EMPIRE, HEGEMONY OR HYPERPOWER ?
Much thanks to Regions of Mind
for today's plug on the topic of " Is America a Hyperpower " currently a thread on the excellent scholarly listserv H-Diplo. This is a debate that has been simmering on the intellectual backburner since the end of the Cold War and is present whenever the phrase " unipolar moment" is tossed around. Jude Wanniski
, the former WSJ editor and highly influential behind the scenes GOP advisor unsuccessfully attempted to fire up a public debate on this topic several years ago but the issue had little traction prior to 9-11. Wanniski, a brilliant contrarian thinker by nature is the intellectual eminence grise behind the recent far right/right-far left attack on the Neocon foreign policy position represented by Max Boot, Donald Kagan, Wiliam Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and above all Richard Perle, who Wanniski considers " evil " and one of the "world's ten most dangerous men ".
It is a testimony to the reach of Wanniski that the former policy architecht behind the Reagan Tax cuts can see his arguments echoed in both The Nation and The American Conservative magazines and recycled in the mainstream press. Paul Schroeder
, the highly respected historian has picked up Wanniski's critique to an extent and expanded upon it, terming America at the crossroads between empire and a benign hegemony.
It is to my mind, a dangerous and foolish argument to regard America as any kind of "Empire", even if speaking in support of Bush administration policy or a broader Neoconservative view of the world ( which is anchored intellectually in Anti-Communism and resistance to the USSR, not in Zionism as Pat Buchanan, the Nation and Wanniski would have us believe). Empires are by their nature autarkies, America lives on free markets. Even Great Britain's brief and exceptional 19th century adherence to Free Trade between the repeal of the Corn Laws and the imposition of Imperial Preference does not change the historic effect that empire means a closed sphere, economically even more than politically. And in the political realm Empires are centripetal forces. America's effect on genuine empires - Spain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, even Great Britain - has been ruinously centrifugal for the imperialists and beneficial to the peoples they lorded over. To allow conventional wisdom to lapse into regarding modern America as an empire is to encourage in the long term the adoption of bad policies or justify not implementing vital ones - like disarming power-mad dictators before they use nuclear weapons.