The Post-U.S. Era: Emergence of A New Political World Order

Talking about the Post-American Era is no longer considered to be political garrulous rant and wishful thinking. When I wrote about this idea in my book “New Political World Order” in 1991, it was a kind of prospective analysis that could not be taken seriously then. Non-believing hinged on motives known in epistemology as “the obstacle of common knowledge and change resistance”.

At that time, my thinking constituted an epistemological break, that would later coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb as the “black swan theory” or “lateral thinking” [1], or what came to be known as Thinking Outside the Box. I used to warn –and still do– that Great Powers do not die in bed. What dangerously represents the demise of those countries is their possession of both nuclear weapons and great historical and strategic memories. These are never absent. They are there at the back of the minds and in the recent memories.

Chinese and Russian officials did not keep it a secret nor was it a mere burst of candor -contrary to what Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote- when they concluded that the decline of the U.S. and the rise of China and Russia were an inevitability, [2]. However, breaking down is not an option for great powers. They may fail, but not collapse. In reality such powers can only be shelved.

Chinese and American officials recommend that a great power should not decline too quickly. Though Zbigniew Brzezinski agrees on the aforementioned, he thinks the world is unlikely to be dominated by a single successor – not even China; something on which we agree temporarily, just as we agree on the fact that the phase of global disorder and international uncertainty deteriorated in 2011 to such a degree that it has set off alarm bells of overwhelming chaos. Americans as well Russians and Chinese dread such a warning; however, for some adventurous countries like France and a few others in the Middle East, the prospect of losing their status as regional powers raises the fear of an increased risk of destabilization. The major powers dread the chaos whereas the lesser ones sometimes bet on it so as to disrupt the former in the hope of seeing them recoil from the international scene with minimal losses.

The shift towards a new world order accelerated conspicuously in 2011-2012 considering that only a very short time gap separated Putin’s announcement of the breakdown of unipolarity -while making it clear that the emerging powers were not ready to take over yet- from his later announcement at the BRICS Conference of the formation of a New Economic-Banking System (The BRICS Bank) [3]. Not only did the increasingly sharp tone of Russia and China lead to the two double-vetoes, but it also enabled them to assume the leading role in the unfolding dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean, which undoubtedly meant that U.S. history in the region had already faded away and that no other party could stake any claim for the time being.

Obama’s announcement (in early 2012) of the New American Strategy, which entailed “being alert and cautious in the Eastern Mediterranean,” sounded as an acknowledgement of the shift in the balance of power at the same time as the U.S. was militarizing China’s vicinity. In addition, Hilary Clinton’s declaration from Australia was perceived as an extension of the confrontational rhetoric aimed at China, who simply responded by saying: “No one can stop the Chinese sun from rising.”

Because of such declarations, China did not wait for 2016 in order to display its new stength. On the contrary, she hastened to advocate for a multipolar order, in line with the terms laid out by Russia, and which we define as an International Order consisting of two axes with multiple poles orbiting around each one. However, one axis is ascending while the other one is descending.

It has become clear that the worsening of the conflict has deeply shaken U.S. diplomacy, which was forced, in April 2012, to sound the retreat –albeit only verbally- from confrontation and to state that the U.S. was not engaged in a cold war with China. That came after a meeting between the Chinese Prime Minister and Kofi Annan, during which the latter was informed that China and Russia are now the leading world powers, ranking respectively first and second, and that he, Kofi Annan, had to coordinate with them. As a front-row witness to the unipolar world stretching from 1991 to the early 21st century, Annan would now have to witness the downfall of that same world, having to accept that Moscow and Beijing are henceforth in charge of issues relating to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Washington has been mired in war for a whole decade –a period reminiscent of the arms race with the USSR, known as “Star Wars,”- which, together with other crises, has drained the United States and turned it into a state on the brink of bankruptcy. That prompted Washington to announce a re-positioning on China’s periphery in an attempt to play a role in the Indo-Pacific region. But, it backtracked on that announcement in such as way as to suggest that it has actually already lost its superpower aura. In fact, when a major country threatens to employ a force that only superpowers are endowed with, it loses two thirds of that force.

The world is changing. We are witnessing precisely the New International Order whose crystallization had been postponed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but has accelerated towards maturity even though some of its emerging powers may not yet be quite ready. The precipitation of events in the Middle East obliged those new players to rapidly join the game.

However, the consequences of the emergence of new powers and the decline of those who, like the United States, formerly occupied a leading position will soon manifest themselves and have an effect on regional powers. Those consequences will translate into bloody struggles that may not find a solution until after the New World Order has been established, with the consent of the multiple actors and in accordance with their new status.

Dr. Imad Fawzi Shueibi, Philosopher and Geopolitician. President of the Data & Strategic Studies Center (Damascus, Syria).


[1] According to the Lebanese-US epistemologist Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “A black swan is a highly improbable event with 3 main features: It is unpredictable, produces major consequences and a post facto explanation is always provided to render it more rational, giving it an apparent and reassuring predictability.” See “The Black Swan, The power of the unpredictable,” Oxford University Press, 2008.

[2] “After America – How does the world look in an age of U.S. decline?,” by Zbigniew Brzezinsk, Foreign Policy, January/February 2012.

[3] “Delhi Declaration (Fourth BRICS Summit)”, Voltaire Network, 29 March 2012

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