Changing Dynamics of 21st Century Warfare
Mahnoor Rashid 04.05.21
Geopolitics determines the course of warfare. U.S. retrenchment, the rise of China, a resurgent Russia, turmoil in Asia, Europe, and the Islamic world will guide U.S. behavior in future conflicts. The threat of great power confrontation and the possibility of rising potential conflicts within the developing world will further exacerbate the tensions in the shifting power dynamics.
Changing prospects across the globe are challenging liberal norms which were established after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, terrorism and nationalism are also rising, especially in the Global South. These trends will increasingly affect the role of the U.S. as a global policeman.
The ashes of the Second World War marked the emergence of the U.S. as a global power that crafted various institutions and norms that defined the international order. But the United States is stepping back from its decisive role. The retreat of the U.S. will have dire consequences.
China’s emerging status is a challenge to U.S. hegemony. China is vying for control over areas like the South China Sea, and its neighboring periphery. Furthermore, the Belt and Road Initiative will increase China’s influence across dozens of countries, which will be a massive multiplier in addressing China’s strategic interests by increasing its global reach.
India is a natural offset to China in the region and is regarded by Washington as an “indispensable friend,” with whom the U.S. has gone through joint ventures especially in the domain of military prowess. However, the notion of India being a counterweight to China is fatally flawed, due to endemic levels of poverty, inequalities, and technological gaps that exist within India.
A resurgent Russia is also a worrying trend for the United States. Russia has developed highly modernized weaponry systems and other equipment that enhance its offensive and defensive capabilities, allowing it to project its power. Russian history in Georgia and Ukraine suggests that Russia will deploy these technologies to curtail any grave threats whenever needed.
Russia is also causing political turmoil in Europe. Migration, terrorism, political deadlock, and economic pressures are undermining the EU’s ability to counter these threats. The future of the EU is uncertain and shackled in challenges.
Migration poses the gravest political and security risk to the future of the European Union. Anti-immigration and Eurosceptic factions in the EU are increasing and rising into power. On the other hand, terrorism is also causing unrest in Europe, further dividing the EU. Similarly, the nationalistic tendencies across Europe are rising. These factors assert that Europe will experience an intensified destabilization in the coming years. Although NATO shall remain the cornerstone of European security, when it comes to addressing threats from Russia, it might allot its defense resources to curtail near-future issues.
The United States must decide what type of power it wants to be. Former President Donald Trump was wrong on a lot of things, but he understood that Americans were tired of “forever wars” and the United States being the policeman of the world. What sort of power will the United States be under Joe Biden? That is the larger question moving forward.
Mahnoor Rashid is an undergraduate student at National Defence University Pakistan. Her interests include geopolitics, foreign policy and security studies.