Without sounding overtly alarmist and pessimistic, it appears that the world has entered into a period of geopolitical entrenchment that is fundamentally and systemically different than the period that characterized the first decade of the 21st century. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union brought an end to a period of bipolarity in world affairs, international relations have been shaped by three definable characteristics:
- the unchallenged and unquestioned authority of the United States over the international system
- the expansion and interconnection of the globalized economy and the international marketplace
- the emergence of highly-effective, networked global insurgents
These trends have created unforeseen positive and negative complexities that have served to foster the conditions for a changing era in international affairs - entrenchment. Essentially, the great powers in the world are displaying a large amount of anxiety over the construct of the international arena as US power and prestige comes under increasing pressure, the global economy remains shaky and globalization has received significant pushback from governments around the world and the rise of networked global insurgents and their abilities to profit from illicit trade and cause severe systems disruption are creating an environment characterized by a high-degree of uncertainty and lethality. In this environment, states and non-state actors alike are drawing the lines of commitment more firmly than they have during the last decade. This hardening of the system may very well be the first alignment of a newly emerging global order; the truly frightening thing, however, is the last time this happened in the world, horrific ideological conflict ensued.