A formidable foe

Events in Georgia have clearly illustrated that the brief (in historical terms) period of America’s reign as the only superpower in the world is over. It was, doubtless, without any serious adversary following the collapse of the Soviet Union because China was uncertain as to the role it wanted to play and Europe was more concerned with living it up than eyeing the part of superpower. Now, however, the situation has changed. The USA has used up a lot of strategic capital, money, military power and diplomacy in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both cases, it has failed miserably, as the Taliban continue to march on Kabul and Iraq looks like a scattered jigsaw puzzle with no hope of being reassembled. President George W. Bush knows that he can talk tough about Iran and Russia but in effect there is little he can do – and he most certainly cannot use the threat of military force on yet another front. America has run up a huge tab and can’t afford another military intervention. In the case of Russia, however, it has shown its judgment to be mistaken. The USA felt vulnerable after 9/11 but today it sees that it still faces at least one formidable opponent. It realizes that when Russia gets tough with one of America’s allies, there is nothing that the USA can practically do to help its «client.» As analysts have pointed out, this will be even more evident if China chooses to create a crisis in Taiwan. Washington has to learn to live with these new realities, and its «dependants» have to learn to accept that they will have less protection in a new, perhaps rougher international environment. Personally, I am terrified by the idea of Russia or China acting unchecked. But the idea of an insatiable America in the same role and without any adversary also puts me off.