American Hegemony

I guess the best place to start is to define the word ‘hegemony’ for those not sure of what it actually means…..

Hegemony comes from the Greek word hēgemonía, which means leadership and rule. In international relations, hegemony refers to the ability of an actor with overwhelming capability to shape the international system through both coercive and non-coercive means. Usually this actor is understood to be a single state, such as Great Britain in the 19th century or the United States in the 20th and 21st century. However, it could also refer to the dominance of a cohesive political community with external decision-making power, such as the European Union. Hegemony is distinct from Empire because a hegemonic power rules by influencing other states rather than by controlling them or their territory. Unipolarity refers to the distribution of military capabilities, whereas hegemony also refers to economic, social, and cultural power. The literature on hegemony tries to explain the United States’ role in the international system as a function of its privileged position within the system. Some scholars also see hegemony as an institutionalized coalition of powerful and wealthy states. Central questions to the debate are whether a hegemonic actor is well placed to shape the system, what strategies hegemonic powers use to define the system, if there are particular costs and benefits associated with exercising hegemonic influence, if other states gain or lose from hegemony, and under what conditions hegemonic powers endure.

With that in the rear-view mirror….let us continue…..

The US has been the main mover and shaker on the international scene since WW2 and the start of the “Red Menace”…..but recently that influence is starting to wane.

American hegemony is now on life support. Intensive care specialists are still scurrying about trying to resuscitate the patient. Family and friends are saying he’s still putting up a fight. However, the undertakers of this dying order have already arrived, and are standing just outside the door: one is named Russia, and the other China. When the obituary is read we will learn that the deceased is survived by an older cousin representing a different order – balance of power realism.

As John Mearsheimer observed, the unipolar moment after the fall of the former Soviet Union was an absolutely unique period of history. At that moment, and for the next 30 years, America was the only superpower left standing. Francis Fukuyama’s vision of democratizing the world proved to be an irresistible temptation for Western foreign policy elites. So, the evangelists of this new world order set out to spread democracy throughout Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

They used the existing architecture of cold war institutions like the UN, NATO, the EC, the WB, IMF, and WTO to spread liberal values, and to “addict people to capitalism.” Blinded by their own idealism, they couldn’t imagine anyone would reject such a generous offer. After all, as President George W. Bush often boasted, “Freedom is in the heart of every individual.” In other words, given the opportunity everyone would naturally choose to be free. Of course, this idea is an echo from President Wilson’s dictum, “The world must be made safe for democracy [emphasis mine].”

American Hegemony and the Politics of Provocation

After WW2 the US and its allies wanted the world to be based on the ‘rule of law’….but since those ‘glory days’ the US has moved further and further away from that high and noble goal.

The piece begins with a brief recitation of the origins and importance of self-determination and state sovereignty to the international system. This is immediately followed by a claim on behalf of the “coalition of democracies” to a right to violate these principles more or less at will.

This coalition, Spencer-Churchill writes, has “legally and morally valid justifications for intervention in a foreign country” first, “when there is a dire security threat that emerges within its sphere of influence” and second, “because liberal democracies have an unprecedented understanding of the world population’s aspirations for human rights-based rule of law and innovation-based prosperity for middle-income countries.” The policies of liberal democracies, he asserts “are moving in concert with the broader direction of history.” The citation for this last statement is a link to a brief summary of Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History.”

Why US hegemony is incompatible with a ‘rules-based international order’

How will this slide in principles end?

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”