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U.S. Foreign Policy: Attention! Right Face! Forward, March.
April 8, 2002 1:15 PM   Subscribe

U.S. Foreign Policy: Attention! Right Face! Forward, March. "...with no foreign policy experience, Dubya was essentially a blank slate, and U.S. foreign policy has been up for grabs since he took the oath of office. As everyone now knows, the main contestants consisted of two factions: one headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who represents continuity of policy with both Bush's father and Clinton; the other, led by Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, whose vision is far more sweeping, not to say Manichean. Since September 11, the latter faction has emerged as dominant and is using the 'war against terrorism' to impose its own, quite radical ideas on U.S. foreign policy and the global order. At their core, those ideas call for a world order based on U.S. supremacy and enforced by U.S. military power--a unipolar world in which the U.S. imposes the rules but, because of its own self-evident goodness, is not necessarily bound by them."

Ah, not quite lebensraum (yet), but "benevolent" Bushists bearing bratwurst abound.
posted by fold_and_mutilate (80 comments total)

 
Ah, not quite lebensraum (yet), but "benevolent" Bushists bearing bratwurst about.

Oh, Christ almighty. I call Godwin.
posted by dhartung at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2002


f_and_m, I think you're really on to something. Has anyone else noticed that square little moustache Bush is trying to grow? And how about those "concentration camps" he's building (using creative euphemisms like "schools" and "businesses"), which will no doubt one day be used to house and slaughter Jews like Ari Fleischer. And let's not forget all that talk about "annexing" Canada. I gotta tell you, the analogy is pretty much complete. Scary!

What an ass. Do you really think you prove your point with ridiculous hyperbole?
posted by pardonyou? at 1:34 PM on April 8, 2002


At their core, those ideas call for a world order...

I think the proper phrase is "new world order"... and we have unification of the lunatic left and right.
posted by quercus at 1:35 PM on April 8, 2002


Godwin's Law. Just in case I'm not the only one who had to refresh their memory about it. "Of course, knowing Usenet (or this forum), it won't do an ounce of good..."

Also, the word "Lebensraum" didn't ring a bell with me, so I did a couple searches on the Web and found links to lebensraum.org which gives me a "page cannot be displayed" error, and also there's some weirdo lady named Ingrid Rimland who is trying to initiate a "True World Order" and people seem to equate her with the invention or at least the modern introduction of the word "Lebensraum" which has something to do with Holocaust Revisionism - a reaquaintence with the evidence of the Nazi genocide of jews that probably attempts to rewrite the history so as to play down the events or dismiss them entirely. Am I even close or do I need to do more research? Someone please enlighten me.

Am I hijacking this thread? No, it highjacked itself. When someone starts a thread throwing out "Lebensraum" as if the whole world's supposed to know what the hell he's talking about, well I think asking for clarifications are in order. And backhandedly comparing Shrub to Adolf? Yes I concur Dhartung. Godwin's Law does apply here. I predict at least one of the replies following mine will mention pancakes.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:43 PM on April 8, 2002


Yes, we need the extra "living space" for our expatriate Baldwins, Altmans, Madonnas etc. to settle down and raise little celebrities.

What should we annex first? How about Notting Hill?
posted by coelecanth at 1:44 PM on April 8, 2002


It's a shame, since the article's an interesting read.
posted by solistrato at 1:57 PM on April 8, 2002


lebensraum=living room. Germany had always felt hemmed in by potential enemies on all sides of the country, and when they began to expand, it was under the name Lebensraum, the need for more Living Room, breathing room. Of course this eventually led to all Europe being considered as potential living (expansion) room.
posted by Postroad at 2:15 PM on April 8, 2002


When Dubya ushers in the Thousand Year Reich, you'll be able to eat pancakes in your living room from dawn til dusk, ZachsMind.
posted by RokkitNite at 2:18 PM on April 8, 2002


Pancakes suck!
posted by vbfg at 2:20 PM on April 8, 2002


Bad guiding metaphor: Hardt and Negri's Empire says it better. Think of it as 'the idea of America, wherever you go, whatever the cost' and you're getting closer. It's about not having to deal with parts of the world that make you feel momentarily unconfortable, the erasure of culture shock as anything other than the manageable, the quaint and touristy. Look at the wide-eyed psychosis of warbloggers seriously advocating a US annexation of Saudi Arabia 'to reshape Islam in ways that are more to our liking' and you're closer still (I only wish I could think up a way to recreate the West Bank from Morocco to Kashmir when I'm at the gym): turn Mecca into IslamWorld(TM), open for business for package tours. It's like the fucking Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, rampaging across the world, all the while assuring itself of its own benign purpose.
posted by riviera at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2002


"At their core, those ideas call for a world order based on U.S. supremacy..."

I have no problem with that whatsoever.
posted by davidmsc at 2:35 PM on April 8, 2002


the two creeps - rumsfeld and cheney have been hanging around republican administrations since the days of nixon, when they were vehemently opposed the freedom of information a- and appear to be behind the latest curtain of secrecy to enshroud the white house - which even liberty minded folks like dan burton are vehemently protesting.......
posted by specialk420 at 2:43 PM on April 8, 2002


I have no problem with that whatsoever.

My gut response: more power to the terrorists, then.

Because I know which scares me more.
posted by riviera at 2:52 PM on April 8, 2002


Show of hands, please: how many of those who just pissed all over this post actually read the link before doing so?

