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Re: The Future of Hegemony
by Syed Khurram Husain
15 September 2002 20:26 UTC
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> In a message dated Sun, 15 Sep 2002 05:07:19 +0500 (PKT),
> skhurram@ns.lums.edu.pk writes:
>> Having heard George Bush' speech before the United Nations General 
>> Assembly, World Systems scholars must ask themselves:  which
>> trajectory is  going to dominate the history of the 21st Century?  The
>> rise of East Asia?   Or the collapse of West Asia?
> Perhaps both.  Although it's not just West Asia that's collapsing. 
> Think of Colombia, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia...

True.  But the collapse of West Asia appears to carry a worldwide 
significance that the collapse of West or Southern Africa did not.

>> It is interesting to note how the decline of American hegemony bears
>> at  least one striking resemblance to its opening years.  America
>> entered the  stage of world hegemony as a superpower overseeing the
>> reconstruction of a  war torn country.  Around this reconstructive
>> effort was built the larger  edifice of US hegemony.  I'm thinking of
>> Germany, NATO and the containment  system in Europe, and Japan, the
>> San Fransisco System and subordinate  industrialization in East Asia. 
>> In its closing years, America once again  begins to assume the
>> responsibilities, quite consciously, of rebuilding war  torn
>> countries:  Afghanistan and Iraq.  The difference, quite obviously, is
>>  that in the case of Germany and Japan, the American effort was
>> remarkably  successful whereas in the case of Afghanistan it has 
>> already faltered and 
>> is not expected to fare any better with Iraq.  
> Generally true.  The US also wants to reconstruct the Palestinian
> Authority.  
> A couple of other differences:  Germany and Japan were the only states
> that needed 'reconstruction', nation-building, etc.  These days, where
> does the list end?  The discourse that nation-building is a matter of
> global security actually began before 9/11.  I recommend Mark
> Duffield's excellent book Global Governance and the New Wars.  

I'll look up Duffield's book.  In the meantime, I'll also recommend Mary 
Kaldor's "Old and New Wars."  Very clear and conceptually argued book 
illustrating how seemingly chaotic scenarios actually have an internal 
logic to them and agencies that are actively benefiting from the chaos.

> exactly is going to pay for 'building' all the relevant nations?  And
> how exactly would it get done?  Its not that easy (Duffield worked with
> Oxfam in Sudan, and he's pretty bitter about how easily Western
> agencies get confused and simply make a bad situation worse)..

For the time being the tab is being borne by the Dept of Defense under 
the "War on Terror" head.  But unofficial figures available here in 
Pakistan indicate that the US may be pumping in between 2 to 3 million 
dollars every day into Afghanistan just to buy off the warlords.  This 
enterprise is not getting them anywhere and the cost is not coming down.  
Perhaps the debate in Washington on terminating the manhunt for OBL is 
partly inspired by these costs.

> Why exactly is state-collapse a security concern these days?  Before
> the French Revolution, European states had a pretty threadbare hold on
> their territories.  And throughout the nineteenth century Latin
> American states also lacked a strong centralized command.  These days,
> however, several things result from state-breakdown.  Refugees, the
> possibilities that wars will spill over into neighbors borders, the
> prospects of transnational armed networks hanging out in under-policed
> territory all make state-breakdowns global problems.  

Again, Kaldor's book is the best piece to look up to get an understanding 
on why stateless zones are a security concern for everybody.  The point, in 
a nutshell, is that as large zones of the world fall out of the authority 
structures of the interstate system, they become incubators for agencies 
whose interest lies in spreading the "chaos" since they are most suited to 
operate within it, and profit by it.  The nexus between the narcotics 
economy and geurrilla movements in Colombia is a classic example.  The 
exact same logic was operating in Afghanistan, until the Taliban cleared up 
the opium fields on OBL's prompting.  The opium fields are now back, as are 
the warlords, and the wellsprings of "chaos" are once again in place.  The 
tab for the American's to buy off the support of the warlords is only going 
to increase in time.

> I wonder if a hegemonic solution will emerge that is not based on the
> universalization of 'normal' nation-states, but on other forms of
> social control/integration.

This, actually, is precisely the point why I posted this question up.  The 
collapse of West Asia presents a new challenge to bring state authority to 
a zone where entrenched criminal interests have been operating very 
profitably for over a decade now.  If a new interstate system is going to 
arise (an essential condition for a new world-systemic hegemony or Empire, 
whether American or East Asian) its structures and outlines will be built 
around the solution to the wreckage of the existing system.  In short, 
whoever can rebuild West Asia may be the architect of the next world order.

> Steven Sherman
>> Khurram Husain
>> Lahore,
>> Pakistan

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