Vital Signs

Knowing What We Don’t Know

Before publishing his essay “The Lonely Superpower” (Foreign Affairs, 1999), Samuel Huntington had spoken more candidly in an address to the American Enterprise Institute in May 1998.  On that occasion, he had identified himself as an old-fashioned Burkean conservative.

Huntington’s central thesis is that “global politics has now moved from a brief unipolar moment at the end of the Cold War, into one of perhaps more UNI-MULTIPOLAR decades on its way towards a multi-polar twenty-first century.”  Such a “multipolarity” will be better for the United States and certainly more stable for us than our current heap of tensions:

Such a world, however, will lack the tension and conflicts between the superpower and the major regional powers that is the defining characteristic of a uni-multipolar world.  And for that reason the United States could find life as a major power in a multipolar world less demanding, less contentious, and more rewarding than it has been as the world’s only superpower.

Huntington openly criticized Richard Haass (now director of policy in the U.S. State Department) for arguing that “the United States should act as a global sheriff, rounding up posses of other states to deal with major international issues as they arise.”  In fact, says Huntington, what we are seeing is that the United States...

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