In Geo-Political circles it’s generally accepted that the Cold War represented a bipolar world where all nations fell into the sphere of influence of one or both of the two great powers: The
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, most foreign policy experts expected that a multipolar world emerge from the Cold War cocoon.
“Ever since it became clear that an exhausted Soviet Union was calling off the cold War, the quest has been on for a new American role in the world…Accordingly, thinking about post-Cold War American foreign policy has been framed by several conventionally accepted assumptions about the shape of the post-Cold War environment… it has been assumed that the old bipolar world would beget a multipolar world with power dispersed to new centers in Japan, Germany (and/or “Europe”), China and a diminished Soviet Union/Russia.”
Here, Krauthammer continues his assault of the status quo, circa 1990:
“All…assumptions are mistaken. The immediate post-Cold War world is not multipolar. It is unipolar. The center of world power is the unchallenged superpower, the
In other words, after the Berlin Wall fell, the global consensus was that a multipolar world would emerge from the bi-polar Cold War vacuum. Krauthammer went against this consensus, and insisted that a unipolar strategic ecosystem would emerge.
So who was correct?
Krauthammer? Or the Post-cold War consensus that he refers to?
Certainly a virile argument can be made that the United States, post 9/11, asserted (or re-asserted) itself as the motive force in International relations, with it’s largely unsupported “war on terror” in
On the other hand, perhaps equally virile arguments can be made that the multipolar world that was promised, did indeed emerge as predicted.
During the 1990’s, as the former Soviet bloc fragmented into small regional conflicts and eventually into a number of newly sovereign states, we observed the dream of a fraternal
Either way (unipolar or multipolar), there are many other examples of “major events” that occurred in the intervening period that can be chosen to bolster either camp’s argument.
Some more relevant examples include these events:
- The emergence of the WTO
- The dot com boom/bust
- The European monetary union
- The emergence of the BRIC countries
- The emergence of the Sovereign Wealth fund
- And many others…
Thus, 2o years later (with the benefit of hindsight firmly in hand), it appears from this author’s perspective at least, that neither school of thought was persuasively accurate.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to state that in the intervening period since the Cold War, a “polar pendulum” of sorts emerged, where at certain points in time, either the unipolar or the multipolar camp was in the ascendant as borne out by emergent historical events.
Due to the muddled historical evidence on both sides of this divide, or perhaps due to the vacillation of the aforementioned pendulum, we cannot confidently state that one school of thought or the other, was completely accurate in predicting what would unfold on the global stage after the end of the Cold War.
However, we can safely state with a high degree of confidence that both the unipolar and multipolar world-views co-existed since the end of the Cold War.
If the preceding statement is true, as I perceive it to be, then this leads your author to consider if we need a new “model” from which to view our current situation?
If both a unipolar and a multipolar world can exist and evolve simultaneously, as it appears that they have, then logically an accurate model of the world must contain both.
Therefore, I will attempt to describe just such a model: The Transpolar model.
The Transpolar model depicts a world of International Relations and Geo-Politics that is simultaneously unipolar, multipolar, and metapolar.
The Transpolar model is an open-system where; power, might, and influence, continuously change, evolve, and merge.
This heretofore unknown epoch is characterized by the rise of new actors on the Geo-political stage, actors that were henceforth not encompassed nor considered by the legacy models.
These new actors now compete directly with nation states, and concomitantly work with them or against them, along with the other actors in the system, to exert power, might, and influence in the global ecosystem.
So who are these new actors in the global power ecosystem?
Perhaps a list would be useful here; as the newly present actors in the global Geo-Political ecosystem are numerous:
§ Transnational corporations
§ Multilateral Trading Blocs
§ Bi-lateral trade agreements
§ Sovereign wealth funds
§ Global capital and Investment markets (both primary & secondary)
§ Local, regional, and global faith-based organizations
§ Local, regional, and global terrorist and organized crime groups
§ Self-organizing local, regional, and global social networks of all stripes
§ Internationally prominent and wealthy individuals of all nations
§ Local, regional, and global thought leaders
§ Transnational Educational Institutions
The above list does not pretend to be exhaustive; rather it is intended to be indicative of the type of actors currently comprising the contours of the new Geo-Political ecosystem. Over time these actors are likely to evolve, die, and be replaced by new forms of organization that may emerge as human capability, human needs, and human desires morph through time.
Perhaps the most striking trait of the Transpolar era is not the type of actor that is competing with or assisting the nation state, but rather how it does so?
In the new system, interaction is comprised of clusters of relevant actors, who in a self-propelled manner, cluster around the issues and agendas that each actor deems vital, important or worthy of interest.
Hopefully this new Geo-Political ecosystem will assist us in modeling modern geopolitical complexity more accurately and effectively.