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The Systemic Basis of American Power

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Eight years into the post-Cold War Era, however, wide areas of disagreement and even confusion over the nature of American power continue to exist in policy and academic circles. Consensus exists on a number of key points the United States is the unchallenged superpower with global powers far exceeding those of any other actor American power rests on its economic and military strengths and there is no immediate prospect of a peer challenger. At the same time, we cannot agree on what to call the current global system is it unipolar, multipolar, or uni-multipolar Is the United States a hegemon Is the United States a benign hegemon or an imperial power To what degree is American power dependent on voluntary cooperation from other actors Why has the United States failed to prevail on many occasions Is the current situation transient or enduringMy approach to the nature of American power starts with the observation that American power is not simply the sum of quantitatively large military and economic assets. I hypothesize that additional factors, mostly systemic in nature, enter into the equation and that these factors are significant because they amplify American economic and military power or directly affect issues of limits, vulnerabilities and longevity. A full discussion of all these issues is beyond the scope of this short essay. I will focus on presenting my views on what these systemic factors may be and analyzing how they contribute to American power. For the purposes of this paper, I will treat states as unitary actors and not deal extensively with nonstate actors.

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  • Government and Political Science

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