The demise of the cold war in the 1990s marked the rise of the United States of America (Davis 2015). The rise to supremacy was partly supported by the whole world's acceptance of America as a leader of the nations. Its position in global politics and geopolitics has also contributed to the elevation. America plays a central role in global politics and has a strong hold on the geopolitics of the international system (Carton 2014). Its centralized position as a superpower implies its important position in the international arena. It will not be wrong to call it the “grandmaster of international affairs.” America believes that modern day world is too complex for direct democracy, and that is why good decisions are to be made by elected representatives instead.
In this essay, we discuss the division of power in America and its position in the global arena in the modern age and time. The global system is not ideal; instead, it is unstable as well as anarchic. The essay has a critical edge and discusses the standpoint of the USA in today's day and time. At times, the country seems to be in a state of chaos with a hyper-partisanized government that can barely control the situation. Then America and its government rise to the occasion and save the day to retain its position as the financial, corporate, geopolitical and political leader of the nations (Rachman 2012). This essay discusses the role of America in maintaining the global standards in the world.
The continuous chatter about the inevitable ebb of the United States’ power has become customary. Everybody knows that the US is going to fall and every week more bad news about the United States’ power paradigm seems to confirm this notion. The country has turned into an ungovernable mess with a disorganized hyperactive Congress, government shutdowns, and slow economic recovery after the sump season and NSA spy scandal (Smith 2012). This is not organized chaos. America is ranked 24th in the economy while Americans are ranked 11th in Happiness (Kawa 2013). The facts are not very encouraging. A study conducted on eighth graders revealed that a small percentage of American students have excellent hold of advanced mathematics and in comparison to American students, students from South Korea and Singapore had far higher ratings.
However, the picture was not the same a decade or two ago. The shift of power from bipolar to unipolar power system induced the rise of America and enhanced the super power image of the nation (Xuetong 2013). Incidentally, the power shift boosted capitalism and globalization. This gave rise to an imaginary notion of world unity. America's continued thirst for power, domination, and organization gave rise to the umbrella effect wherein every country other than America is under the assumed safety limits of America. Even so, the picture has barely changed after decades.
The United States is still the world leader and will likely remain so for the next few decades. The greatest soft power is in its hands. Millions of immigrants with different skills, tools and techniques come to the country every year. There is the Silicon Valley, biggest movie sector in Hollywood, some of the best universities and colleges for higher education, 17 out of 20 top universities in the world are from America, and the country has a first world trade profile (Forbes.com 2016). However, the power structure of the country has not changed a lot in the modern times. C. Wright Mills' book the Power Elite rightly defines America's power structure as an elitist fundamentalist. The book was published in 1956; those were simpler times, but the structure remains the same.
According to the book and according to the musings of Karl Marx, relatively small groups of people who own the big factories and control the natural resources govern capitalist and industrial societies like America. The government officials are essentially working under their command. They have no control over the workings of the nation, as they do not control the money. As represented by the Mills ‘model, the power structure could be illustrated as a pyramid at the top of which are the rich corporate leaders followed by the influential high-end government and military officials. Following the triumvirate are the local opinion holding leaders, people from the legislative branch of the government, special interest groups and their leaders. The bottom of the pyramid and the society is governed by clueless unorganized masses (Whitfield 2014). This was the power structure in the yesteryears and this s the truth of today.
So, in spite of a weak capitalist infrastructure why is America's Supremacy still unchallenged? Well, it is not unchallenged, and China can prove that. But there are some methods used in establishing the supremacy and demolishing the structure of the methods is not easy. Firstly, in the 1990s, USA established a degree of economic, political and military supremacy that is a rare sight in the modern power system (Mingst and Arreguín-Toft 2013). The supremacy was built on longtime undisputed economic stability and continued growth. Abetting the situation was an advantageous geographical location and collapse of America’s longtime competitor. The rest of the world chose to go along to get along with the rising superpower.
Not only that, the US military was constructed to be effectively unbeatable in any conflict that put the US in danger. The government built the military based on effective well-financed military training and force protection (Tang and Long 2012). However, that did not give the US military the power to achieve its political goals forcefully, but it sure did provide them with the power to put other nations military in check. However, the idea then was that this amount of power would eventually fade as it was the byproduct of World War II. The neoconservatives did not believe that America's military supremacy needed to fade anytime soon. Several steps were taken to maintain the nation's superior state.
In spite of the plan, an execution was harder than ever. The plan did not consider the potential of India and China to become more ingrained in the political, economic and geopolitical structure of the world. Both the countries were enjoying continuous long-term economic growth and overcoming the effects of the hardship they had to bear with during the cold war (Ong 2013). Both the economies were becoming irreplaceable parts of the global system. Either USA had to convince the two countries to play nice or maintain a military supremacy over both the countries. It was difficult; more so because America had to ensure against the revival of the military and economic power or Eurasia.
