Lee Kim Chew wrote a superb article in the Straits Times on May 5 2003 that makes alot of good points. I especially like the quote from Josef Joffe
'The aim should be not only to prevent but also to pre-empt hostile coalitions by undercutting the reasons for their formation. The point is to make other powers willing participants in the American system.'
Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay of the Brookings Inst. write in the New York Times on May 10 2003:
"An empire built on international cooperation, alliances, and law...is the only way to reassure countries fearful of American dominance and to keep them from using their diplomatic and economic power to contain the United States. As the Iraq war underscored, the United States' great power enables it to act alone and still achieve many of its goals swiftly and effectively. But over time such a unilateral exercise of power will breed more and more resentment abroad to the point that other states may decide to work together to obstruct the chosen American course. Then the United States could stand alone, a great power frustrated in the pursuit of its most important goals."
Benjamin Barber, Professor of Civil Society at the University of Maryland and author of "Jihad vs. McWorld" writes in his article Declare our Interdependence!
"Yet nations that have long cherished their independence, or recently struggled to achieve it, are learning the hard way that there is neither freedom nor equality nor safety from tyranny - nor security from terror - on the basis of independence alone. In a world in which ecology, public health, markets, technology, and war affect everyone equally, interdependence is a stark reality on which the survival of the human race depends. Where fear rules, and terrorism is met by shock and awe only, neither peace nor democracy can ensue...
Where once nations depended on sovereignty alone to secure their destinies, today they depend on one another. In a world where the poverty of some imperils the wealth of others, where none are safer than the least safe, multilateralism is not a stratagem of idealists but a realistic necessity. The lesson of 9/11 was not that rogue states could be unilaterally preempted and vanquished by a sovereign United States, but that sovereignty was a chimera - that HIV and global warming and international trade and nuclear proliferation and transnational crime and predatory capital had already stolen from America the substance of its cherished sovereignty well before the terrorists displayed their murderous contempt for it on that fateful morning."
New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman as spoken of the "Godzilla Effect" in Foreign Policy. This occurs when the global hegemon (IE, the US) acts in such a manner as to make other nations feel that they don't have any influence in the international system, especially over decisions that directly impact their daily lives. When that mood becomes prevelant, countries tend to take actions to make their voices heard, and in a situation where the dominant power has virtual total control over political, economic, conventional military strength and communicative channels, that response tends to come in the form of terrorism. Not only that, but the immense conventional power gap between the hegemon and those who wish to resist it means that terrorists are unlikely to contain themselves to "traditional" guerilla warfare. Rather, they will seek to use Weapons of Mass Destruction, nuclear, biological, and chemical, to equalize the playing field so as to make the US view them as a true and viable threat. Already, rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, fearful of what happened to WMD-less states such as Yugoslavia and Iraq that became victims of US military intervention, have become more aggressive about obtaining WMDs and accelerrating pre-existing programs. They view these weapons as the only true check against an otherwise omnipotent United States which does not feel constrained by international law, multipolarity, or even the UN.
These all are arguments for increased US multilateralism and the rejection of the Bush administration's neo-conservative, unilateral tendencies. However, hegemony has its defenders. Zalmay Khalizad of the RAND Inst. writes in the Spring 1995 edition of the Washington Quarterly
"A world in which the US exercises leadership would hold tremendous advantages. First, the global environment would be more receptive to American values--democracy, free markets, rule of law. Second, such a world would have a better chance of dealing cooperatively with the world's major problems, such a nuclear proliferation, threats of regional hegemony by renegade states, and low-level conflicts. Finally, US leadership would help preclude the rise of another hostile global rival, enabling the world to avoid another cold or hot war and all the attendant dangers, including a global nuclear exchange."
Though the dangers of continued US Hegemony have been expounded on at length by liberal commentators, abandoning US hegemony holds significant risks as well. Stephen Rosen writes in the Spring 2003 edition of National Interest
"The US could give up its imperial mission...This would essentially mean the withdrawal of US troops from the middle east, Europe, and mainland Asia...But those who are hostile to us might remain hostile, and much less afraid of the US after such a withdrawal. Current friends might feel less secure and, in the most probable post-imperial world, would revert to the logic of self-help in which all states do what the must in order to protect themselves. This would imply the relatively rapid acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Iran...and perhaps Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and others. Constraints on the acquisition of biological weapons would be even weaker than they are today...The costs of such a world...would not be small. If the logic of American empire is unappealing, it is not at all clear that the alternatives are that much more attractive."