12:43 GMT +3 hours01 July 2016
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Lead From Behind: How Unipolarity Is Adapting To Multipolarity

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Andrew Korybko
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The US is constructing a global system of bilateral and multilateral alliances to assist it in more efficiently projecting power throughout the 21st century. As the world moves towards multipolarity, the US is prepared to exploit this trend to its geopolitical advantage.

Instead of ‘going it alone’ as Bush was prone to do, the US is now finding ways to get others to do its dirty work by convincing its ‘partners’ that they have a shared interest in doing so. During the 2011 War on Libya, France and the UK took the helm while the US, as it was described, “Led From Behind”. A New York Times editorial at the time defined this as “discreet US military assistance with [others] doing the trumpeting”. Four years later, this concept has grown out of its Libyan test tube and gone global, with the US setting up similar alliance systems all throughout the world in order to indirectly project its will in key regions. As the cynical saying goes, “Why do for yourself what others can do for you?”

‘Friends’ Across The World

Let’s take a look at the US’ Lead From Behind (LFB) partners, beginning from the Western Hemisphere and moving eastward:

 

  • Latin America:

 

The US works closely with the Pacific Alliance, a neo-liberal economic trading group composed of close allies Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, and Chile. Their shared goal is to counter the leftist economic vision emanating from Venezuela and to dismantle its geopolitical resistance network of Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The end result is to surround and contain Brazil in case it ever decides to seriously counter the US’ influence. 

 

  • Europe:

 

Germany, the economic engine of the EU, is the primary LFB state for inter-European affairs, but the US has also designated sub-LFB partners for three strategic regions:

* The Baltics: Sweden is all but an official NATO member, and other than militarizing based on a phantom Russian submarine threat, its goal is to jointly bring neutral Finland, with its long and exposed border with Russia, formally into the alliance and provoke a new crisis in East-West relations. 

* Eastern Europe: Poland has always harbored ambitions of restoring its former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth over modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, and it partnered with the US in destabilizing Ukraine and fortifying Kiev’s forces in order to expand its coveted sphere of influence. 

* Balkan/Mideast Crossroads: NATO-member Turkey was supposed to ‘hold the fort’ for the US at this critical geopolitical juncture, but after Washington started toying with the tool of Kurdish nationalism as a means of pressuring Ankara, it rapidly redirected some of its loyalty to the multipolar world. 

 

  • Africa: 

 

In general, France is the US’ military designator for the continent, seeing as how it has a few thousand troops scattered across close to a dozen countries there, but as with Europe, the US also has a few sub-LFB partners in Africa:

* West/Central Africa: The ECOWAS regional integrational organization has lately been flexing its military muscle (however long it took to deploy) in Mali, while the Chadian military from the continent’s central reaches has projected power there, in Cameroon, and the Central African Republic. Although Nigeria is part of ECOWAS, the US doesn’t trust it to be a loyal unipolar proxy, and accordingly seeks to strengthen the states around it (and turn a blind eye to Boko Haram) as a buffering influence. 

* East Africa: Uganda and Rwanda had previously teamed up under US guidance to occupy most of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and plunder the country’s vast mineral resources. After having experienced a following out over the past decade, Uganda now holds the upper hand, and it followed US ‘suggestions’ in sending its troops to the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Somalia, while continuing to administer much of the DRC.  

 

  • Persian Gulf:

 

Saudi Arabia is the obvious LFB designate here, and through the GCC, it controls a lesser constellation of proxies that have all been armed to the teeth by American and Western arms shipments directed against Iran. 

 

  • South Asia:

 

The US has yet to formally crown any state as its LFB partner, but if Obama’s recent India trip proves to be any indication, then it certainly has set its sights on India for this important role. The question is, will India bite the bait and risk confrontation with China?

 

  • Southeast Asia:

 

Things are a bit trickier in this region, but the US would like for Vietnam and the Philippines to join together in a political-military alliance to counter China’s claims in the South China Sea. Vietnam, a land power, would serve as the complement to the Philippines, which could essentially become an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’. The US is also encouraging deeper Indian-Japanese cooperation in this region, specifically on the naval front, as a form of Chinese containment. Further south, Indonesia’s enormous economy could become a Chinese-Western hybrid, thereby forming a partial bulwark against a fully China-influenced region. 

 

  • East Asia:

 

Japan is the lynchpin of the US’ East Asian strategy, but it’s trying to integrate South Korea (traditionally pragmatic and economically close to China) into a larger pro-US security framework. The first step has already been taken, since all three states are now sharing intelligence against North Korea, thus creating strategic mechanisms that can quickly be redirected against China sometime in the future. 

Deception Via Diplomacy

The US has lately made attempts to ‘flip’ certain multipolar states and bring them into its fold, offering them deals and ‘diplomacy’ in order to get their guard down (much as it did to Libya before the 2011 war against it). The two current examples are Cuba and Iran, with the former having dangerously taken the carrot while the latter seems to properly understand the stick that silently comes with it. The US’ intentions in such highly publicized ‘peaceful’ outreaches must surely be questioned, since its immediate rejection of North Korea’s offer to halt its nuclear program in exchange for the cessation of joint US-South Korean military drills shows that it is only serious about one-sided ‘deals’ in its favor. When it comes down to it, if the US can’t indirectly control a state by LFB proxy or trick it into lowering its strategic defenses, then deception gives way to destruction, as those in Syria and Eastern Ukraine unfortunately know all too well.

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Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Asia, Middle East, Africa, Europe, Libya, Latin America, United States
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