Future outlook of the international order from Iran’s viewpoint

Scenarios are a tool with which to make the intuitions and understandings of leaders and managers more orderly. Defining scenarios . is aimed at adopting strategic decisions which would be wise and stable enough for ‘all believable futures’.4

As Alizadeh has correctly noted, ‘generating scenarios’ can be a good way to speculate about a future situation which would pave the way for the formulation of a long-term national strategy for political actors under changing conditions of international peace and security. Two major scenarios can be discerned in relation to the structure of the ‘international order’, which is the source of knowledge about the main security issues in the 21st century.

The American scenario

Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard in 1997 noted that the collapse of the Soviet Union provided the United States with a unique opportunity in the international hierarchy of power.5 Thus far, a lot of texts and viewpoints have been presented, whose content is based on this main argument: the United States, as the world’s sole superpower in the 21st century, is capable of playing an effective role in managing and leading both issues and trends of international order. From this outlook, strategic assessment of US power in terms of such hardware components as technology, the economy and, above all, the military indicate that no other power has the potential to vie with or confront the United States:6 America has undisputed superior economic power as well as, to some extent, military might. On the other hand, the idea of a ‘soft power’ put forth by Joseph Nye has introduced another perspective in power equations in the international system and this approach indicates another angle of US superiority in the international system. Nye’s interpretation of soft power, which is based on ‘an actor’s capacity to encourage and persuade others to do as he wishes’ goes beyond ‘coercion’ and denotes ‘legitimization’ by other actors of the measures taken by the initiating actor.7 With this viewpoint in mind he takes a critical approach to the application of soft power by the United States.8 However, this concept has been taken as a positive approach by such thinkers as Rosemary Foot, who relies on such experiences as the US invasion of Afghanistan and the war on terror and/or welcoming liberal democratic values in the global expanse to conclude that America’s soft power has reached its peak at the beginning of the 21st century and, like hard power, has brought about some kind of supremacy to this country.9 As Henry Kissinger points out, the United States is in such a superior position at the beginning of the 21st century that there has been no precedence, even among the largest ancient empires. The US has become an indispensable part of international stability in all fields.10

Therefore, the structure of the international system is a combination of the following categories all of which are defined on the basis of ‘hegemony’ and, thus, will lead to a negative form of peace and security for the international system (see Figure 4.1).

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