So what if the FPP had "ridiculous hyperbole" in it? It's foldy, what the hell do you expect? The fact that the post links to an excellent article doesn't seem to matter to certain people, who dismiss it out of hand because of the identity of the poster. At least, that's what it seems like to me. Please correct me if I'm getting this all wrong.

And:
Ah, not quite lebensraum (yet), but "benevolent" Bushists bearing bratwurst abound.

How can you invoke Godwin on that, when the statement itself is a facetious reference to Godwin? It's like, all meta and shit.

Some of you people need to lighten up, methinks.
posted by andnbsp at 2:55 PM on April 8, 2002


I like articles that make me look up definitions and seek out other viewpoints!
posted by roboto at 3:02 PM on April 8, 2002


My gut response: more power to the terrorists, then.
Because I know which scares me more.


Damn-Riviera-that is just a mindbogglingly idiotic gut response. I hope your brain overrode it.
posted by quercus at 3:04 PM on April 8, 2002


It is a fascinating article. It reminded me of this New Yorker article from a few weeks ago (which was discussed on metafilter here.)
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on April 8, 2002


Riviera: Lemme get this straight--you're more scared of the USA than you are of crazed terrorists who fly planes into buildings and blow themselves up in public squares and slice reporters' heads off...?!

Don't suppose you'd care to elaborate on your remark/s? Just curious.
posted by davidmsc at 3:21 PM on April 8, 2002


Perhaps riviera is from el salvador ? or at least knows a little about US foreign policy?


excellent post f&M.
posted by specialk420 at 3:32 PM on April 8, 2002


regarding cultural supremacy, ("For those right-wing ideologues espousing U.S. cultural supremacy, China and the Islamic world are often cited as the main threats to Western culture.") i was reading a debate this morning between thomas friedman and robert kaplan in foreign policy :) (via cowlix!) and it was interesting because the conversation, ostensibly about globalization, gravitated towards "local and national and regional identities" with china and islam (tunisia!) among examples :)

it's interesting to see identity politics creep into the discourse. like i guess questions about who you identify with become more important in a world with more exchange of ideas, less restricted movement etc. so when your allegiance becomes a commodity "cultural strength" supposedly translates into how many people you can lure to your side and you have bill bennet saying stuff like, "The central focus of our activity is public opinion."

as for america's hegemonic foreign policy, i was reading this thing by the antipope this weekend that argued american imperialism is/was/has been relatively benign, "Now, let's back up to the real roots of Americanophobia. Here's a big clue, David: the USA runs an empire..." in response to david brooks' article on bophos :) (via SDB :) the question i think is whether american "imperialism" is becoming more virulent, militaristic, mercantilistic about achieving its ends of exceptionalism or something. stross also suggests the "so what, replace it with socialism?" argument isn't any better either, but (vaguely!) hints at an alternative.

in my mind it's like a combination of what friedman and kaplan suggest, a technologically determined future, mediated by capital/commerce with (hopefully!) effective regulation by the state. and while identity politics (hearts & minds!) seems to be at the core of the clash :) exposing either, as brooks states, brutalist or etherealist tendencies at the expense of realist "bourgeois" pursuits of practical materialism or whatever, the way out i think is to transcend :) identity politics and consider its overarching obverse, relational politics! like it's not about us and them, man :) but how we relate with one another!
posted by kliuless at 3:44 PM on April 8, 2002


Also in the news today "catching bin laden was never the main objective".
posted by Settle at 3:46 PM on April 8, 2002


"Americans have been raised and educated in the belief that the political, moral, religious, and social manifestations of American culture are superior to those of other cultures."

Seems to me we've got a pretty good demonstration of that within earshot...

"More power to the terrorists" is dumb, yes. But "I have no problem with [a world order based on US supremacy]" is really dumb.
posted by ook at 3:54 PM on April 8, 2002


davidmsc, what if I said I had no problem whatsoever with 'a world order based upon Chinese supremacy', or 'Russian supremacy', or 'Islamic supremacy', or any other sort of hegemony? Now take a look at your own statement. Which is why my gut reaction was something like: if what's defined as terrorism is the only way to challenge that kind of self-denying imperialism, then so be it. Because it's that kind of smug we-know-best-because-we-are-the-best attitude towards anything that makes me, instinctively, want to punch the people who proclaim it in the face.

At least there are other options. Empires kill themselves, in the end.
posted by riviera at 4:07 PM on April 8, 2002


I thought it was an excellent post and took the lebensraum/bratwurst comment to be smartly funny and not at all as flame bait. The subsequent comment by dhartung almost made me laugh out loud. I don't know how serious he was about it, but it was funny.

The article makes some excellent points such as there hasn't been a shift in policy so much as a shift in the level of support for that policy, leading to the advancing of agendas that may not otherwise have been possible.

Can the Bush administration keep the gain turned up so that public support for it's policies doesn't waver? Hard to say. I personally don't think it will be possible without keeping us embroiled in conflict somewhere. And I think it will be hard to keep pointing to disparate potential threats and trying to coalesce them into an axis of evil that needs defeating.
posted by mikhail at 4:15 PM on April 8, 2002


Once more, I don't understand. Fold_and_mutilate posts an interesting and topical article we wouldn't have come across otherwise. He quotes a representative paragraph. The post couldn't be clearer. He then commits the unpardonable sin of adding one incisive, amusing sentence of his own. He gets slayed for using a German word which is commonly used, precisely because its translation is tiresome and misleading. The sort of word that is worth looking up and adding to one's vocabulary.

