Authors: Jeremy Pressman
March 1, 2004
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
While traditional understandings of international affairs would predict the formation of a balancing coalition against the dominant U.S. position in world affairs, some analysts now contend that the U.S. advantage is so comprehensive and so unprecedented that we have not seen and will not see balancing behavior on the part of second tier powers like China, Russia, Japan, and Germany. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the absence of balancing means the United States will not face any meaningful opposition in the international arena. Though in the short term a bloc of states is unlikely to form a counter-coalition the historical form of resistance to dominant powers other states still find important ways to resist U.S. dominance. In discussing the topic of resistance in this paper, I address both non-cooperation and active, militant opposition. There are reasons to treat the two separately, but I include both here so as to get a full picture of the international reaction to the current powerful American position. In the rest of this paper, I briefly describe the major aspects of U.S. hegemony. I then turn to each avenue in fuller detail. Next, I assess the linkage between resistance and balancing and offer policy changes that might mitigate resistance. I conclude by suggesting, more generally, six ways that weak states may challenge the great powers.
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