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International Order and the Complex Redistribution of Global Power

By       Message Muhammad Irfan     Permalink
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The overall prognosis is that each region will act autonomously and work in behalf of its own self-interest. This transition from national to regional self-interest means that international institutions will also be transformed.

Situational Powers

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The most important characteristic of the coming international order is that no single state within it will be capable of total domination of the rest of the world. The dominant state in particular regions of the world will lack influence in other regions. And, politically, the influence of regional powers will be more or less, depending on the challenges they confront. Many believe that the world to come will be "a world of diffused powers, where any single actor's ability to shape outcomes will differ according to the nature of the issue or problem." [ix]

Arguably, certain regions will be able to gain additional influence in the context of geo-politics. The great powers may be tempted to view the domination of particular regions as strategic opportunities to maximize their share of global influence. And, in a world of situational power, it seems likely that strategic partners will seek coherent initiatives in certain regions. Manning expands on this eventuality:

"In some particular instances, partners in Asia and the Middle East may prove more critical. The realities of situational power will compel Europe to make more careful calculations about how and where it can most effectively apply its influence. In certain circumstances, such as in Middle East crises, situational power may mean that NATO partnerships assume a greater role in responding to problem situations." [x]

Regional Partnerships 

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In the coming decades, regional partnerships for strategic gains seem likely to be the cohesive factor in the international system. Individual states will ally themselves with regional states for politico-economic objectives. In the past, individual states sought their own gains and ends through links with either the U.S. or Soviet bloc during the Cold War, or with the U.S. during the brief period in which it unilaterally dominated world politics.

In coming years, regional alliances for strategic goals will dominate the international system. That is why the U.S. seeks such alliances, as do other nations--as shown, for example, by the Russia-Iran partnership in the Middle East. Robert Manning agrees, pointing out that "the US has been strengthening alliances and security partnerships in East Asia over the past two decades. The current US posture is the accumulation of those efforts." [xi]

Significantly, too, in the new international order, regional strategic com-
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petition will remain a decisive factor in the formation of regional alliances and situational partnerships.

As an example, Manning cites U.S.-China competition: "The US rebalancing in Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the U.S. alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia, are all components of a U.S. effort to maintain U.S. dominance at China's expense." [xii]

Given the strategic competition between China and the U.S., both countries will utilize regional partnerships as instruments to enhance security. For instance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and NATO are prime security competitors. Chico Harlan states: "The partnerships are vital beyond trade and investment. In security terms, expanding the reach of NATO to match up with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a good example." [xiii] There is lilttle doubt that regional partnerships and alliances will play an important role in the coming international order.


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In the new international order now taking shape, no state will be able to play a dominant role. We are entering into an era of diffused powers. No doubt, globally ambitious powers will continue to engage in strategic competition for dominance, but none will be able to gain total international authority. In the coming international order, regional alliances and situational partnerships will be used as instruments for security, diplomacy, and economic development. And, perhaps on a hopeful note, the emphasis on multilateralism will play a constructive role in conflict resolution and crisis management. 


[i] Harlan Ullman, American Decline; Pure Poppycock, The Atlantic Council, July 18, 2013, available at , accessed on July 20, 2013.)

[ii] Ibid

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The Author is a junior scholar and researcher. He has presented his papers in several national and international conferences. He is also a freelance columnist and contributes to both national and international print media.

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