This article is part of the "Turning Points 2003" year-end package from The New York Times Syndicate. c.2003 Karel Van Wolferen (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.)
Amid the appearance of a resurgent, newly aggressive America, the really significant international development of 2003 was the destruction of the conditions that until now had made American hegemony possible. The almost universally accepted dominance of the United States had been the pivot of a relatively stable and peaceful world order, but that order now stands on the verge of disintegration.
Hegemony implies consent on the part of weaker powers, which enables the dominant power to avoid overt coercion _ the mark of imperialism, from which it must clearly be differentiated. It reveals itself in the dominant country's influence over other countries' world views, particularly in regard to international political and economic relations.