One of the major pieces of conventional wisdom these days is that the United States is declining as a global power and that the world is moving toward a “multipolar” system in which many nations will have sway.
China is said to lead the parade of the new powers, followed by oft-cited India and Brazil. All kinds of other countries, from Turkey and South Africa to Nigeria and Indonesia, also made it to the list.
Actually, if one defines power as a political scientist does—the ability of one party to make another do what the first party wishes but the second party would rather not do—most of these new powers are rather weak. Some are at most regional and not global players, and others are able to hobble the United States a bit or make mischief but not seriously manage much of anything on a global scale.
In short, there are few signs of significant contributions to the international order from the “new powers,” and whatever pushback they have attempted against the U.S. superpower were not very consequential. Washington may generate less international power, but it does not follow that any other power—and certainly not a whole host of powers—are standing by to gain from or make up for the loss.