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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

“Should we be seen as a hegemon that imposes its will on others, or as a beacon"?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) May 2nd, 2012

Here is an enlightening article from the New Statesman. In it, the author is invited to hear the result of a lengthy study by a group of up-and-coming officers at the National Defense University at Fort McNair. This group was faced with a difficult burden: “In short, what should America do over the next decade to sustain its global pre-­eminence?”

Their finding was that the chance for the US to shape global politics will have passed significantly by 2021. Other findings were even more startling:

It should not to go to war with Iran. “We have to be able to learn to live with a ­nuclear-armed Iran,” the briefer said. “The alternative [war] would impose far too high a cost on America.” In Asia, the US should recognise the inevitable and offer the green light to China’s military domination of the Taiwan Straits. In exchange for the US agreeing to stand down over Taiwan, China would push North Korea to unite with South Korea. Finally, the US should stop spending so much time and resources on the war against al-Qaeda (the exercise took place about three weeks before Osama Bin Laden was killed). All this was a means to an end, which was to restore the US’s economic vitality.

They went on to say savings from military draw-downs should be spent on infrastructure, education and foreign aid. Was this possible? The presenter said:

“We would need to persuade our friends on the Republican side that America has to share power if we want to free up resources to invest at home,” the briefer said. “We tried really hard to come up with alternatives. But we couldn’t find a better way to do this.”

The writer was also able to interview Admiral Mullen’s, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time. He is quoted in the article as saying:

“We are borrowing money from China to build weapons to face down China,” he said. “I mean, that’s a broken strategy. It may be OK now for a while, but it is a failed strategy from a national security perspective.”

The writer then made the point drawing from Adm. Mullen’s words:

Mullen spoke of the need for Washington to take more effective decisions at a time when the US is entering a lengthy phase of fiscal austerity. It was clear he did not think Washington was up to the task.

I encourage all interested parties to please read the article.

My questions are:

Is American hegemony important?
If American hegemony is waning, what sort of world should we strive for?
In a world where force is more balanced between various powers, what should an American role be?
As an individual American, what can we do to bring about change?

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19 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

Well, let’s see: :

preponderant influence or authority over others : domination

the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group

Of course hegemony is bad, but I don’t have a solution. Due to our business intensive ideology, someone will always be hurt to obtain resources and make money even if it isn’t the U.S.

Trillian's avatar

If this was extrapolated in any way from Dr Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, I would suggest they listen to him.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Blackberry : I think you read the Noam Chomsky interview from the same issue of New Statesman. I am intensely interested in knowing what you and others think about a world out of the kind of balance we are accustomed to. The article in question directly states that even the military leaders in the US are calling for a reduction in military spending to be balanced by an increase of some measure in domestic spending along with increased foreign aid.

@Trillian : Can you expound on Dr. Bueno de Mesquita’s ideas and tell us who he is?

Blackberry's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Yeah, there’s a lot of things we can do. Definitely cutting military spending and putting that back into domestic means. I think we can achieve some balance, because as we all know there’s some unfair policy and money management.

I just don’t think our government is capable of doing that because hegemony is a core fiber of America’s ideology. We’re arguing about raising the tax rate for people that make more money back to a number it already has been in the past. We’re arguing about helping people get affordable healthcare. We’re arguing about lowering taxes after we’ve spent trillions of dollars on wars.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

American hegemony is important, and I say this very carefully. I don’t care if it is American Hegemony or European Hegemony, or even Chinese Hegemony. Hegemony is stability, and stability means more people eating. But it is always going to be American Hegemony.

American hegemony is not waning. Perhaps I am cynical, but I remember Japan threatening our domination in the 80’s and no nobody worries about them now. The only nation with something close to our geographic gifts would be Australia, and they are already overpopulated based on their ability to grow food.

America is exceptional in a very simple way: We are young. We change. In a thousand years we will still represent youth and promise.

People who tell you America is in decline are likely to be pessimistic about most things.

My father grew up in the depression. The first thing he taught me about economics is that when somebody lends you money, they can’t get blood from a stone, and they damn well want you to find a good job.

What can we do to fix things? Invest in our children.

mazingerz88's avatar

Can’t resist reacting quickly to that line about allowing China take Taiwan in exchange for China pushing North Korea to unify with South Korea. If that happens, I can’t help likening America and China to the two biggest Mafia Dons sacrificing one capo ( Taiwan ) in favor of another. ( Korea ) Sounds thuggish. Unprincipled.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Yes, @mazingerz88, you make an excellent point about the study cited in the article. It could be said, however, that China has everything to gain by allowing Taiwan to maintain its economic independence in order to foster its burgeoning economy, which very well might suffer under rule from Beijing. At the same time, the people of North Korea have everything to gain and nothing to lose with reunification with the South.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Why should any peaceful country desire for America to sustain its global pre-­eminence?

