Essay American Hegemony During The Cold War

Essay American Hegemony During The Cold War

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Onward: American Hegemony in the Twenty-First Century

As Joan Wallach Scott said, “Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history”1. And while history is ever current of change carved across time and nations which transforms and destroys in equal measure, the period following the end of the Cold War has brought with it an unprecedented amount of change, and with it, moments of great chaos and instability. The latter half of the twentieth century gave rise to a widely-shared body of norms and expectations for an ordered, stable world that would naturally and inevitably impose itself on every corner of the globe. This expectation of the triumph of order over chaos was common to both capitalism and communism, underpinning both world views during the cold war. In the decades since the triumph of capitalism, this expectation of order and consistency has made the growing sense of disorder on the global stage all the more unnerving to those who would cast themselves as the Cold War’s ‘victors’. In trying to chart a course through the tumultuous waters of the twenty-first century, the United States faces a broad spectrum of difficulties, but none more pressing than the increasingly fragmented international landscape, increased competition and lack of cooperation from its allies, and the increasing importance of non-state actors in the international arena, who’s unpredictability make it difficult to articulate a single over-arching foreign policy goal that might provide ready clarity and direction.

Emboldened by more than half a century of peace and no longer subject to the constraints of a bipolar international system where the majority of nations owed at least a nominal allegia...


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...f indulging tendency to free ride on certainty of America’s strength of will and arms abroad. Though the twentieth century did much to advance international stability in the developed world, the dizzying pace and fractured power dynamics of the twenty-first century pose new challenges for our nation that tax both our understanding and store of past experience. We will wrestle with dilemmas for which the pat answers of the last century are unequal to solving, ones that “demand a new vision of leadership in the twenty-first century--a vision that draws from the past but is not bound by outdated thinking”21. And though our preeminence is not the certainty that it was during the cold war, it may be that principled pragmatism, combined with our abundance of assets, offer America the best chance to maintain its international supremacy throughout the next century as well.

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