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"Unrest Assured: Why Unipolarity Is Not Peaceful"

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"Unrest Assured: Why Unipolarity Is Not Peaceful"

Journal Article, International Security, volume 36, issue 3, pages 9-40

Winter 2011/12

Author: Nuno Monteiro

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Quarterly Journal: International Security


The United States has been at war for thirteen of the twenty-two years since the Cold War ended and the world became unipolar. Still, the consensual view among international relations theorists is that unipolarity is peaceful. They base this view on two assumptions: first, the unipole will guarantee the global status quo and, second, no state will balance against it. Both assumptions are problematic. First, the unipole may disengage from a particular region, thus removing constraints on regional conflicts. Second, if the unipole remains engaged in the world, those minor powers that decide not to accommodate it will be unable to find a great power sponsor. Placed in this situation of extreme self-help, they will try to revise the status quo in their favor, a dynamic that is likely to trigger conflict with the unipole. Therefore, neither the structure of a unipolar world nor U.S. strategic choices clearly benefit the overall prospects for peace. For the world as a whole, unipolarity makes conflict likely. For the unipole, it presents a difficult choice between disengagement and frequent conflict. In neither case will the unipole be able to easily convert its power into favorable outcomes peacefully.


Read William C. Wohlforth's review of this article on the ISSF website.


For more information about this publication please contact the IS Editorial Assistant at 617-495-1914.

For Academic Citation:

Nuno P. Monteiro. "Unrest Assured: Why Unipolarity Is Not Peaceful." International Security 36, no. 3 (Winter 2011/12): 9-40.

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