Unipolarity theory vs. liberal hegemonytheory. Brody A. TaylorAmerican Foreign PolicyIS-310-01October 01, 2017 In this essay I will argue thatMonteiro’s theory and argument for unipolarity with American as the unipole issuperior to that of Ikenberry’s theory of a liberal international order becauseit will have more durability and stability in the post Cold War world due to itbeing a more realist approach to how the world interacts and operates.
I arguethat in a realist world where all states are looking out for their ownself-interest Monteiro’s approach will work better because of the powerpredominance that America holds on the other countries. In this essay I willfirst explain Monteiro’s argument and then Ikenberry’s argument. I will thencompare and contrast them to show what the authors have in common. Finally Iwill argue my point of view and why I think Monteiro lays out a better argumentand theory of how our world works and how we can seek durability and relativepeacefulness in the coming times.
In Monteiro’s book, “Theory ofUnipolar Politics” he is seeking to answer three questions about a unipolarworld. His three questions are whether a unipolar world is durable, whether itis peaceful and what is the best grand strategy for the United States to use.1What he means by durability is the ability to withstand a transformation in thedistribution of powers or in short the ability for the main power to maintainits status as the unipole. He argues that in a unipolar world durability isdefinitely possible but only under certain conditions. His two variables forthis are systemic and strategic.2His belief is that in a unipolar world the higher the cost of a conflict from achallenger the more durable it is because it is too much to risk for thechallenger. The way to make the cost of war for a challenger high is throughtechnology, great military strengthen and the necessary economy to support awar for enough time to crush the challenger.
He says in todays world of nuclearpower the costs are high and so durability could be very high so long as theunipole keeps up with the advancement in nuclear power.3The other large factor of durability is the strategy of the unipole on otherpowers economic growth. If the unipole can encourage other countries economicsuccess to the point that they are more incentivized to grow economicallyrather then militarily there would be more durability. What the unipole doesnot want is for the other great powers to develop nuclear strength to the pointthat would cause great cost on the unipole.4 Monteiro then gives the reasons whya unipolar world is not peaceful.
He thinks that due to there being only oneunipole there is less of a balance of powers like one would see in a bipolarworld. This leads to a lot of asymmetric and peripheral conflicts according toMonteiro. He also blames this especially on the U.S. since they are the unipolehe is speaking about. This leads into what he thinks about the United Statesgrand strategy.
He believes that the grand strategy of a unipole comes from histwo first points of durability and peacefulness. He thinks that the U.S.
needsto adopt a grand strategy of defensive accommodation, which he says ismaintaining the status quo internationally. The problem with this strategy isit will get America involved in almost all peripheral conflicts and disputesbetween lesser powers. Another issue with this is it would need a strategy thatallows economic growth in major economic powers, which could lead them tosurpass the United States economically. This is Monteiro’s view on thepost-cold war world, which aligns well with a realist view of the world.5 Ikenberry has a much different takeon the post cold war world. He believes that the United States has a liberalhegemonic order on the world.6He believes that power is most durable when there are rules and systems inplace and when the rules are made through a consensual process with a means toenforce.7He argues that this is what America did after the cold war but has strayed fromin more recent years.
Thus, America has to try and bring back this order andkeep the liberal hegemonic order strong. Ikenberry believe that internationalorder only comes through institutions, alliances, relationships, and organizingrule based cooperation. The catch here is the America is the one in charge ofthis liberal hegemonic order and so it controls and manages the entire world. Oneof the big topics in Ikenberry’s book is the durability of a liberal hegemonyeven in the face of many crises like the war on terror during the Bushadministration. He believes that during the war on terror and Bushadministration America changed the world order to be more unipolar. 8Ikenberry has four claims in his book of which I will briefly explain. Thefirst is that after World War II America came out as the leading state and thusplayed a huge roll in stability and order in the world that emerged.
It wasvery hierarchical but America was kept in check by rules and institutions putin place because of World War II. Ikenberry’s second claim is that Americatransformed into a more unipolar world where the most powerful state rules.This was due to the fall of the Soviet Union during the cold war. The thirdclaim is to understand the future of liberal order we must understand the typesof order and the sources of authority. He explains how the shift inmultipolarity to unipolarity led to America not having to follow the globalrules and institutions set in place after WWII. The fourth claim is thatliberal hegemonic order is not over and that America can go back to a liberalinternational order if America renegotiates and creates it. Ikenberry believesif America does not seek to do this they might not be the unipole for long asmany other great powers will seek to become equal to or better then America.
