Pakistan not only strategically but a geopolitically important actor as well. Washington’s rhetoric of blaming Pakistan and putting all the burden on latter’s shoulders could have been justified if there was not a single city of Afghanistan under the Taliban. However, currently, more than 40% of Afghan territory is directly or indirectly under the control of Afghan Taliban.
The recent shift in the US policies towards South Asia and the Middle East has pushed many countries towards the Orient. Such an atmosphere coupled with the economic and developmental initiatives pledged and offered by China under the banner of One Belt One Road will definitely weaken the US position in the global arena. Another factor that encourages the South Asian and Central Asian countries to move towards China instead of the US is the fact of their being developing countries. Most of these countries mainly ones that fall under the net of OBOR are developing countries and China remains the only state interested to invest economically not militarily.
This has been evident from the recent US national security policy that the US still believes in a Cold War-style global rivalry as ridiculed and condemned by Russia and China. The document labels China and Russia as “rival powers”. But China’s foreign ministry condemned it saying Washington should “abandon outdated notions”. Retaining such mentality will defiantly reap the US no good results.
The mighty US which has already begun losing ground in economic supremacy is also at its worst in terms of institutional and relational dominance. Today’s globalized world is in a Post-Post-Cold war era. Dominance can no longer be measured in terms of military power alone. Although military might remains a key driver of international relations it is no longer the – only – driver of global politics. Regionalism is on the rise. Today, more countries are looking towards a business-oriented partner than a defense ally. The bilateral engagement of Seoul and Pyongyang can be one of the cases in point.
Multipolarity is – or becoming – a reality that the US will have to acknowledge. The increasing use of “isolating the US” like phrases in newspapers around the world shows a real drift in the global politics. A protectionist and unilateralist attitude, harsh immigrant policies followed by a volte-face over the Palestine issue demonstrates a major shift of policies of the US as a global superpower state. Such a shift in policies might run the show for the US domestically alone but may not lead to any constructive end internationally. Use of threats and coercion in a democratically working global institution couldn’t have made any sense even in the 1970s. Time has changed; it is better in the interests of the US to adopt the change. The US has to face the reality and the reality is that a new global order has begun to emerge from the ruins of unipolarity.
The writer is a senior editor of The Geopolitics. He is a candidate of International Relations and Journalism based in Pakistan