chapter  6
16 Pages

The United States: leadership beyond unipolarity? MATTHeW RHODeS

Introduction The United States emerged from the Cold War with a nearly unprecedented share of global power. However, the internal consensus that primacy renders robust American leadership essential to world order has extended to neither prioritization of threats nor choice of means to confront them. President Bill Clinton sought to manage globalization but was criticized for diversion into “social work.”1 More recently, President George W. Bush pursued an assertive Global War on Terror, but left office widely viewed a failure. His successor Barack Obama has promised a new course that reverses past mistakes, but the depth of global recession and looming pitfalls for his agenda leave its achievements and durability suspect as well. More so than for many decades, the United States’ ability to achieve its major goals and maintain its central influence in international affairs will require political acumen, outside support and simple good luck. If we accept the US as “indispensible” but insufficient2 for mobilizing action to address the major strategic challenges of the new century, other centers of power – as well as smaller states – retain a stake in its success.