America's new circus diplomacy and aspiring superpowers

Tacitus wrote in his Annals: “Nothing is so weak and unstable as a reputation for power not based on force.” Almost two millennia later, the United States is trying to live by that dictum… while a number of candidates for superpower status look on.

Almost any definition of superpower requires that a nation, to be so called, have a sphere of influence or, better yet, dominance over allies or client states… and also be a mature nuclear power. Economic strength and other considerations, ‘though important, play secondary roles. Meeting all such criteria, the United States appears not just as a superpower, but by many accounts the only superpower in today’s world stage.

The sharing of superpower status might have ended symbolically with the Berlin wall coming down, communism losing ground, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union… but the danger for the United States, even as a sole superpower, remains alive and well. This past week, heralding the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) renewal talks in May, and the need for the US to exert leadership, Jimmy Carter was quick to point out the predicament we are still in. In his op-ed piece he writes: “With massive arsenals still on hair-trigger alert status, a global holocaust is just as possible now, through mistakes or misjudgments, as it was during the depths of the Cold War.” Little comfort in being the world’s only superpower!

As Russia ’s sphere of influence over other Soviet republics and allied Eastern European nations disappeared, so did its status as a superpower. Even with a continuing strong military and a formidable nuclear arsenal. Fifteen years later, through arrogance and incompetence of a government out of control, America ’s influence over its friends and allies has been put to the test. If the Bush administration, through its circus diplomacy, persists in forcing its views on the world, America’s superpower status is also likely to wane or even disappear, just as Russia’s did… regardless of military might.

For decades Americans have felt great pride when they elected, or re-elected, a president every four years. It was a feeling of both pride and power as they took part in electing not just a president… but “the leader of the free world.” That ceased to be the case in the 2004 elections… as an omen to a nation which had lost its leadership ways.

Bush has brought his charivari of diplomatic clowns to the big top… headed by two angry, evil clowns wearing colorful stars and stripes uniforms plastered with insignia of vertical nukes over the legend , “We reserve the right to pre-launch.” Condi Rice and John Bolton head the whirlwind parade towards that “pernicious, misguided and mismanaged” organization headed by Kofi Annan, the United Nations. It’s performances such as this that make Bush’s circus diplomacy not the expected class act from a superpower, but the dog and pony show it really is.

But whether neocons in the US like it or not, the United Nations will continue playing an ever-increasing role in the world, as the temple for the “convivence” among nations it was intended to be. Unquestionably, there will be many changes yet to come, not just cosmetically but structurally. Perhaps the most important and relevant to world peace will focus on the makeup and nature of the Security Council and its relevancy to what the world is today… and not the world of a half-century ago.

There are many countries that have come of age, or will be coming of age in the next two decades. Of “power-age” we intend to say. Not just the two upcoming colossi of power- even if they prefer not to become superpowers by exerting influence on other nations, China and India… but several other nations with the potential to become seats of regional influence and power.

Within two decades Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and maybe a United Korea will come of age, perhaps as core nations in concert with neighboring states… joining the US, the EU, Greater Russia, China and India in the family of co-existing powers.

To become a power, even if only to exert economic, religious or political independence, each of these nations intuitively knows that it must possess nuclear military status, even if only at a minimal, reasonable level of deterrence… perhaps limited to small tactical weapons that would prevent military incursions by superpowers. These nations would not be aspirants to superpower status… only content to be countries, regions or peoples unwilling to become either client or vassal states of a superpower.

Acknowledging or accepting the coming of power-age of so many nuclear mini-powers may seem as the beginning of a nuclear proliferation that will accelerate doomsday. But the opposite may also be true, allowing world convivence to be reached. Social justice, freedom, peace, equality and brotherhood are more achievable, and within reach of all mankind, when superpowers drop the prefix and join the human race on equal status.

The world went from a “cold war” to a period of “détente”… why not now “convivence”? Can America ’s circus change its roster to a menu that makes diplomatic sense? Not likely… not with the neocons in charge of everything under the big top.