Courtesy Reuters

On Power: Elements of Power

So far, the twentieth century has been an age of nationalism. Nibbled at on the one hand by subgroups within it, and on the other by aspirations, concerns, and organizations transcending it, the nation-state goes on as the main engine of organized human action. For more of the world's population than ever before, the nation-state in which they live is one they regard as their own, however much they may dissent from its policies or even suffer its repressions.

So the affairs of the world - "foreign" affairs in the title of this American journal - revolve overwhelmingly around the relations among nations, their interplay, their capacity to exert influence or control one over another, or one group over another. In the area of security interests, this is self-evident. And even the new agenda of world problems - an economic order, food, population, the environment, the Law of the Sea - is still debated among the representatives of nations. The United Nations, as Mr. Waldheim keeps reminding us, is in the end only a mirror of its members; and behind their discussions of principle lurk, inescapably, perceptions of what might happen in the absence of agreement, perceptions of what nations might then do that would affect other nations for good or ill - perceptions, in short, of power. The day when this may be less true is still far off.

In the last decade, the structure of power relationships among the nations of the world has become far more complicated. Call this a "devolution of power," "political multipolarity," what you will, its essence is generally accepted. In contrast to the relatively simple world structure of 15 years ago - the West and its friends, the communist world, and the nonaligned - individual nations today are far less under the sway of others, more able to throw their own weight around, and groups of nations, regional or economic, stand together as new centers of power.

And the change is more than simply in

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