9 In short Monteiro argues thatAmerica is a unipole with unchecked power that could be durable and peacefulwith the right strategy of maintaining the status quo world wide, however, thiscould lead to a lot of minor conflicts between small states. With this argumentAmerica pretty much rules the world in an unchecked way, which could bepotentially dangerous and possibly easy to over throw if another state were togain a stronger nuclear capability. Ikenberry’s argument is that America usedto be a liberal hegemony with lots of international order through institutionsand rules that kept everyone in check however, the problem is America has beenthe one setting these rules and managing these institutions which has led to amore unipolar world. Ikenberry thinks it will not sustain itself very long andthus America needs to forgo some of its power in order to maintain peacefulnessand order through a international rule based order.
Both books are saying thatthe unipolarity of America is not going to last much longer if America does notchange either its strategy or its international influence through a more institutionalizedorder. In the post world war world nuclear power has played one of the biggestroles in world order and both authors discuss this. The two other big factorsare economic power and military conventional forces through power projectioncapabilities. Both authors believe America is at the forefront in these areasbut think that this may not be a good thing.
While the two arguments from thebook are different in that they argue two different types of world orders theyboth are seeking an end goal of a more peaceful world and how to achieve that. Thevariables that both arguments have in common are peace and durability among thestates. Both arguments see America as the leading power in the world. InMonteiro’s argument his variables are nuclear power, conventional power andeconomic power. In Ikenberry’s argument the variables are rules, institutions,and cooperation. Another difference is that Monteiro believes we have been in abipolar system since the end of the cold war and Ikenberry believes we starteda liberal hegemony after World War II that started with international orderthrough institutions but slowly became much like an American hegemony orunipolarity. One of the factors both authors agree on is the nuclear weaponshave given America a lot of the power they have as well as kept stabilitybetween great powers due to the deterrence that it generates. Nuclear weaponshave made war less likely.
In Ikenberry’s argument of international order hebelieves that it will provide room for shared leadership, shared interest,international rules and a lot more cooperation that will not let any one becomethe unipole while still making sure America has a big influence. Monteiro has amore realist approach and thinks America must just change there strategy to onethat allows other nations to grow economically and to not go offensive in anyof their areas so as to give the other countries no reason to increase theirmilitary capabilities so that American can continue being the unipole. 1011 As far as durability both argumentsbelieve there is a going to be a lack of durability if America does not changesomething or do what they suggest in their arguments. Monteiro believes thatwhile it may not be completely peaceful due to the smaller states fightingamongst each other the durability of the American unipole would be pretty high.Ikenberry believes that the durability of the liberal international order wouldbe high if America went back to how it was right after WWII where there werelots of international rules and many new institutions were formed to keep theworld safe. One threat to the durability of an American led international orderis China’s cooperation because China has risen in power very quickly in thepast several years.
The biggest threat to America as a unipole is one of thegreater powers surpassing America in nuclear capability and military powerprojection. However, as long as America can maintain the worlds status quo theother powers do not need to worry and thus can focus on their own economicsuccess and other internal benefits. The cost of conventional or nuclear warwould be very high and not worth it if they have the freedoms and abilitiesthat they want.
The U.S. then only has the choice to maintain the status quo inorder to stay in power as the unipole. As soon as America would try tointerfere too much into the affairs of other countries they would try toincrease their military and nuclear capabilities to a point that would matchAmericas. 1213 The argument that I find mosteffective and accurate is Monteiro’s argument. His argument is more alignedwith realism while Ikenberry’s is closer to liberalism and I tend to think likea realist. In a perfect world Ikenberry’s argument may work better and be moredurable and peaceful.
The problem is our world is not perfect and it is hard totrust other nations even if they sign a treaty or join an institution. I thinkthe biggest thing that liberal theory leaves out is that states ultimately arelooking out for their own best interest. Ikenberry’s proves this himself bysaying how after World War II there were institutions and rules that everyonehad to follow and peace ensued. Then he says how eventually America turned intothe leading power and other nations stopped following the post WWII rules afterthe Cold war and this was due to the natural tendency for a state to alwayswant to be the most powerful. In Monteiro’s argument America does not have tosubmit any freedoms or rights. Ikenberry says America has to submit a little inorder to have shared leadership. Why would a state want to submit anything ifthey are the leading power? In my opinion they should not.
