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The Perils of Bipolarity

Subnational Conflict and the Rise of China

Lt Col Mark O. Yeisley, USAF
2012, 36 pages
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Cost: $0, AU Press Code: MP-72

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Intrastate conflicts, ranging from localized rebellions to civil war, increased linearly from 1946 through 1992 and then dramatically decreased in the post-Cold War era. This rise and fall of subnational conflict closely mirrors the “proxy” wars fought by or between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States. Proxy refers to “(g)reat power hostility expressed through client states” and describes superpower use of these states to pursue strategic and ideological goals within the confines of nuclear deterrent postures extant during the Cold War.1 This was done in large part to achieve strategic national interests and other political goals without risking nuclear war. In its waning years, the USSR could no longer afford to fund these wars; America ended support to many of these commitments soon after the Cold War ended.2 The United States emerged from the Cold War as the sole superpower in a unipolar international system. However, evidence suggests this unipolarity could soon change as a new bipolar system emerges with China as the next challenger superpower. Scholars debate the likelihood of future war with a rising China, with each side arguing With resources dried up, former client states and subgroups had little choice but to resolve these conflicts, either via negotiation or decisive victory.

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