Still, can't complain. At least his merciless critics know what bratwurst is. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:38 PM on April 8, 2002


Miguel, not every comparison of the GWB presidency to the Nazi Party is a beautiful and unique snowflake.
posted by darukaru at 5:04 PM on April 8, 2002


You're doing it again, darukaru. The single sentence - which is allowed, no? - does not compare the GWB presidency to the Nazi Party. It extends the gist of the article and reminds us of "homeland security", "crusades" and other dubyious concepts. It's a warning. It's an opinion. It's also a joke. That was what I was trying to say.

Saying someone is comparing the Bush administration to the Nazi Party is calling that person stupid. It's unfair and absurd to extract that from the post. Besides, we know fold_and_mutilate doesn't mince words. Sometimes it seems that people here want him to be more extreme, less humorous and nuanced, just so he can better be jumped! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:20 PM on April 8, 2002


Actually, American hegenomy is a fact right now-the U.S. does dominate the world-and rather than waning-its influence is only starting-America is only 200 years old-as far as world history goes-its a supernova and the first shockwaves haven't even hit.
Riviera- The U.S. is not Russia, China or Islam. If denying moral equivalence between the U.S. and those regimes is "self-denying imperialism" then you must want to "punch me in the face." E-mail me you malevolent dumbass-we'll set it up.
Miguel-the article is not interesting. If you found it interesting, I am sorry. You are quite wrong to ascribe jocularity to the lebensraum comment. if you think it's clever or funny, again, I am sorry.
posted by quercus at 5:30 PM on April 8, 2002


quercus -- you're proving the article's point, more and more with every word you say.
posted by ook at 5:41 PM on April 8, 2002


umm yeah ook...I know. I don't have a problem with that.
posted by quercus at 5:46 PM on April 8, 2002


Maybe you ought to reread it, then. It wasn't exactly praising your position.
posted by ook at 5:53 PM on April 8, 2002


Because it's written by braindead leftists whose ideas have failed and have nothing further to contribute.
posted by quercus at 5:55 PM on April 8, 2002


ook said it. Define lebensraum in the context of Hardt and Negri's Empire, as 'making the world more comfortable (or more agreeable) for the USA', and you get to the heart of the article. There was a book written a few years back on 'non-spaces', looking at how airports try to strip away the effect of being 'somewhere foreign' on travellers, and it's not a great leap to see the Rumsfeld-Cheney brand of foreign policy in similar terms. Romanes eunt domus, innit?
posted by riviera at 5:56 PM on April 8, 2002


What's this, then?
posted by roboto at 6:04 PM on April 8, 2002


Quercus - I absolutely disagree with the article and find it interesting. I see no possible parallel between Bush's foreign policy and anything to do with expanionism of any kind and yet I find foldy's remark funny. I remembered Basil Fawlty goose-stepping in that Torquay hotel.

These things aren't incompatible, you know. In fact they probably betray a conservative disposition. There's no need to feel sorry for me. There's no need to call the authors "braindead". Besides, if you really want to aggravate the lefties, humor the bastards and keep an open mind! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:07 PM on April 8, 2002


Fair enough Miguel
posted by quercus at 6:13 PM on April 8, 2002


*lefty steps up to the plate, swings bat, misses pinata-- what game is this?*

To my mind, what rules these days isn't America, it's chaos-- and we're looking at more and more of the world disintegrating into a "failed state" situation like Afghanistan, where your local armed gang fights the gang in the next region over.

There is at least one reasonable alternative to attempting to forcefully impose an hegemonic Pax Americana, which everyone knows can't be sustained indefinitely. It's a Pax Democratica, in which the countries attempting to govern by democratic principles join up and band together in a world that's extremely opposed to seeing democraty happen.

Re: "Lebensraum." Google's "translate" feature is really worth checking out! Hit "translate this page" for the 4th item you pull up, and you should get the picture-- more "habitat" for Germany. The cultural translation of "Lebensraum" would be "the German equivalent of America's Manifest Destiny." Even though the web makes it possible to look up more sophisticated terms, such as "manichean," (Cultural translation: cowboys in white hats vs. cowboys in black hats), Fulbright's old-fashioned "Arrogance of Power" still applies:

"The cause of our difficulties in southeast Asia is not a deficiency of power but an excess of the wrong kind of power which results in a feeling of impotence when it fails to achieve its desired ends. We are still acting like boy scouts dragging reluctant old ladies across the streets they do not want to cross. We are trying to remake Vietnamese society, a task which certainly cannot be accomplished by force and which probably cannot be accomplished by any means available to outsiders. The objective may be desirable, but it is not feasible...."

"If America has a service to perform in the world-- and I believe it has-- it is in large part the service of its own example. In our excessive involvement in the affairs of other countries, we are not only living off our assets and denying our own people the proper enjoyment of their resources; we are also denying the world the example of a free society enjoying its freedom to the fullest. This is regrettable indeed for a nation that aspires to teach democracy to other nations, because, as Burke said! "Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other." . . .

"There are many respects in which America, if it can bring itself to act with the magnanimity and the empathy appropriate to its size and power, can be an intelligent example to the world."

