The Intractable Problem of Regional Powers

New forces at work in the post-cold war world are changing the strategic environment in which American foreign policy operates. Chief among these is the emergence or return of states that are creating new configurations of regional power. ‘These states, by definition, possess the will, means, and ambition to conduct foreign policy in their own neighborhood without close regard to the preferences of the United States or multilateral organizations, including the United Nations. These are “new” powers in that they have recently acquired unprecedented opportunities for autonomous action, facilitated by current widespread confusion in the West over strategic values what really matters and what does not. This confusion makes it unlikely that the United States, absent clear and present danger, would move decisively to prevent the emergence of new centers of strategic power. Maintenance of a global American primacy, although still advocated by some, thus no longer seems a realistic policy goal. As regional politics grow, “renationalization” of strategic policies by other major world states-not an issue during the cold war-cannot be held off for much longer, despite U.S. preferences to the contrary.

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