Saturday, January 08, 2005

Thinking long-term

At the moment the US posesses unrivalled hegemony; they're top dog, and many Americans (including their President) seem to revel in rubbing it in. The problem is that it isn't going to last. A quick analysis by MaxSpeak shows that the "unilateral moment" is likely to pass sooner rather than later as the Chinese economy grows. Matthew Yglesias looks at this and concludes that

The policy goal of indefinite American military hegemony is simply incompatible with the goal of continued growth in Chinese and Indian prosperity. A policy of trying to deliberately perpetuate the impoverishment of 3 billion human beings would be morally problematic, as well as pragmatically hard to pull off. Thus, no indefinite American military hegemony.

Right-wingers like to pooh-pooh the Chinese economy, claiming that growth rates are overstated, that it's all just flash in the pan, and that China will inevitably collapse - meaning no threat to American dominance (at the same time they're usually frothing at the mouth about the "ChiCom" danger - which is a great example of doublethink in action). But even if they're right, and if China descends into civil war again (as it did for half the twentieth century), the underlying point remains: nothing lasts forever. America's empire, like all empires, will eventually fall. America would be wise to plan for this eventuality. Yglesias again:

we really should be spending the next five (and ten, and fifteen) years on trying to make sure that the global system is on a trajectory such that we can continue to be comfortable with that trajectory once we are no longer hegemonic.

Instead though, the US is trying to undermine the present international system in favour of a "winner take all" model. But if they succeed in this, they are going to be very uncomfortable indeed when someone else is eventually the winner...


That China should eventually overtake America as the worlds largest economy is not in dispute. Your caricature of America is rubbish. America promotes an interdependent global economy and democracy. To believe that the UN is the way forward in the face of all the evidence to the contrary is a dis service to your independence of thought. more thoughts on my blog

Posted by sagenz : 1/09/2005 12:06:00 AM

As hegemon, the US clearly does not believe that its power should be restrained in any way, either by the international community (witness its dismissive attitude towards the UN and other nations in general) or by its own past promises (witness its withdrawl from Kyoto, the ABM treaty, and the ICC). It also seems to think that it should be able to leverage that power to its own advantage without limit. These facts are simply undeniable.

I should also add that its a problem in internal US politics as well. While the Republicans are doing most of it at the moment, politicians from both parties seem as a rule to be unable to look past the momentary opportunities of temporary political advantage and take a long-term view...

In both cases it is grossly short-term thinking, and those currently exploiting the benefits of temporary power are not going to like it one bit when the shoe is eventually on the other foot.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/09/2005 12:44:00 AM

Tony Blair, China and Putin are taken seriously by Bush. If you think a bunch of corrupt bureaucrats like the UN deserve the respect of the US administration you are on drugs. Kyoto is flawed. it costs too much for what it achieves. Bush spending $15bn on AIDS is a far better priority. Why should Gw allow lawyer fucks in belgium to bring PC cases against its people and its military. There is nothing wrong with the ICC in principle, it is the way it would be used to grandstand against america that would be the problem.

Posted by sagenz : 1/09/2005 10:21:00 AM

the age of US unilateralism will be over the age if chinese unilateralism will begin. They will see the UN as jsut as fallible as the US does (as it will get in their way) and when they are in that positions most reasonable people would consider that they will make the US look like a cuddly little bunny. It wount matter how committed the US was to the UN.

Posted by Genius : 1/09/2005 08:34:00 PM