I do take issue with this fpif phrase: "Whatever the validity of U.S. military supremacy theory as a legitimate or effective defense posture ..." as we are moving towards a networked warfighting strategy, which is a much subtler way of going about things. (dhartung to the bridge! RMA. Take the wheel, sir ...)
posted by sheauga at 6:33 PM on April 8, 2002


Quercus, your masterful logic and compelling arguments have forced me to reverse my position.

"More power to the terrorists" isn't a dumb thing to say.
posted by ook at 6:37 PM on April 8, 2002


Riviera: davidmsc, what if I said I had no problem whatsoever with 'a world order based upon Chinese supremacy', or 'Russian supremacy', or 'Islamic supremacy'..."

The difference -- the whole freakin' point -- is that of all those systems, only the AMERICAN system is founded upon, guarantees, and thrives on Freedom, Democracy, Capitalism, Individualism, and other such noble principles. It is the best-case scenario in today's world of a society in which people are free to do as they please. No one can seriously make an argument that Chinese, Russian, or Islamic societies do the same. Some progress is being made in some of those societies, but none have done it as long or as well as America. I happen to be an American, but that does not undercut my point - these principles are universal. So yes -- American culture, founded on the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, should (and, I believe, eventually will) come to dominate the entire planet. Not in my lifetime, perhaps, but largely inevitable as societies around the world strive for freedom.
posted by davidmsc at 6:40 PM on April 8, 2002


Davidmsc: one might argue that capitalism and individualism are not the universal virtues you define them to be, especially the latter. Many societies find American individualism obnoxious, self-important, and foolhardy. Capitalism is also frowned upon in some parts of the world, though that is admittedly a rarer occurance.
posted by Ptrin at 6:51 PM on April 8, 2002


It was the French Revolution the made it possible for us to espouse freedom - equality - fraternity, and win the war against the British-- so the "American system" can't claim a full monopoly on democracy. Nor is it in our best interests to do so-- better to have a redundant network in which a variety of states promote the democratic position, with somewhat different strategies. (ptrin raises a good point -- we can expect ongoing tension between the characteristically American libertarian-individualist traits, and the "fraternity-solidarity" tendencies prevalent most everywhere else.)

"Bad guiding metaphor: Hardt and Negri's Empire says it better. Think of it as 'the idea of America, wherever you go, whatever the cost' ..."

As our great novel of the Boston Brahmins put it, "You can go anywhere in the world you like, George, but you will never leave Boston!"

Now that Americans are under instructions not to congregate together in foreign and hostile lands, like big flocks of sitting ducks, this attitude is going to have to change. We might actually have to start *mingling* with the natives now-- as if they were full-fledged humans too!
posted by sheauga at 6:59 PM on April 8, 2002


of all those systems, only the AMERICAN system is founded upon, guarantees, and thrives on Freedom, Democracy, Capitalism, Individualism, and other such noble principles... I happen to be an American, but that does not undercut my point - these principles are universal.

Yeah, right: and the Pope happens to be a Catholic, but that doesn't undercut his. Your excessive use of Capital Letters gives away your excessive Devotion To Dubious Abstractions. And you think other empires didn't promote the same myths of liberation? You're more naive than I suspected. And less of an atheist, given that you're engaged in an ideological idolatry towards principles whose supposed uniqueness is enforced only at the (necessary, facilitating) expense of the Dar el-Harb. Only one path to salvation, though Jesus America.
posted by riviera at 7:01 PM on April 8, 2002


The dyslexic in me read "bullshitists" not "bushists" at least 3 times. phooey.
posted by G_Ask at 7:15 PM on April 8, 2002


OK, my last comment was snarky and uncalled for, and I regretted it as soon as I hit the "Post" button.

Let me put it this way, and hope that I'm not completely wasting my breath. Quercus, I like America. I think there's a lot about America that's better than other countries. But I don't think the US has a monopoly on goodness and truth, and I find any suggestion that it somehow has the moral or legal authority to remake the world in its own image deeply disturbing. Military authority it certainly has, but having the biggest guns doesn't make you right; it just makes you dangerous.

davidsmc: The difference -- the whole freakin' point -- is that of all those systems, only the AMERICAN system is founded upon, guarantees, and thrives on Freedom, Democracy, Capitalism, Individualism, and other such noble principles

If the US followed those principles in all circumstances, even when it was not in its immediate best interest, then I would wholeheartedly agree with you. But we don't -- no nation would or ever will. HUAC. Japanese internment camps. Nicaragua, El Salvador. Secret military tribunals. Etcetera. We have a rose-colored view of our own history, but that doesn't make everyone else in the world automatically wrong.

Look at it from a capitalist perspective: if you give the US a monopoly on world government, it'll get sloppy, lazy, and inefficient. We need a free market of competing governments, with competing ideas, to keep us honest.
posted by ook at 7:16 PM on April 8, 2002


We need a free market of competing governments, with competing ideas, to keep us honest.

That might so for the various takes on democracy, but no one "needs" most of the world's population's forms of government.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:22 PM on April 8, 2002


ParisParamus: I agree. But I don't believe I, or anybody, has the right to choose which governments are "needed" and which aren't.

In a perfect world, there would be no passports: people would be free to leave a nation they find unsatisfactory and move to one that suits them better. What we have now is not a perfect world. But the hegemony quercus and davidsmc appear to be espousing is far, far worse.
posted by ook at 7:28 PM on April 8, 2002


Because it's that kind of smug we-know-best-because-we-are-the-best attitude towards anything that makes me, instinctively, want to punch the people who proclaim it in the face.

