Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many observers predicted a rise in balancing against the United States. More recently, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 has generated renewed warnings of an incipient global backlash. Indeed, some analysts claim that signs of traditional hard balancing can already be detected, while others argue that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. grand strategy has generated a new phenomenon known as soft balancing, in which states seek to undermine and restrain U.S. power in ways that fall short of classic measures. There is little credible evidence, however, that major powers are engaging in either hard or soft balancing against the United States. The absence of hard balancing is explained by the lack of underlying motivation to compete strategically with the United States under current conditions. Soft balancing is much ado about nothing: the concept is difficult to define or operationalize; the behavior seems identical to traditional diplomatic friction; and, regardless, specific predictions of soft balancing are not supported by the evidence. Balancing against the United States is not occurring because contemporary U.S. grand strategy, despite widespread criticism, poses a threat to only a very limited number of regimes and terrorist groups. Most countries either share U.S. strategic interests in the war on terrorism or do not have a direct stake in the confict. As such, balancing behavior is likely only among a narrowly circumscribed list of states and actors being targeted by the United States.

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