How America's Allies Perceive U.S. Primacy - A Neorealistic Approach with Focus on the Latest Iraq War
How America’s Allies Perceive U.S. Primacy
Nowadays, the United States of America is undoubtedly the most powerful country in the international arena. Its primacy in the world is chiefly based on its extraordinarily large military capabilities and strong economy. U.S. leaders and citizens consider the U.S. primacy to be a force for good, which is intrinsic to American exceptionalism, i.e. the idea that the USA can and should help make the world a better place (Staten 2005: 1). As former president William Clinton put it: the United States is a “beacon of hope to peoples around the world,” and is “indispensable to the forging of stable political relations.” (Walt 2005: 62). Also U.S. citizens are strongly convinced of the greatness of their country: Approximately 80 percent believe that the United States does either the “right amount” or “too much” to help solve global problems (Walt 2005: 63). However, there are plenty of other countries whose leaders and citizens are not pleased with U.S. primacy, some of them even considering it to be dangerous. Concerns of other states have grown since George W. Bush has become president who – by making use of U.S. primacy – has been embarking on a more unilateral foreign policy than his predecessor has. For instance, in 2001 he abrogated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (it was the first time that the United States has withdrawn from a major international arms treaty), and two years later he cancelled William Clinton’s signature of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (Walt 2005: 97). Seeing U.S. unilateralism in actions like these, even close allies have become more worried about the United States’ influence in world politics. In November 2003, some months after the latest U.S. invasion of Iraq, a poll conducted by BBC revealed that 53 percent of Europeans considered the United States to have a “negative role” on “peace in the world” (Walt 2005: 69). This essay illustrates why even the United States’ allies have reason to fear and actually do fear U.S. primacy. This thesis is going to be substantiated by analyzing in detail the opposition of Germany and France, both close allies of the United States, to George W. Bush’s plan to invade Iraq during the time that lead up to the invasion in March 2003. Initially, though, this essay is going to shed light on what makes the U.S. being the independent strongest actor in world politics and how its unilateralism can be made sense of in the context of the theory of structural realism, as outlined by Kenneth N. Waltz.
The United States of America holds a position of primacy in the world
The concept of “primacy” originates from Latin “primatia”, meaning “of the first rank” (AskOxford.com 2007). The pillars of the United States’ primacy are its large economy, military supremacy, dominance in international institutions as well as its cultural influence towards other states (Walt 2005: 32). U.S. economy tops that of Japan, the country with the second largest economy, by approximately 60 percent (Walt 2005: 32). Being the only remaining super power in the world, the United States’ military capabilities are overwhelming. In 2006 its expenses on defense were 535.9 billion US-Dollar (Infoplease 2007). It has soldiers, sailors, and airmen deployed in more than a hundred countries (Walt 2005: 34). Supporters of U.S. primacy frequently state that the United States would be able to foster global prosperity since the U.S. military’s presence all around the world would keep low the danger of the outbreak of regional wars. As a result, investors would be more inclined to invest in other parts of the world which contributes to a rise in global trade (Walt 2005: 48). Its leading position, at any rate, enables the United States to pursue a policy of unilateralism. Unilateralism refers to a state’s one-sided non coordinated national policy, or as David M. Malone and Yuen Foong Khong put it “a tendency […] to act alone in addressing a particular global or regional challenge rather than choosing to participate in collective action” (Malone/Khong 2003: 3). It is contrary to the concept of multilateralism that is “the practice of coordinating national policies in groups of three or more states” (Keohane 1990: 733). The fact that the United States does not refrain from acting on itself with no care to possible objections of others states arouses fear and anger in the international community. One of the latest very controversial unilateral actions conducted by the U.S. was its invasion on Iraq in March 2003, without the authorization of the United Nations Security Council, an institution whose members have pledged themselves to engage problems in a multilateral framework. As this essay is going to demonstrate later, even some of its allies expressed their disagreement with this shift of U.S. foreign policy.