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Re: u.s. unilateralism
by wwagar
20 February 2002 00:42 UTC
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        Well, I know that I am supposed to believe the United States
enjoyed its greatest hegemony in the years right after the Second World
War.  It did receive a generous measure of cooperation from its former
allies and enemies alike, always exempting the Soviet Union.  When you're
poor and want gifts and loans from a rich uncle, you just might cooperate
with the uncle.  But what I do not understand, as I said in the post
before the last one, is why WSN eminences think that the United States
routinely got what it wanted, and with minimal coercion.  The United
States did not get what it wanted in China, Eastern Europe, or Korea.  It
did not prevail in Cuba.  It could not prevent the Arab states from trying to
dismantle Israel.  It could not prevent Britain and France from attacking
Nasser.  Considering the immense financial and military clout of the U.S.
in this period (roughly, 1945-1960), so much greater in relative terms
than today, I just don't think the U.S. scored any more "victories" than
it did in the 1990s, and, arguably, it scored fewer victories.  The theory
says that the U.S. should be declining.  The evidence on the ground is
inconclusive at best, and, I would contend, paltry and superficial.

        In particular, the comforting image of the U.S. as a desperately lonely
superpower pleading for good reviews while the rest of the world goes its
own way in haughty disdain is not supported by serious evidence on the
ground.  So I am not overawed by critical editorials in European
newspapers or the rhetoric of self-congratulating Left intellectuals who
seem to think they have the Establishment on the run because they can make
speeches in Brazil.  When the U.S. is really on the run, it will not allow
them to make speeches anywhere.

        The moral is that we are embarked, and have been embarked for many
generations, on a mission that will demand massive effort, sacrifice,
suffering, and the loss of many battles, without any guarantee of success,
and even without any guarantee that success would be successful.


On Tue, 19 Feb 2002, n0705590 wrote:

