The George W. Bush administration's national security strategy, which asserts that the United States has the right to attack and conquer sovereign countries that pose no observable threat, and to do so without international support, is one of the most aggressively unilateral U.S. postures ever taken. Recent international relations scholarship has wrongly promoted the view that the United States, as the leader of a unipolar system, can pursue such a policy without fear of serious opposition. The most consequential effect of the Bush strategy will be a fundamental transformation in how major states perceive the United States and how they react to future uses of U.S. power. Major powers are already engaging in the early stages of balancing behavior against the United States, by adopting "soft-balancing" measures that do not directly challenge U.S. military preponderance but use international institutions, economic statecraft, and diplomatic arrangements to delay, frustrate, and undermine U.S. policies. If the Bush administration continues to pursue aggressive unilateral military policies, increased soft balancing could establish the basis for hard balancing against the United States. To avoid this outcome, the United States should renounce the systematic use of preventive war, as well as other aggressive unilateral military policies, and return to its traditional policy governing the use of force—a case-by-case calculation of costs and benefits.
Analysts have argued that balance of power theory has become irrelevant to understanding state behavior in the post–Cold War international system dominated by the United States. Second-tier major powers (such as China, France, and Russia) and emerging powers (such as Germany and India) have refrained from undertaking traditional hard balancing through the formation of alliances or arms buildups. None of these states fears a loss of its sovereign existence as a result of increasing U.S. power. Nevertheless, some of these same states have engaged in soft-balancing strategies, including the formation of temporary coalitions and institutional bargaining, mainly within the United Nations, to constrain the power as well as the threatening behavior of the United States. Actions taken by others in response to U.S. military intervention in the Kosovo conflict of 1999 and the Iraq war of 2003 offer examples of soft balancing against the United States.
Brooks, Stephen G., 1971-
Wohlforth, William Curti, 1959-
The development of the concept of soft balancing is an attempt to stretch balance of power theory to encompass an international system in which traditional counterbalancing among the major powers is absent. There are two fundamental flaws, however, in current treatments of soft balancing: the failure to consider alternative explanations for state actions that have the effect of constraining the United States, and the absence of empirical analysis of the phenomenon. A comparison of soft balancing and four alternative explanations in the main cases highlighted by proponents of the concept—Russia's strategic partnerships with China and India, Russian assistance to Iran's nuclear program, the European Union's efforts to enhance its defense capability, and opposition to the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003—reveals no empirical support for the soft-balancing explanation. The lack of evidence for the relevance of balancing dynamics in contemporary great-power relations indicates that further investments in adapting balance of power theory to today's unipolar system will not yield analytical dividends.
Lieber, Keir A. (Keir Alexander), 1970-
Alexander, Gerard, 1965-
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many observers predicted a rise in balancing against the United States. More recently, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 has generated renewed warnings of an incipient global backlash. Indeed, some analysts claim that signs of traditional hard balancing can already be detected, while others argue that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. grand strategy has generated a new phenomenon known as soft balancing, in which states seek to undermine and restrain U.S. power in ways that fall short of classic measures. There is little credible evidence, however, that major powers are engaging in either hard or soft balancing against the United States. The absence of hard balancing is explained by the lack of underlying motivation to compete strategically with the United States under current conditions. Soft balancing is much ado about nothing: the concept is difficult to define or operationalize; the behavior seems identical to traditional diplomatic friction; and, regardless, specific predictions of soft balancing are not supported by the evidence. Balancing against the United States is not occurring because contemporary U.S. grand strategy, despite widespread criticism, poses a threat to only a very limited number of regimes and terrorist groups. Most countries either share U.S. strategic interests in the war on terrorism or do not have a direct stake in the conflict. As such, balancing behavior is likely only among a narrowly circumscribed list of states and actors being targeted by the United States.
United States -- Military policy -- Public opinion.
War -- Public opinion.
Public opinion -- United States.
Although previous studies have examined U.S. public support for the use of military force in particular historical cases, and have even made limited comparisons among cases, a full comparison of a large number of historical episodes in which the United States contemplated, threatened, or actually used military force has been missing. An analysis of U.S. public support for the use of military force in twenty-two historical episodes from the early 1980s through the Iraq war and occupation (2003–05) underscores the continuing relevance of Bruce Jentleson's principal policy objectives framework: the objective for which military force is used is an important determinant of the base level of public support. The U.S. public supports restraining aggressive adversaries, but it is leery of involvement in civil-war situations. Although the objective of the mission strongly conditions this base level of support, the public is also sensitive to the relative risk of different military actions; to the prospect of civilian or military casualties; to multilateral participation in the mission; and to the likelihood of success or failure of the mission. These results suggest that support for U.S. military involvement in Iraq is unlikely to increase; indeed, given the ongoing civil strife in Iraq, continuing casualties, and substantial disagreement about the prospects for success, the public's support is likely to remain low or even decline.
Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed.
Social history -- Case studies.
In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond claims that several societies in times past collapsed in part for environmental reasons and that these cases bear lessons for today. By and large, Diamond has got his history right. But the application of lessons derived from these historical cases to today's environmental problems will leave many readers unconvinced. Scaling up from diminutive, isolated, and low-technology examples such as precontact Easter Island or the Greenland Norse to the contemporary world is fraught with conceptual difficulties, not all of which Diamond can dispel. Diamond's arguments, whether one finds them convincing or not, raise some timely questions. Are we indeed at serious risk of environmental collapse? And how do some current trends—the rise of China, the coming transition to a new energy regime, and the slowing of population growth—affect the chances of environmental collapse?
Smith, M. L. R. (Michael Lawrence Rowan), 1963-
Shambaugh, David L.