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The Flawed Logic Behind the Theory of Absolute Unipolarity

The Flawed Logic Behind the Theory of Absolute Unipolarity

Wednesday, 6 April, 2022 - 10:45

The era that began after the Cold War ended and the Soviet bloc collapsed is often referred to as unipolar, and this unipolarity is often described as overwhelming, devastating US hegemony that leaves all the other peoples of the world unable to lift their chins up and all of its countries unable to raise their voices. According to this view, the war that Russia declared against Ukraine is a laudable manifestation of the desire to break this absolute unipolarity, if not the first step in the process.

What those who espouse this view overlook is that a unipolar power, if it had had the tyrannical omnipotence attributed to it, would not allow China to make its massive economic leap or Russia to make its military leap so easily, nor would it subsequently coexist with them. The fact is that the US went beyond merely living with developments that it should have, per the theory of absolute unipolarity, nipped in the bud: it contributed, in one way or another, to propelling the jumps its two rival countries made.

With China, if it weren’t for the influx of capital from wealthy Chinese living in the US and their investments, what has been achieved in China and for the Chinese would not have been possible. With Russia, if the brutal approach Vladimir Putin followed in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria had not been overlooked, Russia would not have become the military power we know today.

Furthermore, a steamrolling unipolar power would not allow a country like Iran, which has modest capabilities and is besieged and impoverished, to wreak havoc across the Middle East as it is doing today, nor would it be so determined to revive the nuclear deal whose cancelation in 2018 seems like the exception confirming the rule. Nor would a deeply feared, absolute unipolar power reassure the terrified Taiwanese, at least once a month, that China will not invade them, nor would it denounce, at least once a week, the alarming nuclear tests of a miserable country like North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un.

Overall, it is difficult to make the case that Washington’s policies reflect hegemonic and imperial unipolarity, especially since the retreat initiated by Barack Obama when he ascended to the White House in 2008. Empire and retreat are opposites that never come together.

Moreover, accepting the argument that the US has such overwhelming power would make it impossible to understand how its long-standing traditional allies in many places around the world are distancing themselves from it. As for the ongoing war in Ukraine, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place if the “world’s policeman”- as the United States is often called- had not closed its eyes. How, after all, could we explain that the US, with all the omnipotence ascribed to it, stands unable to provide all the support demanded by the Ukrainians and their resistance, especially the establishment of a no-fly zone.

What we have lived through over the past 15 years was probably not a manifestation of unipolarity in the sense promoted by those who hate the US with or without reason. Indeed, it is a manifestation of the sweeping chaos left because the US renounced its leading role in the world and the responsibilities that come with it, keeping in mind that only Washington, for better or worse, has the capacity to play such a role.

The fact is that after the Soviet Union and its bloc collapsed, a unipolarity emerged that is different from that being talked about as though we have been living under a new Roman Empire. At the apex of the US victory over the Soviets, Saddam Hussein took the step of invading Kuwait, and Washington had to build the broadest alliance in the history of international alliances to force him out. As for the American wars that followed, those of Afghanistan and Iraq, which did not enjoy the same political cover as the war of 1991, they left a drained US pulling out in often humiliating ways.

Thus, it becomes clear that those decrying their victimization by this steamrolling, devastating unipolarity are merely masking the real source of their grievances, the disappearance of the Soviet Union without an alternative emerging to replace it. Indeed, it is nostalgia for a mighty empire strengthening despotic regimes around the world that is stirring emotions and spurring condemnation, thereby mystifying US power as it announces new victories against it on an almost daily basis!

This, in all likelihood, explains the paradoxical logic that plagues those pushing this narrative. Putin’s Russia, for them, is more like a substitute for something that it seems will not return any time soon. However, what great, omnipotent powers will be attributed to the United States if Putin’s Russia loses this round?

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