> Warren,
> Your comments are quite useful but I would still like to point out a couple of
> things.  We all know that coercion, as you point out, has played an important
> part is US hegemony before the cold war period.  But that is precisely the
> point.  The most 'hegemonic' period has been, arguably, just after the second
> world war.  Not only because the US had quite a large share of the world's
> gold reserves, but because it took the bother to institutionalise its
> hegemony, and it also took the bother to at least pretend to play by the rules
> of the game established by these institutions.  Any country that decided to
> choose the US camp did so because it thought that it could reap clear benefits
> and because they equally thought that the rules of the game, within the camp,
> applied to all.  The immense success of american leadership in the aftermath
> of WW2 was broadly established on consent.  As Gramsci would say, the coercive
> arm was always vigilant, but it was not the determinant factor of US hegemony.
>  In absolute and relative terms the US military capability is possibly
> umparalleled in modern world history.  But that is not not hegemony, that is
> merely 'lonely superpower' status.  If you are a hegemonic state, you do not
> even have to force the hand on those who you wish to constrain, you do this by
> consent.  Of course consent is based on many factors.  Culture, money and
> stability all play an important role.  Basically, if Saddam had thought that
> it was in his own interests not to invade Kuwait and to comply to the rules of
> the game, well...perhaps he would have done so.  Unfortunatly, a larger share
> of planet earth's population no longer believe they can benefit from the
> policies and values identified with the US.  Some will eventually want to
> establish new rules of the game.  That is when your hegemony goes down the
> drain: you have to coerce to comply.  Hegemony based on consent is very cost
> effective.  Coercion is not.
> >===== Original Message From wwagar@binghamton.edu =====
> >     I see no pattern of increasing dependence on coercion.  Since
> >at least the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States has resorted
> >to coercion over and over again.  Not always successfully, but repeatedly.
> >I say "at least" because even before 1898, I would argue that coercion and
> >the threat of coercion played a larger part in American expansion than
> >anything remotely resembling consent.  The Amerindians did not consent to
> >genocide and the Mexicans did not hand over 40% of their land to the U.S.
> >in 1848 without a fight.  The alleged decline of American hegemony is a
> >theory-driven myth and/or wishful thinking.  So far.  American hubris will
> >eventually catch up with the Republic, I am willing to bet, but as I said
> >before, it will take time.
> >
> >     Warren
> >
> >
> >On Mon, 18 Feb 2002, n0705590 wrote:
> >
> >> A Gramscian perspective of hegemony would suggest that american hegemony is
> >> declining precisely because the US are increasingly dependant on coercion
> >> rather than on consent.
> >>
> >>
> >> >===== Original Message From wwagar@binghamton.edu =====
> >> >  Richard Hutchinson says exactly what I have been thinking for
> >> >several years.  The decline of the U.S. is likely in the long term, but
> >> >let's not rush things.  At this point in time, the "next hegemon" remains
> >> >entirely unknown, and meanwhile the U.S. has had its own way in Panama, in
> >> >Kuwait, in Serbia, in Afghanistan, and remains clearly far ahead of any
> >> >other nation in wealth, productivity, military power, and hosting of
> >> >multinational corporations.  During its supposed heyday, it did not have
> >> >its way in China, Korea, Eastern Europe, or Vietnam, so I cannot see a
> >> >downward trend--if anything, I see the reverse.
> >> >
> >> >  According to the nemesis cycle in Greek tragedy, hubris will lead
> >> >to folly and folly to self-destruction, but this can take a long time,
> >> >especially in the absence of credible successors.  Meanwhile, the more
> >> >obvious folly is the wishful thinking of many on the Left who dream of
> >> >imminent salvation through the action of minuscule "masses" gathering here
> >> >and there in their thousands to oppose the juggernaut of global capital
> >> >and the nations (captained by the U.S.) in its hire.
> >> >
> >> >  As Richard says, "good old realism is still a useful guide."
> >> >Theory may give us hope for the long term, but for now and perhaps for
> >> >many years to come, the facts on the ground are simple and clear.  The
> >> >U.S. does pretty much as it pleases, and if it pleases to wreak more havoc
> >> >in the Middle East, I don't know who in hell can stop it.
> >> >
> >> >  Warren
> >> >
> >> >
> >> >On Sat, 16 Feb 2002, Richard N Hutchinson wrote:
> >> >
> >> >> Is it possible that the U.S. will launch another war against Iraq?
> >> >> Who can say no following Iraq 1991, Kosovo and Afghanistan?
> >> >>
> >> >> Is this necessarily stupid on the part of the U.S.?  No, not just on the
> >> >> basis of disagreements and complaints from lesser powers.
> >> >>
> >> >> The U.S. will try to marshall support, just as in 90-91, and who's to
> say
> >> >> they won't succeed.
> >> >>
> >> >> With Japan on the economic skids, the EU fragmented, and China still
> only
> >> >> a rising power, the U.S. has plenty of room to maneuver.
> >> >>
> >> >> The view of the Bush Administration unilateralists is that they can use
> >> >> U.S. power to shape the world for U.S. ends with little opposition.  The
> >> >> "U.S.-in-decline" analysis prevalent on the WSN list may well be true in
> >> >> the long term, but has little bearing on the near to medium term, and in
> >> >> fact is seriously misleading.
> >> >>
> >> >> Good old realism is still a useful guide, and what the Bush Team is
> >> >> counting on is that right now its potential competitors need the U.S.
> >> >> (mainly as a market and as military protection) more than it needs any
> one
> >> >> of them.  If they can't back up a threat to gang together against the
> U.S.
> >> >> (and noone has even suggested that possibility), then U.S. unilateralism
> >> >> can succeed.
> >> >>
> >> >> None of this should be construed as support for U.S. unilateralism.  I
> >> >> just find many of the comments on the list to be "vaguely reminiscent of
> >> >> the 1970s."
> >> >>
> >> >> RH
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >>
> >> Damian Popolo
> >> PhD candidate
> >> Newcastle University
> >> Department of Politics
> >> Room 301
> >>
> >>
> >>
> Damian Popolo
> PhD candidate
> Newcastle University
> Department of Politics
> Room 301

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