As in high school, so in the international arena, there are over-achievers and under-achievers. Stephen Walt draws ups a list draws up a list of countries that punch above their weight (Canada, Sweden, North Korea, Israel, Singapore) as well as global slackers (Japan, Germany, Russia, India, Brazil). Walt has some interesting speculations as to why some countries are small in size but cast huge shadows while others look at first glace like elephants but actually squeek like mice.
1) I’m reminded of Murray Kempton’s sardonic remark that when the history of the second half of the 20th century is written it will turn out that there were only two global super-powers: Israel and North Viet Nam. (Israel’s military prowess is still well known. What is often forgotten is that from the early 1950s to the late 1970s, North Viet Nam defeated in turn France, the United States and China: a European power, a North American power, and an Asian power. This feat is unequalled in military history).
2) If Walt wants to explore why Japan is so timid on the international stage, there’s a new book I can recommend.