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America Isn't as Powerful as It Thinks It Is

美国并不像它想象的那样强大



The era of unilateralism is over—and Washington is the last to realize it.

单边主义时代已经结束了,华盛顿是最后一个意识到这一点的。

Just how powerful is the United States? Is it still the unipolar power, able to impose its will on adversaries, allies, and neutrals, and force them—however reluctantly—to go along with policies they think are foolish, dangerous, or simply contrary to their interests? Or are there clear and significant limits to U.S. power, suggesting that it should be more selective and strategic in setting goals and pursuing them?

美国到底有多强大? 它仍然是单极大国,能够将自己的意志强加给对手、盟友和中立国,并迫使他们——无论多么不情愿——去执行他们认为愚蠢、危险或与他们的利益完全相反的政策吗? 或者,美国的实力是否存在明确而重大的限制,表明它在设定和实现目标方面应该更有选择性和战略性?



The Bush-Cheney approach produced a string of failures, but the same unilateral arrogance lives on in the Trump administration. It is evident in Trump’s decision to threaten (or in some cases, to actually begin) trade wars not just with China but with many of America’s economic partners. It was part and parcel of the impulsive decisions to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership and leave the Paris climate accord. It is the basis of the administration’s “take it or leave it” approach to diplomacy with North Korea and Iran, wherein Washington announces unrealistic demands and then ratchets up sanctions in the hope that the targets will capitulate and give the United States everything it wants, even though this approach to both countries has repeatedly failed in the past. It is even more obvious in the recent decision to impose secondary sanctions on states that are still buying Iranian oil, a move that threatens to drive up oil prices and damage U.S. relations with China, India, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and others. It is almost certainly true of the so-called peace plan that nepotist-in-chief Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, keeps promising to reveal, a proposal likely to make Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, and other fans of the concept of Greater Israel happy but won’t advance the cause of peace in the slightest. A similar faith in America’s vast ability to control outcomes can also be seen in the premature recognition of Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela and the strident U.S. demands that “Maduro must go.”

布什和切尼的做法导致了一系列的失败,但特朗普政府仍延续着同样的单边傲慢。因为很明显,特朗普不仅威胁(实际上开始了)要与中国打贸易战,而且还威胁要与美国的许多经济伙伴打贸易战。放弃《跨太平洋伙伴关系协定》(简称tpp)、退出《巴黎气候协定》等是这些冲动决定的一部分。这是美国政府对朝鲜和伊朗采取“要么接受,要么放弃”外交方式的基础,在这种方式下,华盛顿提出不切实际的要求,然后加大制裁力度,希望这些目标能够屈服,让美国予取予求,即使这种方法在过去对两国一再失败。在最近对仍在购买伊朗石油的国家实施二级制裁的决定中,情况更为明显,这一举动可能会推高油价,并损害美国与中国、印度、土耳其、日本、韩国等国的关系。特朗普的女婿、首席裙带者、高级顾问贾里德•库什纳一直承诺承诺要揭露一项所谓的和平计划,这可能使以色列总理内塔尼亚胡、共和党捐助者谢尔顿•阿德尔森和其他“大以色列”概念的支持者感到高兴,但他们不会推动这一计划。从过早承认胡安•瓜伊多为委内瑞拉临时总统以及美国强烈要求“马杜罗必须下台”可以看出,美国对自身能够控制结果的强大能力也抱有类似的信念。

The underlying assumption behind all of these policies is that U.S. pressure—you know, what Pompeo likes to call “swagger”—will eventually force acknowledged adversaries to do whatever it is the United States demands of them, and that other states won’t find ways to evade, obstruct, divert, dilute, hedge, hinder, or otherwise negate what Washington is trying to do. It assumes we are still dwelling in the unipolar moment and that all that matters is the will to use the power at America’s disposal.

所有这些政策背后的基本逻辑是,美国的压力最终能迫使对手按照美国对他们的要求去做,而其他国家找不到逃避、阻止、转移、稀释、回避、阻碍或以其他方式拒绝华盛顿想要做的事情。它假设我们仍然生活在单极时代,最重要的是使用权力的意愿由美国支配。

Perhaps most important, this approach denies that there are any real trade-offs between any of these objectives. If the United States is really all-powerful, then sanctioning China over oil purchases from Iran won’t have any impact on the trade talks that are now underway with Beijing, and Turkey won’t respond to the same pressure by moving closer to Russia. It further assumes that America’s NATO allies are so desperate to keep the U.S. military in Europe that they will accept repeated humiliations and follow the U.S. lead against China, despite the growing evidence that this is not the case. It sees no downsides to going all-in with Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf, and it sees little risk should relations with Iran or others escalate to war.