Ironically, your condescending attacks seem to have much in common with your above stated attitude.

Empires kill themselves, in the end.

Ah, very true...if only we were the only Empire at the moment, however. Lest we forget that the Islamic, Chinese, Indian, and European (less Britain) empires still exist in some form. So what you are suggesting is a collapse of world order, which *giggle* just isn't very likely.

There was a book written a few years back on 'non-spaces', looking at how airports try to strip away the effect of being 'somewhere foreign' on travellers, and it's not a great leap to see the Rumsfeld-Cheney brand of foreign policy in similar terms.

I agree with you here...to a point. US foreign policy is colonizing, no doubt, however, whose side are you on, riviera? If you aren't a part of the US empire, you must certainly belong to the European empire, correct? Frankly, I think it's someone else's turn. Europe dominated the world for quite some time, though through many fragments, i.e. British, French, Spanish.

And you think other empires didn't promote the same myths of liberation?

heh...quite the cheap shot. I'd like you to name me any government who fully believed in a purely equal citizenry. People separate themselves into castes; the govt. only facilitates this process.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:40 PM on April 8, 2002


robert kaplan responds :)
Unfortunately, we’ve defined democracy as the holding of parliamentary elections now or in six months. This definition is simply wrong. At the end of World War I, the novelist Joseph Conrad sent a letter to a friend in which he wrote that we don’t really fight for elections or “democracy” but for openness and freedom and human rights—in whatever form they may take in any particular country. I think that’s the right way to look at it.

Countries that already have sizable middle classes and decent political institutions may be ripe for the icing on the cake: democratic elections. We’ve seen that in Taiwan and South Korea, and in the southern cone of Latin America, despite Argentina’s troubles. But there are other places where holding elections too soon could lead to the opposite result.

For instance, Tunisia has increased the size of its middle class from 6 percent to roughly 50 percent of the population. Tunisia has one of the most open societies in the Arab world, with cybercafes everywhere—yet it has all been done through benign despotism. Had they held elections eight or so years ago, I believe there would be less freedom today. Similarly, Egypt is in a terrible situation, but if you demanded elections there tomorrow, there is a good likelihood that more oppression and a worse human rights situation could result. So what we have to do on this question of democracy is look at each individual country and place as it comes.
like democracy promotion in and of itself is not an unalloyed good! "It’s about rule of law, good governance, institution building, free press, and a process of democratization." [empahsis mine :] it's the mystery of capital, the riddle of steel!
posted by kliuless at 7:46 PM on April 8, 2002


No sweat ook. I don't think we have the right to impose American ways on anybody. There's plenty of things other Americans are trying to impose on me I want no part of.
Things are complex. It simplifies into whether you think overall America is a positive or negative force in the world.
America is going to spread faster and penetrate deeper into the world bones than any other empire has yet.
Forget discussions about democracy and individualism. Is there any place left on the globe that doesn't use money? That's America's foot in the door. We KNOW money. We can not avoid hegemony if we tried. The beast has to be fed, and if you think its fat now, just wait.
posted by quercus at 9:11 PM on April 8, 2002


Things are complex. It simplifies into whether you think overall America is a positive or negative force in the world.

Are you with us or them, right? Wrong...dead wrong. It does NOT simplify to positive or negative. It simplifies to picking your battles and choosing the most important issues to wrangle with. For instance, the US gives an enormous amount of FDI to countries such as India, China, and several Latin American countries. Good or Bad? Both. The US is supplying jobs and a new wayt of life for these people. The US is also destroying communities and subsistence and creating a form of indentured servitude. The KEY to this argument is to promote the former and prevent the latter.

America is going to spread faster and penetrate deeper into the world bones than any other empire has yet.

Only if Americans allow this. Look at Hinduism in India. Almost one billion Hindus exist in the world, yet, most are confined to the subcontinent. How is this possible? The ability to promote Hindu/Indian values while being aware of foreign cultures. Can the same be said about Disney, Coca-Cola, or McDonald's?

Yes, the US is the leading hegemon in this world. I live in the US and I'm proud to be a part of such a great country. Yet, if we simply allow foreign policy to trample foreign cultures and societies, how are we any better than European colonization?
posted by BlueTrain at 9:22 PM on April 8, 2002


The emergnce and dominance of this ideological strain is an inevitable and necessary. America is already a world imperial power, it's just taken this long for most Americans to see that this reality extends way beyond its traditional "backyard".

I'd just like to point out that all empires talk about their "benevolence" and their "civilizing values", an empire that doesn't engage in self-congratulatory rhetoric to bolster its moral fibre of its citizenry will never succeed. But stripping back the ideology, at its core American supremacy is good for Americans, just as British supremacy was good for the British or Roman supremacy was good for the Romans.

For everyone else, however, Pax Whoever-icus is always a mixed benefit. Somehow practice never quite lives up to the utopian vision.
posted by lagado at 10:20 PM on April 8, 2002


There's a difference between imposing a set of values on the world and the world (or it's individual units) deciding that your values are the best and that they want to adopt them. America tends toward the latter route.
posted by davidgentle at 11:16 PM on April 8, 2002


America tends toward the latter route.

You think? You're swallowing the propaganda like a good boy. All of that money spent on the School of the Americas? Waste of time! That invasion of Grenada - totally unnecessary! State-sponsored insurgency is just the garnish for popular acclaim!

