Most China-watchers are of the view that it is fast becoming a superpower. I do not disagree with that proposition; however, I believe it has a long way to go in that direction. In the meantime, it must ensure that its economic growth is not affected by any domestic or international negative trend. An interesting conceptual exercise would be to figure out how a great power becomes a superpower? Almost all great powers have the reasonable potential of becoming a superpower. Some stay as great powers for a long time; some may retrench, as was the case with Great Britain; some may lose its status as a superpower when it implodes and its successor does not fill its superpower role, as happened with the USSR and Russia. Why don’t all great powers end up as superpowers? Is there a template that each great power must follow to become a superpower, or must each potential superpower develop a sui generis path of becoming one? My sense is that the latter statement is true.
I don’t like to make predictions, for predictions are mostly for soothsayers or palm-readers. But in this case, I will make an exception, based upon my reading of a number of clues. My prediction is that the first (or at least one of the major) foreign policy crisis of the Obama administration is likely to be Iran. In a style much more benign than that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama has been incessantly harping on the nuclear issue involving Iran. Such a presidential near obsession develops its own blinders that can easily make a military option much more feasible than it really is. One of his top national security advisers, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, insists that all options – including military ones – are on the table. That persistence forces one to think that there is more involved about Iran than meets the eye. Obama’s National Security Advisor, General Jones, has issued a comprehensive memo reported by the New York Times. That memo reports the use of Special Operations to destabilize Iran. This is a highly uneasy reminder of the tactics that the Bush administration used before invading Iraq in 2003.
I am reading the current issue of Foreign Policy (FP). The entire issue is labeled a “war issue.” (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/issues/current). Two features of the essays covered therein immediately struck me as a major source of concern.