也许最重要的是,这种做法否认了这些目标之间存在任何真正的协调。如果美国真的是无所不能的,那么制裁中国从伊朗购买石油不会对目前正在与中国进行的贸易谈判产生任何影响,土耳其也不会通过向俄罗斯靠近来回应同样的压力。它进一步假设,美国的北约盟国是如此迫切地想让美国军队留在欧洲,以至于他们将接受反复的羞辱,并跟随美国的脚步对抗中国,尽管越来越多的证据表明事实并非如此。它不认为与埃及、以色列、沙特阿拉伯和海湾地区全面合作有什么坏处,也不认为与伊朗或其他国家的关系升级为战争有什么风险。

To be fair, it is not hard to understand why hawks think they can get away with this approach to foreign policy, at least in the short term. Despite many recent missteps, the United States is still very powerful. Its active assistance is still something that some other states want, and its “focused enmity” is something no state can completely ignore. The United States is still a vast and valuable market, the dollar remains the world’s main reserve currency, and the ability to cut other states or financial institutions off from the infrastructure of global finance gives Washington unusual leverage. Many U.S. allies are accustomed to deferring to Washington and are understandably reluctant to do anything that might encourage the United States to withdraw support. Trump and company can also count on the support of authoritarian soul mates in the European right (including the present rulers in Poland and Hungary), as well as America’s morally compromised allies in the Middle East. Plus, most Americans don’t care all that much about foreign policy and are usually willing to go along with whatever the executive branch is doing, provided that it doesn’t prove too costly or embarrassing.

公平地说,不难理解为什么鹰派人士认为他们可以用这种方式处理外交政策,至少在短期内是这样。尽管最近有许多失误,美国仍然非常强大。它的积极援助仍然是一些国家所需要的,它的“集中敌意”是任何国家都不能完全忽视的。美国仍然是一个巨大而有价值的市场,美元仍然是世界上主要的储备货币,而切断其他国家或金融机构与全球金融基础设施联系的能力,赋予了华盛顿非同寻常的影响力。许多美国盟友习惯于顺从华盛顿,不愿做任何可能让美国撤回支持的事情,这是可以理解的。特朗普和他的公司还可以指望欧洲右翼(包括波兰和匈牙利的现任统治者) 以及美国在中东的盟友的支持。此外,大多数美国人并不那么关心外交政策,而且通常愿意接受行政部门的任何做法,只要事实证明这不会造成太大代价或令人尴尬。



Much the same lesson applies to Iran. The Trump administration deliberately set out to kill the Iran nuclear deal, and it did it in plain sight. It is so focused on this goal that it is even willing to punish the other signatories in a vain attempt to get Iran to say uncle. Tehran has continued to abide by the terms of the agreement despite Washington’s reneging on the deal, but its patience is probably not infinite, especially when the administration has made it clear that regime change is its real objective. Should Iran eventually restart its nuclear weapons program—which has been in abeyance for more than a decade—the rest of the world is not going to suddenly line up behind the United States and support more forceful action. Why? Because everyone knows that it was the United States—not Iran—that killed the deal, and there won’t be a ton of sympathy for America when it starts bleating about Iran’s response. America’s Middle East clients will no doubt be happy if Washington decides to fight another war on their behalf, but don’t count on a lot of help from them or from anyone else.

同样的教训也适用于伊朗。特朗普政府有意扼杀伊朗核协议,而且是在众目睽睽之下。它如此专注于这一目标,以至于它甚至愿意惩罚其他签署国,徒劳地试图让伊朗屈服。尽管华盛顿背弃了协议,但德黑兰仍继续遵守协议的条款,但它的耐心可能不是无限的,尤其是当政府明确表示,政权更迭是其真正目标时。伊朗的核武器计划已经搁置了十多年,如果伊朗最终重启核武器计划,世界其他国家不会突然站到美国一边,支持采取更有力的行动。为什么? 因为每个人都知道是美国而不是伊朗扼杀了这项协议,当美国开始抱怨伊朗的反应时,也不会有很多人同情美国。如果华盛顿决定再打一场战争,美国的中东客户无疑会感到高兴,但不要指望他们或其他国家提供太多帮助。

Third, other states don’t like being beholden to the whims of others, and especially when others behave selfishly, erratically, and with ill-disguised contempt for others’ interests. Not surprisingly, therefore, other states are starting to develop workarounds designed to limit U.S. leverage, most notably by designing financial arrangements outside the network of institutions that Washington has been using to coerce allies and adversaries into compliance. As Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman recently wrote in FP, “instead of leading states and businesses to minimize contact with the targets of U.S. sanctions,” the Trump administration’s strong-arm tactics “may lead states and businesses to minimize their contact with the U.S.-led global financial system and to start to construct their own workarounds. Over time, those workarounds might even begin to accumulate into an effective alternative system.”

第三,其他国家不喜欢受制于他人的一时冲动,尤其是当这个人表现得自私、反复无常、毫不掩饰地蔑视他人利益时。因此,其他国家开始制定旨在限制美国影响力的变通方案也就不足为奇了。正如亨利•法雷尔和亚伯拉罕•纽曼最近在《外交政策》中所写,“特朗普政府的强硬策略可能会导致各个国家和各个企业减少与美国的接触,而不是导致各个国家和各个企业减少与美国制裁目标的接触,并开始打造自己的解决办法。随着时间的推移,这些解决办法甚至可能开始积累成一个有效的替代制度。”