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America Isn't as Powerful as It Thinks It Is

美國并不像它想象的那樣強大



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

單邊主義時代已經結束了,華盛頓是最后一個意識到這一點的。

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?

美國到底有多強大? 它仍然是單極大國,能夠將自己的意志強加給對手、盟友和中立國,并迫使他們——無論多么不情愿——去執行他們認為愚蠢、危險或與他們的利益完全相反的政策嗎? 或者,美國的實力是否存在明確而重大的限制,表明它在設定和實現目標方面應該更有選擇性和戰略性?



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.”

布什和切尼的做法導致了一系列的失敗,但特朗普政府仍延續著同樣的單邊傲慢。因為很明顯,特朗普不僅威脅(實際上開始了)要與中國打貿易戰,而且還威脅要與美國的許多經濟伙伴打貿易戰。放棄《跨太平洋伙伴關系協定》(簡稱tpp)、退出《巴黎氣候協定》等是這些沖動決定的一部分。這是美國政府對朝鮮和伊朗采取“要么接受,要么放棄”外交方式的基礎,在這種方式下,華盛頓提出不切實際的要求,然后加大制裁力度,希望這些目標能夠屈服,讓美國予取予求,即使這種方法在過去對兩國一再失敗。在最近對仍在購買伊朗石油的國家實施二級制裁的決定中,情況更為明顯,這一舉動可能會推高油價,并損害美國與中國、印度、土耳其、日本、韓國等國的關系。特朗普的女婿、首席裙帶者、高級顧問賈里德•庫什納一直承諾承諾要揭露一項所謂的和平計劃,這可能使以色列總理內塔尼亞胡、共和黨捐助者謝爾頓•阿德爾森和其他“大以色列”概念的支持者感到高興,但他們不會推動這一計劃。從過早承認胡安•瓜伊多為委內瑞拉臨時總統以及美國強烈要求“馬杜羅必須下臺”可以看出,美國對自身能夠控制結果的強大能力也抱有類似的信念。

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.

所有這些政策背后的基本邏輯是,美國的壓力最終能迫使對手按照美國對他們的要求去做,而其他國家找不到逃避、阻止、轉移、稀釋、回避、阻礙或以其他方式拒絕華盛頓想要做的事情。它假設我們仍然生活在單極時代,最重要的是使用權力的意愿由美國支配。

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.

也許最重要的是,這種做法否認了這些目標之間存在任何真正的協調。如果美國真的是無所不能的,那么制裁中國從伊朗購買石油不會對目前正在與中國進行的貿易談判產生任何影響,土耳其也不會通過向俄羅斯靠近來回應同樣的壓力。它進一步假設,美國的北約盟國是如此迫切地想讓美國軍隊留在歐洲,以至于他們將接受反復的羞辱,并跟隨美國的腳步對抗中國,盡管越來越多的證據表明事實并非如此。它不認為與埃及、以色列、沙特阿拉伯和海灣地區全面合作有什么壞處,也不認為與伊朗或其他國家的關系升級為戰爭有什么風險。

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.

公平地說,不難理解為什么鷹派人士認為他們可以用這種方式處理外交政策,至少在短期內是這樣。盡管最近有許多失誤,美國仍然非常強大。它的積極援助仍然是一些國家所需要的,它的“集中敵意”是任何國家都不能完全忽視的。美國仍然是一個巨大而有價值的市場,美元仍然是世界上主要的儲備貨幣,而切斷其他國家或金融機構與全球金融基礎設施聯系的能力,賦予了華盛頓非同尋常的影響力。許多美國盟友習慣于順從華盛頓,不愿做任何可能讓美國撤回支持的事情,這是可以理解的。特朗普和他的公司還可以指望歐洲右翼(包括波蘭和匈牙利的現任統治者) 以及美國在中東的盟友的支持。此外,大多數美國人并不那么關心外交政策,而且通常愿意接受行政部門的任何做法,只要事實證明這不會造成太大代價或令人尷尬。



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.

同樣的教訓也適用于伊朗。特朗普政府有意扼殺伊朗核協議,而且是在眾目睽睽之下。它如此專注于這一目標,以至于它甚至愿意懲罰其他簽署國,徒勞地試圖讓伊朗屈服。盡管華盛頓背棄了協議,但德黑蘭仍繼續遵守協議的條款,但它的耐心可能不是無限的,尤其是當政府明確表示,政權更迭是其真正目標時。伊朗的核武器計劃已經擱置了十多年,如果伊朗最終重啟核武器計劃,世界其他國家不會突然站到美國一邊,支持采取更有力的行動。為什么? 因為每個人都知道是美國而不是伊朗扼殺了這項協議,當美國開始抱怨伊朗的反應時,也不會有很多人同情美國。如果華盛頓決定再打一場戰爭,美國的中東客戶無疑會感到高興,但不要指望他們或其他國家提供太多幫助。

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,其他國家不喜歡受制于他人的一時沖動,尤其是當這個人表現得自私、反復無常、毫不掩飾地蔑視他人利益時。因此,其他國家開始制定旨在限制美國影響力的變通方案也就不足為奇了。正如亨利•法雷爾和亞伯拉罕•紐曼最近在《外交政策》中所寫,“特朗普政府的強硬策略可能會導致各個國家和各個企業減少與美國的接觸,而不是導致各個國家和各個企業減少與美國制裁目標的接觸,并開始打造自己的解決辦法。隨著時間的推移,這些解決辦法甚至可能開始積累成一個有效的替代制度。”