It all worked out pretty well for the United States, though. Germany and Japan have remained relatively harmless and docile for the following decades; India is more interested in an alignment with the USA than a conflict and Russia is struggling to control its borderlines. The main threat now is China with a sustained economic growth, remarkable military line, advanced technological forefront and advantageous geopolitical position. Nevertheless, China has only started to probe the military and political weaknesses of the United States of America. The Asian country is more focused on its own betterment and less focused on acquiring a supreme status (Nathan and Scobell 2012).
The gap is diminishing today. Although the USA still has economic, political and geopolitical upper hand, the other countries are closing in. The 1990s were weird so the supreme power thrust that America felt at the time were ephemeral and the shrinking gap today is a sign of normalcy. However, the question is neither about unipolarity nor primacy (Pape 2014). The American power structure has not changed since the 90s but has persisted through all these decades. Actually, there is no question at all. America cannot ever feel as invulnerable as in the 1990s. That was a different time altogether.
The United State's position is once again in turbulence. Although the nation is feeling incomparably powerful and secure, the picture can change at any time. Even though the nation is enjoying unchallenged military supremacy, sheer arrogance is blocking its rational view. Not that some comeuppance is required in this case because geopolitics is nothing like a Shakespearean drama or a cheap morality play but, realization is something which can help the nation grow better, and its structure becomes stronger than ever. All authoritative candidates as of yet have made some serious mistakes in upholding the country first. Although they are not responsible for the country's decline, they cannot wash their hands off the problems. The design to improve military supremacy, for instance, is still workable, but it needs serious changes (Drezner 2013).
But what is the position of the United States of America today? In spite of all the turbulence, in spite of all the power shifts, in spite of the negative effects of globalization brought in with the rise of America, the nation is still considered a chief Superpower, evidently THE superpower. It is the world’s leader for FDI having a value of 180 billion dollars, twice as much as its nearest competitor. The country spends 560 billion dollars a year providing for and improving its military. It has the most powerful military in the world. Its GDP is twice as much as China's (Cooley and Snyder 2015). It is the world's first new nation, and it has the longest functioning democracy in the world of semi-democratic and non-democratic countries. In spite of recession, its stock market in on an all-time high as we speak which reflects leadership in global economy.
Who can ever challenge America’s role as the global leader? The Europeans? Or maybe the Russians or the Japanese? The truth about the situation is that EU has 12% unemployment rate, which is on an extended high point in Greece and Spain-a whopping 26%. Then there is no economic growth and diminishing population. The Japanese are also suffering from a declining and rapidly aging population. There is almost no immigration in the country. Economic growth is slow, and the Nikkei Index is many points below the level of 1988. Then there is debt. About Russia, it is still trying to control its own border. Sure, it is coming to limelight sometimes, but that does not bring it into the superpower arena. It has a trade profile of a third world country, a small GNP that is less than 15% of the United States and it has no soft power or technical advantage or Hollywood or high end universities (KovaÄ 2016).
However, there is China and India, right? That is far from truth because although both the countries have made serious progress in the past few decades, they also have serious problems. China has almost 650 million of its population living in the impoverished countryside, a GDP/capita of $6,100 and 87th place in the world based on the GDP/capita rates. This rate is a mere 12% of America's GDP/capita rate. There is corruption in the country, single-party communist rule, mismanaged social structure and lack of mass creativity (Kubiszewski et al. 2013). India, on the other hand, is burdened with its huge impoverished population. Almost 70% of the population lives in the poor countryside with minimal facilities. Electricity, sanitation or even water is an out of reach commodity for 160 million people in the country. The rate of illiteracy is high in the country; almost 35% of all women in the country are illiterate. The infrastructure is weak, with a GDP/capita of a low $1,500 India is at the 138th place in the world economy. Moreover, there is a lot of corruption, rapid population growth, and a failing administrative structure (MEDIANU et al. 2015.). Can the two countries challenge America? The facts say not in the next few decades.
Therefore, there is no one to stand in the way of America’s supremacy; and even with an imperfect infrastructure and power structure, America’s lead will prevail in the near future. But the critics argue over this unipolarity. Is it effective? Yes. But does it have an allover positive impact? Not likely. Critics argue about the notion of unipolarity in that it creates internal divisions in the international arena, which in turn creates a habit of shoving and forcing ideas and theories on suspecting as well as unsuspecting masses (Bilgel 2014). The single most powerful nation in the world is capable of doing this very unethical thing. Historical facts about socio-economic politics and inequalities in the international system support this notion. Earlier holders of world supremacy have behaved the same way. The super powers of the yesteryear dominated using imperialism, which gave rise to colonialism. The result was unrelenting socio-economic inequality. The ripple effect of the same is still visible. Although America’s lead is more ideological than imperial, the attempts to force its military prowess on the world for imperialistic motives and needs are quite unnerving, and the situation threatens to worsen at any given time.