America should be militarily strong enough to defend its territory and citizens and to work with its allies to keep or restore peace when some rogue state is bent on world domination or ethnic cleansing or inflicting some holocaust on some identifiable group.

It is not America’s job to approve or disapprove of an other country’s government simply because it is not capitalist. America can no longer claim to be a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Persistent racism, xenophobia and widespread disenfranchisement of most people from the setting and pursuit of national and even state and civic objectives has turn the USA into an oligarchy run by and for the very rich and the most powerful corporations. As self-appointed cops of the world they have initiated multiple wars in pursuit of profits for the USA and then abandoned the decimated countries when costs exceeded anticipated profits. The growth of the religious right reflects the desire to keep on with the same harmful policies at home and around the world.

If the USA was to select the best of the founding principles and work for a country where peace, respect and equal rights for all were central, they could serve as a beacon. It is about leading by example rather than by imposing regime change elsewhere.

wundayatta's avatar

We need to give up our hegemony for the simple fact that we have totally fucked it up. Our foreign policy has caused us far more grief than ever would have happened had we done nothing. The sooner we learn to do more nothing, the faster our economy and the world’s economy will grow.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence : That’s a good question. I don’t think any peaceful country should desire a powerful US above and beyond what you describe. Indeed, it is not the job of the US to set up or destroy countries or governments. It will be interesting to see how other jellies feel about some of your other ascertains that the US is set already an oligarchy. I’m not saying you’re incorrect, but I don’t have the time right now to debate it. I believe that quite a bit of the sentiments addressed in the article would agree that we should lead by example.

@wundayatta : Giving up power simply because it has been abused in the past is not always the best idea. Change is possible. If the Bush administration had done nothing in light of the global financial crisis of September, 2008, we would be in far worse shape economically than we are now. As it stands, they propped up the banking institutions and coupled that with the Obama administration’s stimulus package, it’s arguable that 2 giant industrial firms, GM and Chrysler, were saved along with millions of jobs. Doing nothing in that situation would have resulted in catastrophe.

wundayatta's avatar

I thought we were talking about foreign policy. Anyway, I don’t think we should do nothing, just more of it.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@wundayatta : LOL. I, too, am all in favor of more of nothing.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta & @Hawaii_Jake That’s it. We just haven’t achieved enough nothing yet.

Great article, @Hawaii_Jake. Thanks for pointing to it. What “Alpha” says is so true, and so amazing to hear form a group of the nation’s leading career military officers. What will it take to get our political leaders to wake up to the truth and begin to actually deal with it instead of continuing their partisan struggles to be this year’s Lord of the Flies? It’s at least encouraging that the majority of the American people get it.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@ETpro : I’m glad you enjoyed the article. It was well written and researched.

flutherother's avatar

If you look where the money is spent it will tell you. The State Department budget is $16 Billion while the military budget is $700 Billion. If the United States is a beacon it is a beacon of corporate greed and hardly an example for the rest of the world to follow, even if this were feasible. The country is barely functioning as a democracy due to the influence of big money and its human rights record is embarrassing.

American hegemony across the globe is maintained merely to protect the supply of raw materials for industry. I no longer believe it serves any enlightened purpose.

jrpowell's avatar

I’m going to re-read Enders Game before answering.

DaphneT's avatar

That was an interesting article. It was certainly correct in that if we downsize the military then domestic spending on education, research and humanitarian aid should be increased to recreate a balanced economy. The word hegemon is derived from a Greek word meaning to lead, but nothing says it has to be negative. Of course we know from all the superpower stories that world domination is always a negative, since persons seeking world domination are only doing it for personal gain. Can it be called a personal gain when it applies to more than the government representatives?

In the final analysis, I’d rather be part of a hegemon than be a beacon for everyone’s antipathy. However, hegemonies come and go. If Prussia had stayed, would Hitler have risen? Why couldn’t the British Empire hold it’s lands? Why isn’t China what it once was? Why did the Roman Empire sink into oblivion? What checked the Russian expansions?

So we Americans are faced with the same tides of change. We could meet these changes gracefully. Or we could continue to fight change and keep electing government officials who chose to turn back the clock. My vote will be cast against those who wish to turn back the clock.

ETpro's avatar

@DaphneT Amen to that. Forward, not back.

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