Would you characterize the present international system as unipolar, multi-polar, or some other pattern? How do you measure the structure, and what does it predict about the future of both international conflict and cooperation in the coming years? Thoroughly explain your answer using concepts from the book regarding polarity and peace.
To understand the present status of the international system, we would need to understand what does polarity means in terms of international relations, and how it explains the distribution of powers within states. The international system of world politics explaining through polarity to an extent is made clear as polarity describes the nature of the international system at any given period of time, an in this context we are analysing whether the present international system could be characterized as either unipolar, multi-polar, and bipolar. However, to understand the present status of world politics, we need to know some information about the recent history and how these concepts of international system had been implied, using the term polarity. In this essay I will discuss whether the current system is unipolar, multi-polar, or bipolar.
Firstly, taking the concept of unipolar as a international system to explains the recent international, we need to under the concept of unipolar, unipolar is a system where there is one dominant power in the world, an example of the could the post-cold war period, as after the fall of the Soviet Union the US was the only major power in the world and, it acted on some issues without the approval of the United Nation. This was in 2003 when the US invaded Iraq in a claim that Iraq has Nuclear weapons and trains terrorists, in their country, however, no country opposed or acted against the US because of the power status, even the Russia who was ones a major power did not respond to US invasion of Russia. So therefore, the period after the cold war in period of unipolar in international system. Applying this concept of Unipolar and the concept of polarity, accordingly in examining the current situation of international system, I would think that current state of the international system is unipolar because of the fact the US is still major power economically and militarily, as we have in the Arab Spring that US has played a major role in Libya as the US used No-Fly zone against Gaddafi, and brought freedom to Libya. Therefore, we could argue that the present international system could be characterized as unipolar because of the role that the US in playing in the Middle East, and as Historian Keegan states “owing to the unipolar structure of the state system after the collapse of soviet union, the united states did not face a counter vailing power that could deter American action”(Keegan, 2005).
Moreover, we could also argue that the current status of the international system could be characterized as Multi-polar, because of the fact that there more than two major power in the world economically and militarily. In order to understand multi-polar in context of international system we need to look at the history of the two major wars, as during the first world war period the international system was classed as multi-polar because of the fact there were more than two major powers in the international system, such as Germany, France, UK, and also the Ottomans, were a powerful empire at the time as well, so therefore, the international system at that period is classed as multi-polar. As we know what multi-polar international system is I think we could class the current situation as a multi-polar because there are more than two majors powers in the world floating around the world, Such as in Europe Germany, is seen to be powerful economically, also in Asia china is seen to improve economically and military, as the many historians argue that china and India could be the next two super powers and some kind of cold war will start between them, as it did with US, as historians say History repeats itself, so you never know. However, also the other reason why I argue that the present international system is multi-polar because of the fact that Russia is rising again, and acting as a major power in international matters, one being the Syrian war, where the Russian support the Assad and therefore, the US are trying to come to a negotiation with Russia and China also in order to deal with the crisis in Syria, as the US cannot use direct military intervention in Syria, because it will cause tensions between the two states. Moreover, with the Iran deal the Five Veto power countries had included Germany in the deals because Germany is a major power in Europe economic wise, and therefore, they also being involved in the Syrian war in order to provide financial aid to the countries facing high number of refugees.
Furthermore, the present international system could be also characterized as a bipolar system, and again in order to understand bipolar in context of international system, we need to study the past, a best example of bipolar period in international system is the Cold War, and in a bipolar system in the world there are only two major powers in the international community. As after the second war the world was faced with dealing with US as a major power and with US being a Nuclear power, as they used Nuclear weapons on Japan, this had signalled to the Russians that if they do anything wrong they will be the next target, therefore, this led to the USSR gaining Nuclear weapons during 1950s. Which also led to the arm race between these two countries, therefore, this period of international system is characterized as Bipolar. However, if we use that context of cold war “a breakdown of relations between two super powers”. Although, we know that Russia is not a Super any more, but still they are acting as one in the Syrian war if looked in deep. As the US is representing the western countries and Russia is representing the eastern countries, which shows that there is clash between the two countries and they are finding it difficult to come to an agreements over Syrian war. We could also relate the bipolar system of present international system to the polarized state system, because in a polarized state system as historian Charles Kegley states “the degree to which states cluster in alliance around the most powerful members of the state system”. We can see this happening in today’s international system. As all the small Arab states are clustered around US in order to impose their foreign policy in Syria, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar. On the other hand smaller states are also clustered around Russia in order to implement their foreign policy such as Iran and Hezbollah.
In advance, using these concepts of international systems, we can explain how these concept when put into context of international system tell us about the future of international conflicts. If we use the concept of unipolar, then we could say that it could lead to further international conflicts, because of the fact that there is only one powerful country in the world so it can implement its policies even by force. As US did in Iraq, and the next super powers action in doing this is unpredicted yet, because US is still acting as the super power. Moreover, if we apply the concept of multi-polar then the chances of international conflicts occurring would be less because all countries would same power wise and if they attack any country they will suffer the same, however, there is one chance that it could lead to international conflict under multi-polar system and that is to do with alliance system. Furthermore, the applying of Bipolar in predicting the future of international conflicts, I think it would be same as it was during cold war, major powers supporting small groups in each country.
Overall, to conclude the argument whether I would class the current status of the international, as unipolar, multi-polar, or bipolar. I think by looking at the argument have I would class it as multi-polar, because of the fact there are major powers existing in each region if the world, if we say Europe, it would be Germany, Asia, Russia and China, and finally it would be America. So therefore, I think the current state of the international system is classed as multi-polar, also because of the role they play in the recent conflict, Such as Syria, Libya and also role played by UK in Iraq.
Hekmatullah Javed, University of Salford, Department of Contemporary military and International History.
31 July 2014
Kegley, Charles W., and Gregory A. Raymond. The Global Future: A Brief Introduction to World Politics. Australia: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.