What's even worse than this is the way that the US has consistently decided that the rather un-American attitudes to Freedom and the Other Great Abstractions adopted by certain regimes (eg Uzbekistan; Arabia, S.) are worth supporting regardless of whether the plebs in said countries might think differently. After all, the most important Capitalised Abstraction is obviously Capitalism. Prop up friendly dictatorships so that they make you feel at home, overthrow the ones that dare to question Big Banana - it's the American Way(TM)
posted by riviera at 12:03 AM on April 9, 2002


It doesn't matter if our empire is better than the empire of the Soviet Union, and then using that argument as an attempt to justify it. Imperialism is still wrong. It's like saying slavery is bad, but it's ok because we rescued the poor Africans from poverty and put them in America, where they were eventually prosperous. That in no way justifies slavery, it's simply an attempt to put a positive face on a blatant moral wrong (unless of course you think morality is always completely subjective).

Riviera, I agree with your critique of the hypocrisy of American imperialism, with one exception. Where I disagree with you is your indictment of capitalism as a principle which dictates imperialism. You cannot indict free market capitalism (a system which relies on voluntary exchange) for giving government the desire to coerce otehr nations. It is a problem of our system of government, which is no longer limited by its Constitution. Congress can make any law it wants, the President can start a war without approval (though it is unconstitutional), thus the government has immense power. Capitalist corporations see this power as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement, they wish to unjustly use the state for their own advantage. (but if they don't, someone else will, and put them out of business) If we lived in a true free market system, the government would not being going to war to benefit certain corporations, they would be following a very Keynesian model of government. In summary, it is the intervention of our government in economics which creates this unholy alliance of corporation and state. And then you get all this grand war-talk comparing the United States to the glorious 'republic' of Rome, even though they are of course referring to the Empire.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:34 AM on April 9, 2002


riviera, Man From the Island With No Blood on Its Hands, lectures us. Good show, old chap. How's Zimbabwe lately?

I wasn't going to write here, but sheauga called me out.

Lagado's point is key. We really already are the world's hegemon. There wasn't much that changed between dawn and dusk on January 20, 2001 -- but much that changed September 11. We had sent a decade being as benign, multilateral, and isolationist as we've ever been, under the working assumption that the defeat of communism had led us to the garden gate of a comity of freely-trading nations, with democracy spreading nearly by osmosis. We really had a lot of confidence this trend would continue; there was bewilderment at what we should do or be in the 21st century. Then, one day, we were reminded that some people really, really nursed a grudge -- heck, this one goes back to the 8th century AD (Osama's own words: "the tragedy of Andalusia", i.e. Spain kicking out the Muslims). Faced with that level of irrationality we've been tempered in the refiner's fire. The more extreme strains of Wolfowitzism won't happen -- the national consensus doesn't stretch that far. But a great many people do believe that the American Empire isn't some sort of abstraction, but a fact on the ground. Whatever we've done in the past, we're here, we're not going away, and we still retain our sovereignty and our right to act in our own interests.

We have discovered that one of those interests may not be waiting patiently for democracy to discover the Arab world, but that some arm-twisting or even force-feeding may be required. It's not so much that we feel the fire of Manifest Destiny, as that we'd rather they didn't come blow us up. Because of, you know, that Spain thing.

I'll be frank. We really, really hate when they do that.

Besides, nobody here really wants an Empire in the traditional sense. We're the Quiet American [new movie!] by choice more than the Ugly American. Foreign possessions are a hassle, and kind of icky. But we still wish to preserve the freedom of action of our own, and of our friends -- and these days, our friends is getting to be a darned long list -- that globalization thing all the kids are hopped up about. Maybe this Comity of Democracies really could mean something.

And this brings us to one more, extremely important, point. Prior empires were based on the assumption that there were, well, other empires out there. They were protecting their economic and political zones out to the farthest frontier. But in the 21st century, the economic zone headed by the United States contains practically everybody. The frontiers aren't outside; to the extent they exist, they're inside. The Visigoths are feeling a little hemmed in. Maybe that's why they strike out at us -- they're encircled.

To the extent that Negri's Empire represents anything but the addled post-Marxist fantasies of an allegedly reformed terrorist, yes, the World Culture brewed mainly in America is suffusing itself everywhere. It's easy to see why: as one deep thinker in Afghanistan put it, The Americans love Pepsi Cola. We love death. And the thing is, a lot of other people love Pepsi Cola, too. Pepsi Cola is going to seep into even the most feudally medieval parts of Afghanistan, and not because we put it there at the point of a gun. That's going to threaten some people, and they're going to blame us. We really will shortly be an empire without borders, an empire that defines itself not by what's outside but by something else. Maybe Pepsi Cola. Because you can always have Coke instead.

It's not so much that unfettered laissez-faire capitalism is an intrinsic good in itself, as that it's proven a lot more successful, down the ages, in making people better off, mis-steps and inequities and all. Even in smaller, more tolerable doses. Kaplan may be right that these freedoms are more important than democracy per se, at least in the early stages, especially when democracy per se means a quick ride to history's ash-heap of failed ideologies. The utilitarian argument may seem difficult, but one should focus on the ends.

Which brings us full circle to the "ongoing tension" mentioned by sheauga.
posted by dhartung at 1:17 AM on April 9, 2002


riviera, Man From the Island With No Blood on Its Hands, lectures us. Good show, old chap. How's Zimbabwe lately?

