Monday, January 6, 2003

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The perils of hegemonic power

Michael Ignatieff's cover story on empirein yesterday's New York Times Magazine will be discussed in the next few days, but I actually think James Dao's Week in Review piece on U.S. troops in Korea makes many of the same points more concisely. The problem facing the U.S. is that even though critics on all sides are currently attacking the U.S. right now for trying to dictate affairs across the globe, these same critics are also likely to assail the U.S. for any retreat from its current positions.

Imagine for a second that the U.S. announced that it had decided to heed the calls to reign in its power. Say U.S. troops were pulled out of Europe, Korea, and the Middle East. No change in our economic or cultural policies, just a withdrawal of troops from the globe. What would happen? Undoubtedly, some of the animus towards the U.S. would dissipate in the short run. However, within the next year:

1) Japan would go nuclear.
2) The Balkans would be likely to erupt again, with Macedonia being the trigger this time.
3) Afghanistan would implode.
4) India and Pakistan would likely escalate their border skirmishes.
5) Israel would escalate its quasi-military actions in the occupied territories.
6) Arab fury at the U.S. inaction in the Middle East would rise even further.
7) Anti-American activists would criticize the U.S. for isolationism and inaction in the face of global instability.

I don't deny that the looming specter of U.S. hard power in Iraq and elsewhere is eroding our capital of soft power. However, to paraphrase Churchill, the current policy is without question an awful one, until you consider the alternatives.

On the margins, I believe that more accommodating U.S. policies on trade and the environment might buy an additional amount of good will from the developing and developed world, respectively. But those changes will not conceal the overwhelming U.S. advantage in military might, nor will it erase the natural emnity that comes with it.

posted by Dan on 01.06.03 at 09:53 AM


Dear Mr. D.W. Drezner
That's all just a bunch of B.S. Where is your proof, you can't just state that these are the alternatives if you cannot support your argument. Hell I learned that back in elementary and you're writing professionally? If you intend to stick to you hunch or whatever you want to call it you better come up with some sort of evidence to back it up. There is nothing wrong with a theory, most of our "known" world is theory, but with every good theory there is also good justification as to why this may be. Every theory whether it be scientific, mathematic or otherwise is one which at this point in time cannot be disproved. Currently the theory you have put forth, as to what would happen should the US withdrew all its troops, could easily be disproved if anyone had the time or interest. So, unless you desire to have such done so to you by a mere highschool student, I suggest you get on that evidence bandwagon and you get on it fast.

Theoretically yours
The Highlander

posted by: Angus MacTavish on 01.06.03 at 09:53 AM [permalink]

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