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a p e for 1 Aaron L. Friedberg I R e c e n t rhetoric notwithstanding , the dominant trend in world politics today is toward regionalization rather than globalization, toward fragmentation rather than unification . The weakening of the liberal economic order and the apparent emergence of embryonic trading blocs is only one indication of this larger tendency. The acceleration of technological progress and the intensification of international economic competition among the most advanced states are rendering large portions of the less developed "periphery" even more peripheral and isolated than they have been in the past. With the end of the Cold War, conflicts in areas where outside powers might once have felt their vital interests to be engaged are now left to proceed uninterrupted. In strategic terms, bipolarity is giving way, not to unipolarity (with the United States bestriding the world like a colossus) nor yet to simple multipolarity (with a group of roughly equal, globally engaged "great powers"), but to a set of regional subsystems in which clusters of contiguous states interact mainly with one another. This is nothing new. Despite advances in weapons and communications technology, most states have historically been concerned primarily with the capabilities and intentions of their neighbors. Those that could afford to worry about far-flung enemies and to inject themselves into distant conflicts have been the exception rather than the rule. With the end of the superpower rivalry, the collapse of the Soviet empire and, as seems likely, a substantial retraction of American power, these more traditional patterns of strategic interaction (always present, even during the Cold War) will again become dominant.' Aaron L. Friedberg is Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and Director of the Research Program in International Security at Princeton's Center of International Studies. The author wishes to thank Desaix Anderson, Henry Bienen, Thomas Christensen, and Min Xin Pei for their comments and Geoffrey Herrera for research assistance. 1. One recent study concludes similarly that "regional multipolar processes are likely to become a more and more important feature of international politics." Thomas J. Christensen and Jack Snyder, "Predicting Alliance Patterns," International Organization, Vol. 44,No. 2 (Spring 1990), p. 168. For another analysis that also foresees a movement toward regionalization see Joseph A. Camilleri, "Alliances in the Emerging Post-Cold War Security System" (unpublished manuscript ), March 11, 1992. Infernational Security, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Winter 1993194), pp. 5-33 01994by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 5 International Security 18:3 I 6 The movement toward "multi-multipolarity" is being propelled by political developments as much as by shifts in the underlying distribution of material resources. In this new and more fragmented world, the United States will still be the single richest and strongest nation (although the size of its economic and military leads will diminish as others grow faster and as the United States reduces its armed forces), but it will be less inclined to project its power into every corner of the globe. Meanwhile, other nations will become more capable of acting independently in pursuit of their own interests and, whether out of ambition or necessity, more inclined to do so. What are the likely implications of these developments and, in particular, what will they mean for the chances of war and peace? In western academic circles, and especially among American experts on issues of international security, discussion of the impending return to regional multipolarity has thus far centered almost exclusively on Europe. Here, predictably enough, adherents of the two main contending schools of international relations theory come to strikingly different conclusions about what the future will hold. Neo-realists believe, first, that the structure of an international system (i.e., the distribution of power among states) will determine its destiny and, second, that multipolar systems are more prone to instability than those that are bipolar. The end of the Cold War, in their view, means a return to multipolarity and therefore the beginning of a new era of conflict among the major European powers.2 Neo-liberals, by contrast, maintain that the structure of a system may be less important in determining its functioning...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 5-33
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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