Independent for 22 years, at last check. Your point, Mr Horowitz?
posted by riviera at 1:31 AM on April 9, 2002


A small example-The First amendment is an American novelty-yes American-judging by Britain's libel laws they still don't fully grasp the concept-and, barring asteroids and nuclear explosions, this idea is going to be entrenched around the globe just as much as Edison's light bulb.
Are schoolchildren in Mongolia going to be forced to recite the pledge of Allegiance? I doubt it. That is not the nature of American empire. Furthermore, people can use their free speech rights to proclaim "Death to America" day. Cool with me. Once they exercise free speech, we've already won.
posted by quercus at 8:16 AM on April 9, 2002


The encroachment of American consumerism is not necessarily welcomed by all peoples as a democratising force. I certainly agree that America, in much of its underlying ideology, embodies many positive values, but so do (in my humble opinion) the majority of world cultures. Your mindset may not acknowledge it, but that's cultural relativism for you.
Free market economics and the concomitant rise of the big multinational corporations are a serious threat to real democracy, not a fabulous augmentation of it.
posted by RokkitNite at 8:54 AM on April 9, 2002


quercus, if you take a passing glance at the article we're supposedly discussing, you'll note that it's not at all about the cultural diffusion you're focusing on. Free speech is groovy, we can all get behind that one -- but I thought we were discussing the sudden uptick in US militaristic behavior post-9/11, not whether schoolkids in Mongolia should recite the pledge of allegiance.

Disagree with its points if you like, but simply dismissing it as 'braindead' and then wandering off into irrelevancies isn't going to win you many converts. Take a cue from dhartung: do your subject the honor of knowing something about it.
posted by ook at 9:46 AM on April 9, 2002


"It was the French Revolution the made it possible for us to espouse freedom - equality - fraternity, and win the war against the Br.." I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE RE-WRITE HISTORY. america-1776. france-1789 kay?"The Visigoths are feeling a little hemmed in. Maybe that's why they strike out at us -- they're encircled." you smart as hell dan but this wont cut it with all hemming, rome was not a sewing bee, they attacked because rome spread herself thin. Alaric and co. were alighned with rome to fight the huns. Theodosius already spilt the empire in two (no real consolidation only appeasment and delaying actions) Visigoths were not encircled so as to attack rome proper. hell, he tried a few times until sacking that baby....the frontiers were very real and very far. this hedged- in pop psychology is not true then as it is now...Arafat is literally hedged in...the terror has stopped to a degree, yes?
posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on April 9, 2002


I'd rather other things than Pepsi-Cola represent America abroad. But maybe we shouldn't be worried about our own image in the world, as such, than setting a good example (however defined - but having clean and fair elections, unlike 2000's, weeding out corruption both in business and politics, and dealing with the fact that we have 40 million currently without health insurance here and deplorable infant mortality rates, etc.) Oh, and choice is great, sure, and I actually do feel better after swearing off all colas and having the choice to buy good bottled water instead (the Coca-Cola company still gets my money via Dasani, at least ever so often). Not that you have to or anything. Just saying.

Anyway, Disney's better than radical Islamism, sure. Any day. But it hasn't stopped religious fundamentalism, even in the United States. It's in fact grown. How do you stop this? I don't know, really, but I'd suggest that actually dealing with some societal problems, in a serious way, is a start. The answer's surely not Pepsi, or we'd be trouble-free at home now.
posted by raysmj at 10:04 AM on April 9, 2002


"Disney's better than radical Islamism, sure. Any day. But it hasn't stopped religious fundamentalism, even in the United States" -ever see that "Jafar" flick. "Dick Cheney, whose vision is far more sweeping, not to say Manichean" Cheney is the one whom advocated more of a military role in combating drugs during George the one' presidency. So thats nothing new.
posted by clavdivs at 10:10 AM on April 9, 2002


ook the article has a whole subsection entitled "cultural supremacy." I agree with the points the authors make therein, only, as opposed to seeing U.S. cultural supremacy as a cause for alarm, I downright encourage it. This being a chat room my views get exaggerated of course, but so be it.
I am one of the people the article is warning you against.
posted by quercus at 10:25 AM on April 9, 2002


riviera: You reached back 48 years. What, exactly, are the time limits on this game? The Sunset-Free Empire is excluded, but the Cold War is fair game? Seems a little arbitrary to me.
posted by dhartung at 11:15 AM on April 9, 2002


Heh. Yeah, I guess you are. Congratulations.
posted by ook at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2002


The U.K.-our senile toothless grandmother who dreams of her days as a serial killer-don't fret grand-mere- just the other day an Argentinian general made noises about the Falklands-you shall taste blood a final time.
posted by quercus at 12:22 PM on April 9, 2002


I think we're tasting blood on your behalf right now, quercus.
posted by Summer at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2002


dhartung: excellent (and well-written) post. Thanks.
posted by davidmsc at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2002


Of course you're right Summer-my post was strictly trolling-though to be fair I don't think its strictly on our behalf as 9/11 saw a large loss of British life as well, did it not?
posted by quercus at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2002


Disney is not just better than radical Islamism. Disney is wonderful. Radical Islamism is medieval. The United States of America is a great country. So great you can love it or hate it - it gives you a lot of choices on both fronts. I love it. I wouldn't want to live there(guns, too many do-gooders and evil fanatics of every kind)but I love visiting and I appreciate all it's given to the world. It makes living fun and has a place for everybody and everything under the sun. It's full of pep and pizazz, innocence and wit, fantasy and truthfulness. It's just so damn addictive and loveable! And that's the truth. Others would admit it - if the chip on their petty European shoulders weren't so heavy and bitter.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:08 PM on April 9, 2002


I wouldn't want to live there(guns, too many do-gooders and evil fanatics of every kind)

Like, these really are oppressive influences? Surely you can find something worse about the US: the lack of universal healthcare; the default-setting bad-for-you food; something?
posted by ParisParamus at 3:15 PM on April 9, 2002


Disney is not just better than radical Islamism. Disney is wonderful. Radical Islamism is medieval.

