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The Handbook of Global Security Policy by Mary Kaldor, Iavor Rangelov

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Chapter 25 The United States

Adam Quinn

Introduction

The United States has been the most powerful single state in the international system – measured in terms of military capacity, economic size, and political influence – since the end of the Second World War in 1945. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it has been the hegemonic force within a unipolar order. This long period of superiority has brought with it many advantages of strength: a high level of security against conventional attack on its own territory, an unmatched ability to project force over distance beyond its borders, and a huge base of resources available for deployment in service of its chosen priorities. The official defense budget – a conservative figure that excludes certain defense-related expenditures elsewhere – for 2011 was recorded at US$793.3 billion, 45.7% of the world's defense spending (International Institute of Strategic Studies, 2011). At over US$15 trillion, its gross domestic product remains the largest in the world today, even after the worst recession in a generation (International Monetary Fund, 2012).

This status has also brought with it some of the burdens of great power. One is an obligation to take on an appropriately hegemonic share of the effort required to maintain its desired international order. The United States regularly finds itself obliged to play the leadership role in orchestrating a coordinated international response to security crises, from managing the global ...

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