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America's Hegemony

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Jan 16, 2003.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    In shadow of this thread, I wanted to pursue this topic more.

    Contrary to Advocat's thread, the American hegemony on the world stage has been declining since the 1970's, argues, not I, but Immanuel Wallerstein, a senior research scholar at Yale in <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/">Foreign Policy Magazine</a>: "the economic, political, and military factors that contributed to U.S. domination are the same factors that will inexorably produce the coming U.S. decline."

    According to mr. Wallerstein this gradual process is best captured in and illustrated by four symbols:

    1) the war in Vietnam, which showed the world that its most powerful military could be beaten by a third world country. This war also at a time in which the western European and Japanese economies were booming. That ended U.S. preeminence in the global economy.

    2) the revolutions of 1968. Its direct political consequences were minimal, but the geopolitical and intellectual repercussions were enormous and irrevocable. Centrist liberalism tumbled from the throne. Conservatives would again become conservatives, and radicals, radicals.

    3) The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The collapse of communism in effect signified the collapse of liberalism, removing the only ideological justification behind U.S. hegemony, a justification tacitly supported by liberalisms ostensible ideological opponent.

    4) The terrorist attacks of September 2001. The persons responsible were members of a nonstate force, with a high degree of determination, some money, a band of dedicated followers. In short, militarily, they were nothing. Yet they succeeded in a bold attack on U.S. soil.

    So, is the demise of the U.S. as a superpower, or more accurate as the sole superpower at hand? The economic rise of <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/99aug/9908china.htm">China</a> and the increasing political unification of <a href="http://www.salon.com/books/int/2002/12/02/kupchan/index.html">Europe</a> appear to be ready to claim a bigger role on the world stage.
  2. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Point 1: Vietnam's loss was due to political forces, not military. If a third world country beat us so badly, why do we have the strongest military in the world, right now? Regarding the end of "U.S. preeminence in the global economy", dare I ask us all to consider what would happen to the worldwide economy if the U.S. withdrew from it?

    Points 2 & 3 are, to me, just more ivory tower musings. Who gives a fig about "centrist liberalism" or "ideological justifications"? Communism collapsed because it's contrary to human motivations and desires, not because of some imagined geopolitical forces.

    Point 4? Some bad people hurt us in way we've never directly experienced before. It wasn't the first time and won't be the last time.

    China? China can be backed into a corner within a year simply by slapping punitive tariffs on all Chinese imports. Their economy will collapse within 6 months, their military will roll 6 months after that. China has too many inherent weaknesses at this point. Appearances do not a superpower make.

    A unified Europe, on the other hand, could pose a real "threat".

    Just my lunchtime musings...
  3. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member

    An interesting question. Wallerstein seems to be taking a "conqueror" view of history... if the US didn't totally succeed and dominate, then it must be a sign of decline.

    Ok, point by point...

    1) A political decision was made not to commit the full resources of the US in Vietnam. It was a "police action", not a "war", therefore funding and support was limited; experienced soldiers only had to spend their "time" in country, then be replaced by totally inexperienced troops... leading to the high body count. To use this as an example of failure seems rather selective.

    2) The "people" didn't do what they were told. The grey suit brigade of the 1950s no longer ruled... Wallerstein seems to pine for the days of JE Hoover and MacCarthy, when the people were sheep following the leaders. To my mind, this has nothing to do with the US as a world military or economic power; in fact, US companies were spreading throughout Europe at exactly this time.

    3) The fall of communism did confuse the US... for about a year. Then you started to hear about US companies wanting to break into former communist countries and bring "COKE" to the masses, along with it's economic and democratic/capitalist message; note Russian elections and the "rise of capitalists" in what was the USSR. The US almost immediately started promoting itself as the "Leading exporter of Democracy". Doesn't sound like ideology was a problem.

    4) [Sarcasm on... <small>aimed at Wallerstein, not Ethics</small>] My God... the US isn't protected by divine intervention from terrorist attack, and may have made some mistakes... it's a sign of the end times [Sarcasm off]. Since no one ever predicted something like 9/11, and since all countries of the world are now worried about terrorist attacks -- including China and Europe -- by Wallerstein's reasoning, <b>none</b> are or can be superpowers. Faulty reasoning, I'd say.

    Have another read of the Bush Doctrine, particularly those areas where it speaks of spreading American democracy and economy. "The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom -- and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise." Read over chapter 6 "Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade"... using the US market as the model. Again, promotion of US virtures; nothing wrong at all, but still establishes the US as a leader of the present ideological hegemony.

    While Wallerstein may argue, to me at least, it really doesn't sound like the US has lost it's concept of ideology at all.

    Could China or Europe create their own hegemons at some point? Sure... nothing's eternal. But neither, at this point, shows any sign of taking over anytime soon.
  4. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Great posts, guys, the both of you. :)

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