BBC Radio 4's Analysis: Anchor Aweigh?, was broadcast on Thursday, 15 March, 2007 at 20:30 BST.
If America's unipolar moment is passing, who will take up the reins of global leadership
We have a geopolitical order without an organizing principle.
Although the US remains the world's pre-eminent power, Washington's ability to shape the international order has been much diminished.
Iraq has drained its military "hard" power and much of its national political will, while China and India will come to challenge its unquestioned economic hegemony.
Around the world, Washington's "soft" power has been sapped by a rising mood of anti-Americanism.
America's unipolar moment may have passed, but what, asks Philip Stephens in this week's edition of Analysis, are the dynamics of a new multipolar system?
The rising powers of the East and South are impatient of a global institutional architecture- the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the G8-still largely defined by the power balance of 1945.
But there's no consensus on a new design.
Even as they stake their claims to "great power" status, the emerging powers are equivocal about shouldering responsibilities.
China wants respect, but is reluctant to surrender the freedom of action that came with its former status as a non-aligned power-and India shares Beijing's ambivalence.
Russia sees multilateralism as little more than an opportunity to rein in American power.
The question as to what Europe's central purpose might be during the next half-century goes mostly unasked as well as unanswered.
This might all be courting disaster, but so far the world economy has seemed indifferent to the geopolitical vacuum.
Global markets have shrugged off the bloody chaos in Iraq and other problems.
The international system may lack leadership and coherence, but interdependence is a powerful shock absorber.
So the questions Analysis will examine this week are: have we permanently lost an international political anchor or can we devise a new one that reflects political, economic and military power realities?
Will democracy, human rights and freedom guide the way forward or will other, less Western-centric concepts win influence?
And what form of global interdependence would be likely to emerge?
Among those taking part are the former British Foreign Secretary, Lord Hurd; the historian of the waxing and waning of great powers, Professor Paul Kennedy; the eloquent analyst of Europe's woes, Nicole Gnesotto; Harvard University's scholar of "soft power", Professor Joseph Nye; and Singapore's advocate of Asia's new future, Kishore Mahbubani; as well as contributors from India and China.
Presenter: Philip Stephens
Producer: Simon Coates
Editor: Nicola Meyrick