By Javad Heirannia

Expert says U.S. ‘has never been able to exercise hegemony’

September 1, 2017

TEHRAN - A professor of political science at Georgetown University says the U.S. has never been able to create a hegemonic system. 

“The United States, despite its great influence has never been able to exercise hegemony,” Shireen Hunter tells the Tehran Times.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Some believe after a possible decline of U.S. hegemony, countries would not accept domination by any other power. What is your opinion?

A: The United States, despite its great influence has never been able to exercise hegemony. Hegemony means the ability to make others do what you want. This was not the case during the Cold War and has not been so after that. For instance despite its great power the U.S. has not been able to bring peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict, force the unification of the two Koreas, stabilize Afghanistan or solve India-Pakistan dispute. The reason for American influence in the past, in addition to its economic and military power plus the attraction of its political and cultural ideals was the weakness of other states. For example, after two world wars, Europe was devastated and was largely focused on economic revitalization. America provided the security blanket that enabled Europe to develop economically.

The most likely center of a new power is China.What is often refer to as America's decline is, in fact, the strengthening of other states. Europe now is an economic powerhouse as are Japan and China. But relatively speaking the U.S. is still the most powerful economically and militarily.

However, sheer power is not always translated into influence, which means the ability to make others do exactly what you want.

A multi-power world would not necessarily increase the options of smaller and less powerful states, unless the emerging powers compete with one another. In that case, the system could become even more unstable. This was the case during the 19th and early twentieth centuries when European powers competed with one another. By contrast, the Cold War system was quite stable as the U.S. and the USSR exercised great control over their allies.

A truly stable international system would be one based on a degree of global political and ideological consensus and the rule of law. But this is unlikely to emerge any time soon.

Q: If we face a multi-polar system in the future, what will be its effect on world order? 

A: A multipolar world will not be necessarily more stable.

Q: Some believe that a multipolar world will result in a more obscure alignment between states. What do you think?

A: In a multipolar, the system of alliances most likely would be more flexible and changing. They could be at times overlapping and at times clashing. Some features of such a system is evident already. Turkey's shifting relations with the U.S., NATO and Russia is an example. Some countries might face difficulties in reconciling their relations with competing poles. For instance, Iran already faces some dilemmas as it tries to have good relations with China and India simultaneously.

In a multipolar and non-ideological system no small country could be certain of the support of its great power ally.Moreover, in a multipolar and non-ideological world smaller states are in more danger of being overlooked by their so-called allies.

Q: If we believe in a multipolar world in the future, basically which countries or blocs will form those poles?

A: The most likely center of a new power is China. However, China still lacks the military muscle to be a truly global power. Thus for the time being, its influence will be mostly felt in Asia. Europe is still bound to America and is unlikely to embark on military operations without American participation, at least for the foreseeable future. Russia lacks the economic power to be a global player and therefore its influence, too, will remain limited to certain regions.

In general, various regional balances of power will play a more important role in future. In a multipolar and non-ideological system no small country could be certain of the support of its great power ally.