Not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in other areas of the world as well, particularly Asia. The American people have repeatedly demonstrated that they don't have the stomach for either a long war or a short one where nuclear weapons would be involved. In fact, as we can see with their own borders, they are largely defenseless, attacking each other rather than those who would do them harm. They tend to believe that their privileged place in the world is a birthright and will continue indefinitely, though without any clear idea of how this might be so.The rise of China, among other developments, will restore understanding that the balance of power is a key factor in promoting international stability. The assumptions by some post-Realist foreign policy thinkers that the balance of power was some obsolete calculus of an irrelevant past or had been superseded by American preeminence are being shattered. That the U.S. is the world's dominant power, and likely to remain dominant for perhaps an extended period of time, is not the same thing as preeminence. Even the U.S. has limits. The messy outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan offer some examples.
If there is a balance of power. That might be wishful thinking over the next 30 years or so.Recognition of the importance of the balance of power will not render diplomacy and its instruments obsolete.
It seems that the trappings and pretensions of diplomacy was never greater but its effectiveness has to be questioned, given the number of wars which have taken place throughout European history.Indeed, one could argue that the art of diplomacy reached a high point in pre-WW I Europe during a period when the balance of power was the dominant foreign policy calculation.
This would be so if based on European historical references but Europe is no longer a major player and the US a rapidly declining player, in part because of their debt to China but also as a result of a lack of cohesive will.The ongoing changes will likely require that other countries' interests and spheres of influence be taken into consideration in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. That, too, is not necessarily a bad thing. No treaty has ever been sustainable on its own when it ignored a party's critical interests. The Treaty of Versailles at the end of WW I is a classic example of how badly a punitive and unbalanced treaty can disintegrate. Such treaties can only be sustained by a continual willingness to impose their terms by force whenever challenges arise. Few, if any, countries are willing or able to make such open-ended commitments.
China's only interest is China. While Americans, and to a lesser extent the Europeans, try to save the world the Chinese have little interest along these lines. They are far more focused on their own success and thus, over the next couple of generations anyway it seems, the Chinese will be the dominant force in the world. How that will play out is anyone's guess.Finally, even as climate change is underway, it does not affect every country's interests equally. China's paramount interest is maintaining its economic growth. Its government continues to view economic growth and development as the foundation for stability. Even as climate scientists argue for reductions in CO2 emissions, the science collides with China's economic needs. At present, were China to engage in robust reductions in CO2 emissions, it could only do so by slashing its economic growth. Insufficient alternatives to conventional energy sources are available. To be sure, China is investing significantly in solar power, but investments in solar power and other alternatives will have a medium- and longer-term payoff. Those payoffs won't address China's immediate energy needs. Hence, China views the issue from the perspective of its national interests and it is unwilling to agree to any kind of CO2 emissions caps. Similarly, the U.S. has also declined to accept CO2 emissions caps or similar mechanisms for reducing its CO2 emissions. In both cases, national interests have trumped scientific understanding, even as such an outcome will have a global impact (an externality of sorts).