The Superpower reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Superpower

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A superpower is a state with the ability to influence events or project power on a wide scale. In modern terms, this may imply an entity with a strong economy, a large population, and strong armed forces, including air power and satellite capabilities, and a huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Superpowers often have colonies, or satellite states.

The term superpower appeared as a neologism in 1922. Prior to the start of World War Two, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom had superpower status.

After 1945 the victorious powers—the Republic of China, France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States of America—appointed themselves to nominal superpower status as the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as those with a veto over Security-Council decisions. But due to economic stresses, the loss of overseas colonial empires and civil war, not all of these states could maintain their relative hegemony, and as the Cold War developed only two indisputable superpowers remained: the United States and the Soviet Union. With the political collapse of the Soviet Union (circa 1991) and the undermining of the balance of power, the United States became apparently the world's sole remaining superpower (sometimes called a hyperpower).

Although the term superpower is a recent one, the word has been retrospectively applied to previous military powers, especially the Roman Empire and imperial China.

America's position as the sole superpower

Both critics and some supporters of the United States describe the current state of affairs as the Pax Americana, with the United States as self-claimed guarantor of world peace. It has been argued that America is acting as an imperialist nation.

This is in contrast to its position of isolationism with respect to global affairs outside the Western Hemisphere at various times in the first half of the 20th century, particularly between the World Wars.

American power abroad

America's position as a superpower has involved it in almost every major conflict world-wide since 1917, including WWI, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, sporadic violence in the Middle East in regards to Israel, and most recently the Gulf War and Iraqi War.

Defenders of American foreign policy regard their interventions as forced on them by moral necessity or lately as self-defence. These actions are generally portrayed in moral terms, with "good guys" and "bad guys", but the actual policy motivators may be realpolitik and moral equivalence.

America was attacked by the Islamist terrorist network Al-Qaida in 2001, and is now fighting a "War on Terrorism" world-wide. In early 2003, America invaded Iraq and dismantled the regime of Saddam Hussein, though critics charge that the invasion of Saddam Hussein was not related to the "War on Terrorism".

Potential superpowers

Countries which some analysts predict could achieve superpower in the coming decades:

Superpowers are also the fictional superhuman abilities that distinguish most superheroes and supervillains such as Superman or Magneto from ordinary mortals. Typical superpowers include superhuman strength, speed, or stamina; the ability to fly; or abilities such as X-ray vision.