There is domination, and then there is coercion, which points at instability in the international arena. The countries at the forefront are afraid to lose their hold over the world. This also highlights that world politics is all about domination. The power America holds over the world is something to be aware of and afraid of because anytime a threat is felt from any other nation, the dominating nation will act up to subdue the threat and in the act many other countries will suffer. With all the money in the world in its hand, the US is building a strong, menacing and domineering army, strong hold in the international arena, stiff position in the geo-political base and a stable international infrastructure so that any other country cannot challenge its power in the international field of politics, culture, geo-politics and economy (Friedberg 2013).
The US has its own problems, and there are some mistakes on its daily diary. Capitalist structure points at weak interactive base with the commoners. There are a lot of unhappy commoners in the USA, and that is why the government is subjected to a lot of scrutiny all the time. A single mistake can topple the government, and that is why the government policies are strengthening the country every day. The focus is on maintaining America's stronghold on world supremacy. The mistakes of the nation have not decreased in number, but the country is becoming strong enough to function even with the mistakes and the problems. The fact, however, is that the world has become more peaceful with US intervention, or so it seems. That is why ending the supremacy is not in the "to do" list of many countries struggling to maintain overall peace and order.
Sympathizers and idealists contest with non-believers saying that the rise to supremacy has given the US the power to re-assert its position in the global map as a powerful democracy. But liberal students and believers argue that although the US has served as an international umbrella for the developed, developing and underdeveloped nations of the world, it has also misused its power to grow in size, in volume, economically and politically. The truth remains undiscovered. But the only truth that shines through this essay is that the United States of America is an all powerful nation full of possibilities, and the Supremacy the nation is enjoying is here to stay. So, we can conclude on a note that reveals America's present, past and future position in the power structure of the world.
Bilgel, Y., 2014. Regional power politics after the Cold War (Doctoral dissertation, THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO).
Carton, J., 2014. A Review of “Confronting America: The Cold War Between the United States and the Communists in France and Italy”, by Alessandro Brogi. American Communist History, 13(2-3), pp.209-211.
Cooley, A. and Snyder, J., 2015. Rank Has Its Privileges. Foreign Affairs,94(6), p.15.
Davis, L.E., 2015. The Cold War Begins: Soviet-American Conflict Over East Europe. Princeton University Press.
Drezner, D.W., 2013. Military Primacy Doesn't Pay (Nearly As Much As You Think). International Security, 38(1), pp.52-79.
Forbes.com. (2016). Forbes Welcome. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/11/24/why-the-u-s-remains-the-worlds-unchallenged-superpower/#79e3ca061fd8 [Accessed 14 Mar. 2016].
Friedberg, A.L., 2013. A contest for supremacy. EDUCATION ABOUT ASIA,18(3).
Kawa, L., 2013. America’s Infrastructure Ranks... 25th In The World.Business Insider, 16.
KovaÄ, I., 2016. Book Review: The End of American World Order. Political Studies Review, 14(1), pp.78-79.
Kubiszewski, I., Costanza, R., Franco, C., Lawn, P., Talberth, J., Jackson, T. and Aylmer, C., 2013. Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress. Ecological Economics, 93, pp.57-68.
MEDIANU, D., WANG, J. and WHALLEY, J., 2015. The Contribution of China, India, and Brazil to Narrowing North–South Differences in GDP/capita, World Trade Shares, and Market Capitalization We are grateful to the Ontario Research Fund and to a research group at the University of Western Ontario for comments. In WORLD SCIENTIFIC REFERENCE ON ASIA AND THE WORLD ECONOMY (pp. 129-154).
Mingst, K.A. and Arreguín-Toft, I.M., 2013. Essentials of International Relations: Sixth International Student Edition. WW Norton & Company.
Nathan, A.J. and Scobell, A., 2012. How China Sees America. Foreign Affairs, 91(5), pp.32-47.
Ong, R., 2013. China's security interests in the post-cold war era. Routledge.
Pape, R., 2014. Soft balancing against the United States. The Realism Reader, 30(1), p.406.
Rachman, G., 2012. Think again: American decline. The Domestic Sources of American Foreign Policy: Insights and Evidence, 47.
Smith, T., 2012. A pact with the devil: Washington's bid for world supremacy and the betrayal of the American promise. Routledge.
Tang, S. and Long, S.J., 2012. America’s military interventionism: A social evolutionary interpretation. European Journal of International Relations,18(3), pp.509-538.
Whitfield, S.J., 2014. Prophesying war: how convincing is The Power Elite?.Society, 51(5), pp.539-546.'
Xuetong, Y., 2013. The Shift of the World Centre and its Impact on the Change of the International System. East Asia, 30(3), pp.217-235.
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