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Re: Questions about Hegemony and Decline
by nd
07 April 2002 11:08 UTC
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----- Original Message -----
From: "Maximilian C. Forte" <mcforte@centrelink.org>
To: <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Sent: Saturday, April 06, 2002 1:06 PM
Subject: Questions about Hegemony and Decline

> The question is this: how is it that small shattered countries can be the
> undoing of "great powers" such as the USSR in the case of Afghanistan, and
> possibly the USA should it invade Iraq? How could a small, divided, and
> battered nation such as (North) Vietnam have been so successful? What I
> is, "hegemony in decline" or not, all of these countries faced
> odds and, on the face of it, should have had no chance of succeeding let
> alone inflicting lethal wounds on their aggressors.

Different variables matters, but in general there was often a big power
behind the scene to equilibrate the balance: about Vietnam Urss and
especially China gave some help with arms to the Vietnamese, and the
"nuclear taboo" was still operating (I heard recently that Johnson asked
Kissinger why not use it in Vietnam).
About Russia in Afghanistan were the US that armed, trained, financed, etc.
bin Laden's "freedom fighters" against the Urss.
Now, in an unipolar world the only limit to the U.S. power projections is a
sort of "self-restraint", that is, the so-called "Vietnam syndrome", its
elite fear to risk even relatively small amounts of its soldier's lives, but
this is counterbalanced by the new U.S. policy on nukes and the new
"division of work" of U.S. interventions, with U.S. dedicated to bombings
and its "allies" to the dirty (and risky) work on the ground (peace-keeping
etc.). So, chances that tiny countries could resist to a superpower will are
now even lesser, unless some new alliance against U.S. will emerge.

> Can hegemony be measured by the size of one's nuclear arsenal, for
> or can it be measured by the number of box cutters one owns? Maybe this is
> silly question, but it's the kind that plagues me.

I would look at the economy (and the U.S. one does not seem healthy for a
series of reasons) and the influence on other countries, direct and indirect
(by international institutions). I doubt that having 40% of world military
spending alone is enough to maintain world hegemony in the medium term, with
economic and political competitors growing fast, but I doubt even of the
9-11 official story.

Luca Rondini,
Roma, Italy

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