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Monday, December 11, 2006

I Don't Want To Be A Wheel No More

Bobby Mitchell - I Don't Want To Be A Wheel No More

I read Coral Bell's Twilight of the Unipolar World in preparation for my interview in Berlin for a scholarship in the USA. In what amounts to the biggest disappointment of my professional/academic career, I did not get a place in that program (don't even ask how I disappointed I am, but 'tant pis' as the French would say, have to move on). Point is, I read that article a couple of times. At the time it was published (in the winter of 2005) it had caused quite an uproar partly related to the fact that it was published in the American Interest a journal published by men mostly quite close to the neoconservative sphere. For them to publish an article as gloomy (for the USA) as Bell's seemed revolutionary.

Basically the Australian author argues that the US has 20 years remaining to form the basis for any kind of future they want to have in world affairs. After that, power will be diluted too much. I think there is no doubt that the general premise is solid (even if 20 years might be 10 years too few) and cannot be argued. The problem is that, after having detailed this outlook, Bell goes on to describe population increases in China and India, but also in Indonesia, Pakistan and other East-Asian countries, only to then - all of a sudden - focus on the EU as the future biggest adversary to the USA. He claims that a change in government in the UK (based on a highly unlikely - in my eyes - collaboration between the Liberals and Labour) would result in an ever looser union and the accesion of Russia. This new EU would then be one of the biggest and most important world powers and competitor to American influence.

While - being the fervent European that I am - I could not be further from argueing that the EU will develop into a major player in the international field, the idea developed in Twilight of the Unipolar World of how this is supposed to go about seems ridicolous to me. I see no way that Russia will join the EU anytime soon (and definitely not in the next 20-30 years necessary for this prophecy to have anykind of relevance considering Bell's own time schedule), plus the premise that the UK will give up its traditional close ties to the US lacks any kind of evidence and is based solely on a shaky hypothesis (that of a coalition between Labour and Liberals). Plus, Bell completey ignores the rise of these East-Asian powers that he himself details in the beginning of his essay.

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