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A Return to Great Power Competition

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The purpose of this paper is to provide an analytical review of factors demonstrating a return to great power competition between major global powers. Using qualitative research, this paper will be used to investigate how the United States will
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  Running Head: A RETURN TO GREAT POWER COMPETITION 1 A Return to Great Power Competition Roberto J. Cornier Henley-Putnam University  A RETURN TO GREAT POWER COMPETITION 2 A Return to Great Power Competition The purpose of this paper is to provide an analytical review of factors demonstrating a return to great power competition between major global powers. Using qualitative research, this  paper will be used to investigate how the United States will respond to changes in the political, economic, and military environments faced around the world. In addition, this paper will look at the role nuclear weapons play in foreign affairs and their overall effectiveness at meeting these roles. Lastly, this paper will evaluate the role of small-scale regional conflicts play in the overall great power competition environment. These are some of the questions this analytical research will evaluate in order to better understand how the United States will respond to changes in the  political, economic, and military environments faced around the world. The last period of great power competition ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. Until this point, the United States had employed a strategy of containment against the Soviet Union with both superpowers often engaging each other indirectly via small-scale regional conflicts. With the fall of the Soviet Union, United States foreign policy officials were left in search of a new foreign policy strategy to deal with emerging international affairs issues as the United States  became the only superpower nation in the world. Filling this gap was Samuel P. Huntington’s work The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order  . In his work, Huntington argued that ever increasing interactions between people are making the world a smaller place. At the same time, economic and social changes throughout the world are moving people away from longstanding national identities. Huntington’s central idea is that future conflicts will no longer be dominated by economic or ideological issues (nation states), but rather these conflicts will be caused by cultural differences (civilizations) (Huntington, 1998). Until recently, Huntington’s theories provided the most in-depth explanation  A RETURN TO GREAT POWER COMPETITION 3 to international affairs covering the post-Cold War era. Explaining seemingly ideological wars in the Middle East and political shifts within the European Union, the United States has until most recently reigned as the world’s only superpower. But recent changes in the political, economic, and military environment have signaled a return to great power competition and a shift away from Huntington’s theories. Russia has shown an interest in regaining its sphere of influence, leading new technological and military built-up efforts shown in action in the military invasions of Georgia and Ukraine. Most recently, Russia’s ambitions have been present in the war in Syria in which the United States is also present supporting the opposing forces, in what has possibly become the first small-scale regional conflict of the new great power competition. Further signaling a return to great power competition is the rise of China as a political, economic, and military power. Arguably the greatest beneficiary of globalization, China’s economy has grown to record levels and is now forecasted to overtake the United States economy within the next decade. Recent political and military developments have further complicated the role of China in world affairs. The last decade has seen extensive military  buildup efforts focused on closing military technological gaps between China and the United States. In addition, aggressive island building efforts in the South China Sea have shown an effort by China to increase its economic and political control in the region, home to one-third of the world’s shipping passes through it and carrying over $3 trillion in economic trade each year. Facing new challenges from Russia and China, the United States has refocused its efforts to counter the growing influence of Russia and China in world affairs. The shift of the United States towards a return to great power competition began under the Trump administration’s 2017  National Security Strategy, which stated that “China and Russia challenge American power,  A RETURN TO GREAT POWER COMPETITION 4 influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity” (Trump, 2017, p. 2). Identifying China and Russia as direct threats to American power, influence, and interest within the National Security Strategy of the United States signaled to the country and the world that the United States recognizes the threat China and Russia represent to the United States and underscores the commitment by the United States to protects its interests at home and abroad as well as its allies. Although the end of the Cold War saw Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the  Remaking of World Order   become one of the leading theories for over two decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the return of the United States to great  power competition signals and end to his theories. Although his theory that conflict will no longer be dominated by economic or ideological issues, but rather be dominated by cultural differences is still potentially applicable to conflicts around the world, the shift to great power competition has taken the focus away from these regional conflicts (Huntington, 1998). Instead, the United States continues to fight the wars in the Middle East but has begun a significant shift of personnel and equipment to Europe and Asia in order to position forces to counter Russia and China. Even though the United States continues to fight the wars in the Middle East, the focus of these conflicts started to shift with greater influence from Russia and China. For example, the conflict in Syria has directly pitted the United States backed forces against the Russian backed forces in a conflict that has become idle ever since its very beginning. In Africa, the United States has been operating for over two decades conducting counterterrorism missions, but the last decade has seen the establishment of Chinese military installations in the region conducting their own military operations, often establishing military installations shear miles from American  A RETURN TO GREAT POWER COMPETITION 5 ones. In Afghanistan, Americas longest war, the United States has seen an increase in Chinese influence in recent years as Chinese firms continued to flood northern portions of the country conducting public works projects and securing rights to expansive mineral deposits within the country. Greater interests in these regional conflicts by the Russian and Chinese governments have changed the theories behind these conflicts and no longer can be fully explained by Huntington’s theories. A theorist who also rose to prominence after the end of the Cold War was Martin van Creveld with his book on The Transformation of War  . His goal of addressing the “What, Why, and How” of the causes of war challenged Clausewitzian views of war, declaring them as outdated and impractical for today’s world (van Creveld, 1991). Though on the surface, a return to great power competition would signal a return to Clausewitzian views and a departure from van Creveld’s concepts, a deeper analysis of his theories indicates the opposite. Changes to our current world continue to hold some of these theories viable and necessary to our understanding of today’s international affairs. As such, while great power competition has renewed interests in Clausewitzian views of war that involve inherent friction that distorts, to a greater or lesser degree, all prior arrangements, we cannot dismiss Creveld’s theories as these theories remain vital to our understanding of international affairs in a world that has evolved since Clausewitz’s work. Understanding Creveld’s place in the role of future war begins with van Creveld’s changes to the rule of war and how states wage war within the constrains of these rules. Van Creveld theorizes that changes in globalization have created an environment in which states have to analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of their actions within a conflict before entering the conflict and finalizing their strategies. Whether these limitations are placed by the international
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