Americaalready has a very good government within its own state due to the constitutionand the way the founding fathers set it up. America is the only country who hasa system with so many checks and balances to keep it from becoming tyrannicaland so there is not a serious threat of America becoming tyrannical and forcingall the other countries into submission. Most all of the other countriesrealize this and that is why Monteiro talks about maintaining the status quo.Sure China and Russia are not going to be happy that America is the leadingpower but China cares more about their economic success and as long as Americais the leading power China is safe to continue being successful. America doesnot need to hold the world’s largest economy because ultimately it comes downto nuclear capability and power projection.
America has surpassed every othercountry in this by a colossal amount. The biggest threat to America then isanother country increasing their nuclear capability to the same level asAmerica. As long as America accommodates for other nations to advanceeconomically they shouldn’t want to spend all their resources on creatingnuclear power, as it is very costly, thus they will not increase their nuclearcapability. In Ikenberry’s American International order America may have togive up some of their nuclear capabilities if not all of them to ensure othercountries did the same in order to get peace and durability. They may create aninstitution or rule to do this but more then likely it would not be followed byevery country and that could end up being very dangerous for everyone.
The reason that the unipole is notthe most peaceful is it does not completely solve the problem of the minorpowers that do not have any significant capabilities or nuclear power. Thereason for this is because they do not really have anything to lose. In arealist world there goal is to become a major power. They can only do this bygaining defensive capabilities strong enough to defend or deter the other majorpowers from pushing them around. The easiest way to do this is to gain nuclearwarheads like in the case of Pakistan.
The goal would be to be able to inflictenough pain or cost on the enemy that it would deter them from ever trying toattack or cause harm. With nuclear power this could be easy but it still doesnot solve the problem entirely. This is why china will never be able to becomethe leading power. America is so far ahead militarily that even if China beatsAmerica in economic success it would be impossible to ever catch up militarilyto America without America noticing and questioning it.
On top of that Chinahas no real reason to increase its military capabilities so long as Americastays out of their way and keeps order among the minor powers. In my opinionthe situation looks good for just about everyone when America is in controlbecause there is order due to America maintaining the status quo. As soon asAmerica tries to pass off or share some of that authority is when anothercountry could easily slip into power or gain the upper hand. Monteiro’s approach and argument isoverall better because it is more realistic and takes into account the natureof the state, which is to look out for their own best interest. While Ikenberry is very knowledgeable andputs up a good argument for American international order he does not seek toexplain the possibility of America giving up to much of its power which couldeasily put some other state in power. While something like a worldwideconstitution could keep a lot of peace and prosperity the chances of gettingcooperation from all the states and having states give up certain rights orfreedoms they may have enjoyed when unchecked is not likely. While both authorsargue that there theory is more durable and peaceful I believe the theory ofUnipolarity that Monteiro lays out is more durable and relatively peaceful.
Onthe other hand Ikenberry’s theory of a liberal international order would bemore peaceful if everyone cooperated and everything went right. However, inreality it would probably not be very durable in the long run and eventuallylead to a lot of chaos and war. In the past these institutions and rules thatIkenberry thinks would cause peace and durability have not worked due to manycountries not joining or just blatantly breaking them (i.e.
the United Nationsand League of nations or countries developing weapons of mass destruction ornuclear warheads such as Iran and Pakistan). In past history global world orderand peace does not have much durability. This is why I believe that Monteirolays out a much better theory and argument for a unipolar world with Americangrand strategy in defensive accommodation as the primary method to maintain thestatus quo and thus maintain order and keep relative peace. Bibliography Monteiro, Nuno P. Theory of Unipolar Politics.
Cambridge University Press, 2014. Ikenberry, G. J. (2012). Liberalleviathan: the origins, crisis, and transformation of the American World Order.Princeton: Princeton University Press.1 Monteiro, Nuno P. Theory of UnipolarPolitics.
Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pg. 3-42Monteiro, Pg. 43Monteiro Pg. 854 Monteiro5 Monteiro6 Ikenberry, G.
J. (2012). Liberalleviathan: the origins, crisis, and transformation of the American World Order.Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Pg. 3-47 Ikenberry 8Ikenberry Ch.69 Ikenberry 10 Monteiro11 Ikenberry12 Monteiro13 Ikenberry