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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

US + global dominance « Previous | |Next »
January 17, 2011

John J. Mearsheimer's Imperial by Design in The National Interest argues that the US opted for a flawed grand strategy after the Cold War. From the Clinton administration on, the United States pursued global dominance, or what might alternatively be called global hegemony, which was not just doomed to fail, but likely to backfire in dangerous ways if it relied too heavily on military force to achieve its ambitious agenda.

He says that:

Global dominance has two broad objectives: maintaining American primacy, which means making sure that the United States remains the most powerful state in the international system; and spreading democracy across the globe, in effect, making the world over in America’s image. The underlying belief is that new liberal democracies will be peacefully inclined and pro-American, so the more the better. Of course, this means that Washington must care a lot about every country’s politics. With global dominance, no serious attempt is made to prioritize U.S. interests, because they are virtually limitless.

This grand strategy is “imperial” at its core; its proponents believe that the United States has the right as well as the responsibility to interfere in the politics of other countries.

There is, however, an important disagreement among global dominators about how best to achieve their strategy’s goals.

On one side are the neoconservatives, who believe that the United States can rely heavily on armed force to dominate and transform the globe, and that it can usually act unilaterally because American power is so great. Indeed, they tend to be openly contemptuous of Washington’s traditional allies as well as international institutions, which they view as forums where the Lilliputians tie down Gulliver.

George Bush pursued this strand after 9/11 as he planned to transform an entire region of the Middle East at the point of a gun.

The global war on terror meant that virtually every terrorist group on the planet—including those that had no beef with Washington—was the enemy of the US and had to be eliminated if we hoped to win what became known as the global war on terror, and that it was imperative for the United States to target these rogue states only actively supporting terrorist organizations but were also likely to provide terrorists with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) if it hoped to win the GWOT.

Mearsheimer says the alternative to neo-conservatism is liberal imperialism:

On the other side are the liberal imperialists, who are certainly willing to use the American military to do social engineering. But they are less confident than the neoconservatives about what can be achieved with force alone. Therefore, liberal imperialists believe that running the world requires the United States to work closely with allies and international institutions. Although they think that democracy has widespread appeal, liberal imperialists are usually less sanguine than the neoconservatives about the ease of exporting it to other states.

This strategy was adopted by both Bill Clinton and Barak Obama.

Instead of a grand strategy of global domination Mearsheimer advocates a strategy one of off shore balancing. This states that there are three regions of the world that are strategically important to the United States—Europe, Northeast Asia and the Persian Gulf.

It sees the United States’ principle goal as making sure no country dominates any of these areas as it dominates the Western Hemisphere. he best way to achieve that end is to rely on local powers to counter aspiring regional hegemons and otherwise keep U.S. military forces over the horizon. But if that proves impossible, American troops come from offshore to help do the job, and then leave once the potential hegemon is checked.

Its a more realistic strategy for an America as a declining power. The unipolar world is coming to an end, as the United States no longer has the economic capacity for an ambitious grand strategy to maintain a significant forward-leaning military presence in the three major regions of the globe (Europe, Northeast Asia and the Persian Gulf) and, if necessary, to wage two major regional wars at the same time. The strategy of offshore balancing is one way for America to navigate its decline.

The Northeast Asia region includes the challenge posed by China to the US.; a challenge emerging from China translating its economic might into military power and try to dominate Asia as the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere.

No American leader will accept that outcome, which means that Washington will seek to contain Beijing and prevent it from achieving regional hegemony. e United States to lead a balancing coalition against China that includes India, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam, Australia and Indonesia.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:21 AM | | Comments (5)


Great powers in decline seem to almost instinctively spend more on military forces in order to shore up their disintegrating strategic positions by firmly trying to contain a rising power.

Yes, unipolarity is becoming obsolete, other states are rising to counter American power and the United States is losing much of its strategic freedom.

"...spreading democracy across the globe..."

Or sometimes not.

Sometimes democracy (as we understand it) is not compatible with American goals.

How times have changed. China has arrived on the world stage in a major way --its on its way to achieving great power status.

A Chinese president comes to Washington to discuss the dollar with the US president. He will say that the president to get America’s fiscal house in order to ensure the safety of China’s large investment. The banker speaks.

Washington sees a rising China as a threat to a weakening America. The hawks are prickly and wanting to flex their muscles at China's expansion in, south east Asia. However, the Asia-Pacific region -- the emerging center of the global economy -- will become China's backyard.

China's traditional dependence on exports and an undervalued currency are coming under increasing criticism from the United States and other international actors demanding a "rebalancing" of China's export-driven economy. The mutual benefits of trade do not necessarily apply when one trading partner is practicing mercantilist or protectionist policies.

Globalization and Americanization are no longer virtually synonymous. America will never again experience the global dominance it enjoyed in the 17 years between the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 and the financial crisis of 2008. Those days are over.

I thinks a lot of Americans are missing the good old days, when they could thump the table ans spew stuff like this:

"The United States makes the UN work when it wants it to work, and that is exactly the way it should be, because the only question, the only question for the United States is what is in our national interest. And if you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but that is the fact." ~John Bolton

Well... of course there is no such thing as the American Empire. They just want to run the world to suit their needs... that's all.

Now tell me why India, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam, Australia and/or Indonesia would be so willing to be on (what seems to be) the losing team?