While observers of international relations like to talk about a post-American world order in which nations as Brazil, China, India and Russia call the shots, it seems nobody seriously considers the possibility that the United States may be here to stay anymore.
While American hegemony may be declining, what should concern the BRICs is that America is still very much in their backyards. The killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden at the hands of US special forces earlier this month amply demonstrated this reality.
China and Russia watched events unfold silently while India vowed never to replicate America’s actions in Pakistan even as terrorists wanted by India are probably hiding there. Imagine Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announcing to the world that India had found and killed bin Laden in Pakistan because he was instrumental in terrorist activity in that country. It is difficult to conceive, not only because Pakistan would never have allowed it but because the intelligence services of rising powers are evidently incapable of tracking down the world’s most wanted terrorist who was indirectly responsible for attacks against all of these countries.
While international news media blamed Pakistan’s intelligence services for either sheltering bin Laden or failing to apprehend him within their own borders, the Chinese, Indian and Russian intelligence communities were proved equally inapt. New Delhi is just seven hundred kilometers from the place where bin Laden was found. If China, India and Russia can’t establish supremacy in their own neighborhood, it will be difficult for them to persuade other nations in Africa, East Asia and Latin America that they should accept the BRICs as security providers. In fact, those nations would probably refer to the United States for their security concerns.
Judging from America’s history, its future as a global security guarantor seems certain. The American military and intelligence apparatus is able to attract highly educated personnel that operates in a far less hierarchical and far more institutionalized bureaucracy than their BRIC counterparts. The American political system, for all its partisan bickering, has time and again produced leaders who are able and willing to project power abroad to both serve the nation’s interests and advance the cause of liberal democracy and open markets.
Unless emerging powers manage to emulate the American system, there is a good chance that we will continue to live in a world in which the United States remain the “last best hope of Earth,” as once predicted by Abraham Lincoln.