What policy should the United States adopt toward China's rise? How should we greet India's emergence, Japan's new assertiveness, Europe's drift or the possible decline of Russia? How can the United States reduce terrorism, promote trade, stop nuclear proliferation and increase freedom?
These are among the toughest questions on the foreign policy agenda, and right now Washington is trying to answer them without a compass. Containment, the doctrine of resisting Soviet and communist expansion, survived some four decades of challenge, but could not survive its own success. What we need is a foreign policy for both the post-cold-war and the post-9/11 world.
Hass's article prompts me to trot out my "Next New World Order" theory again, which I'll give a new working label of "Leveraged Balance of Power."
The Leveraged Balance of Power theory suggests that the world is headed toward a multi-tiered organization of state, cultural, and geographic political entities. For now, we'll define the tiers as major powers, balance powers, regional powers, and others.
In the top tier, the major powers will be the world's three largest economies: the United States, the European Union, and China. These three entities will likely remain dominant for a significant amount of time, as China's Gross Domestic Product--third globally in 2004 at $7.3 trillion--is nearly twice the size of Japan's, which was number four at $3.7 trillion. (The US and EU were roughly tied at about $11.7 trillion.)
The next tier, the balance powers, will function as the "greased wheels" between the major powers. The most likely candidates for balance power status are the United Kingdom, Russia, and Japan, nations that have long histories of friendly and/or hostile relationships with the major powers and which are geographically distributed evenly between them.
The regional power tier will include countries like India and Brazil, entities whose economic clout is profoundly less than that of the major and balance powers, but significantly greater than that of their neighbors.
Africa, the Middle East, and North Korea will be the primary wild cards, entities that entities that could evolve into 21st century societies, fall into semi-permanent, medieval chaos and decay, or hover uncomfortably somewhere in between.
For the time being, the "other" entities fall somewhere between the wild cards and the regional powers. They are those reasonably stable, reasonably rational nations and states that show every indication that they're "up and comers" in the global scene, but have histories that suggest they could, if neglected, tumble into wild card status. Australia is a good example of a country at the stable end of the spectrum. Venezuela the former Czech Republics, and other entities rank somewhere lower on the stability scale.
The Flux Factor
We would be foolish to think that our original Leveraged Balance of Power theory is a perfect model, or that it strictly describes a rigid world order will persist indefinitely. "The only thing constant is change," as they say, and by the time we think we've figured out what happened yesterday, it's already tomorrow.
But barring some apocalyptic event like an alien invasion or the next coming of whatever God you pray to, it's prudent to assume that the three major powers of the Leveraged Balance model will maintain their status for twenty or more years. There will be competitive jostling among them, and that will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the world order. But not too much, I don't think.
The economic growth rates
of the three majors alone indicates that changes in their relative status within their power tier are inevitable. China, with the number three GDP, gained 9.1 percent in 2004, more than twice the economic growth of the United States (4.4 percent) and almost four times that of the European Union (2.4).
Don't get too alarmed by those numbers. Economic growth rates do not remain constant. But if they did, and we use them to project out 16 years, the relative GDP ranking among the big three changes. In the year 2020, China leads the pack with 29.3 trillion. The U.S. GDP follows at $23.4 trillion, and the European Union is a close third at $22.6 trillion.
Nonetheless, the basic premise of the Leveraged Balance of Power concept doesn't change. If we test Japan--today's fourth largest economy and richest of the three theoretical balance powers--against the same projection criteria we used on the major powers, it still falls far behind them. Applying Japan's 2004 growth rate of 2.9 percent, its 2020 GDP works out to $5.9 trillion, a "mere bag of shells" compared to the individual and combined monetary might of the major powers. Even if we granted Japan a sixteen-year growth rate equal to China's fantastic 9.1 percent growth rate of 2004, it arrives in 2002 with a GDP of $15 trillion. That unlikely possibility would certainly give Japan a "first among balance powers" status, but it wouldn't put the island country in the "major league."
Also consider that if we grant England and Russia--Japan's fellow balance powers--China's fantastic 2004 growth rate, they land in 2020 with GDPs of $7.2 trillion and $5.7 trillion respectively.
Still sucking the major powers' posterior-most mammal glands, so to speak.
Yeah, this is "back of the envelope" stuff; but my experience tells me that when it comes to predicting the future of societies, common sense SWAGS are as good as a team of think tank funded statisticians and a bank of Cray computers.
Coming attractions: exciting new jingoistic labels to explain the new balance of power strategies, with doses of fiction to break up the boredom.