And Radical Disney seeks to promote Mickey Mouse over religious thought in developing countries such as China and India. Disney has the monetary influence to jump into a country and develop a market without care for local cultures. If Disney were TRULY wonderful, they would seek to become profitable by selling these countries their own ideas, instead of purporting a market of cultural assimilation.
posted by BlueTrain at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2002


Surely you can find something worse about the US: the lack of universal healthcare; the default-setting bad-for-you food; something?

Nope, sorry Paris. Healthcare is getting better and will be universal one day. As for the food...well, where are you living? A New Yorker complaining about food? Don't you read Robert Whatsisname's(Sietsema?)"Counter Culture" in the Village Voice? American food is great; food in America is even better. New York food is...well!

Get off my case, you...you self-haters! :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:03 PM on April 9, 2002


A New Yorker complaining about food?

Try life beyond the Delaware, outside certain pockets of civilization.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:19 PM on April 9, 2002


Miguel: The number of uninsured Americans has increased by a few million over the past five years, even in the midst of an unprecedented economic boom. I'm down with the USA, I sing the national anthem at ball games and yell "go to hell" at the other team afterward and all, but jeez. Don't kiss our ass, already!
posted by raysmj at 7:55 PM on April 9, 2002


You reached back 48 years. What, exactly, are the time limits on this game? The Sunset-Free Empire is excluded, but the Cold War is fair game? Seems a little arbitrary to me.

Seems even more arbitrary that you forget that the negotiated transfer to full democracy and black majority rule in Zimbabwe was entirely orchestrated by the British, bringing to an end fifteen years of illegitimate minority rule under Ian Smith. The whites hated us in 1980; Mugabe hates us now. Comparing that process to US-orchestrated 'regime change' in Guatemala, or Grenada, or El Salvador, or Nicaragua, shows that you miss the point in a way that borders on the comical. Oh, and attempting to smear Negri with a cheap little personal attack, and a link to the New Republic, a journal that is now little more than a wet Weekly Standard, doesn't help you one bit either. I'm led to believe that the statement of inalienable rights you hold so dear was concocted by a bunch of allegedly reformed terrorists, as well.

Finally, 'good show, old chap' only exists in the vocabulary of a Mary Poppins England. as viewed through the distorting lenses of America. Which proves my point: I'm well past asking where you've parked your horse and left your ten-gallon hat, pardner.
posted by riviera at 8:51 PM on April 9, 2002


but you're still an idiot.
posted by quercus at 9:10 PM on April 9, 2002


I'm heartbroken that Negri must live with the consequences of telling bomb-throwers and murderous kidnappers that they were A-OK in his book. The man lives with an ankle bracelet, I've heard -- and I'm smearing him by saying that I think his conviction was probably justified? What is he, the European Mumia?

And I'll take your 15 years of British toleration of the Smith regime as the Gold Standard. Why, if the British role in Rhodesia Zimbabwe was laudable, then supporting Marcos can't have been half bad at all. That was a fun squirm to watch, though. Would you please do it again?
posted by dhartung at 9:11 PM on April 9, 2002


dan, your a punk. At least when im whipped, i have the balls to take it.
posted by clavdivs at 8:17 AM on April 10, 2002


quercus: we've already established that you epitomise the Ignorant American. You don't need to make it any clearer.

And I'll take your 15 years of British toleration of the Smith regime as the Gold Standard.

Oh, so now we're being blamed for 'tolerating' Smith's white rule, as well? Does 'toleration' entail 25 years of sanctions, imposed by Wilson within weeks of UDI? Or should we have followed the American Way, and dropped lots of Happy Fun Bombs on whoever happened to be around at the time. I suppose you'll argue that it would have been easier there: after all, it's easier to tell black and white apart than it is to distinguish Good Afghans and Bad. (Though less easy than it is to tell 'friends of America' from 'evildoers'.) Damn, you have a cheek to wave the imperialist shroud: Britain's spent the last 50 years trying to clean up colonial messes (most recently, Sierra Leone) while the School of the Americas gleefully exported its own version of colonisation, which has nothing to do with democracy or liberty. Why not blame us for Afghanistan, since the British were there 150 years ago? That way I could continue the drift towards bluster by invoking the US's embrace of slavery and genocide. Frankly, I'd sooner talk about SOA, as it shows the US commitment to free trade, by making torture and terrorism an officially marketable commodity. Or were you trying to avoid that point?

Attacking Negri -- for his previous actions, not his current ideas -- while evading the US's own export of terrorism: that's the kind of double-standard we've come to expect. It's really time for you to get off your fucking high horse and drink your milk, cowboy.
posted by riviera at 8:26 AM on April 10, 2002


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