Monday, October 05, 2009

Exit the Hegemon?

Kenneth Anderson asks whether Obama's recent speech at the UN suggests a change in the US's approach to international affairs.

Mr. Anderson's view of America's military dominance suggests that the United Nations is really irrevelant in the context of global security and that Europe's armies are substantially incapable of any significant military operations.

So, the US is the world's policeman currently. But does Obama's speech signal a move away from that position?

NATO... is an extension to a very special top-tier crowd of the full benefits of the US security guarantee. Our allies trust it because it is not a collective security system; it is a US security guarantee in which the allies provide some legitimacy and the US supplies everything else. It’s a friends-with-benefits kind of arrangement. They trust it because they fundamentally trust two non-collective-action propositions:


  • First, the US will put it interests sufficiently first that it will not engage in free-riding behavior – even though, for the sake of some measure of gained legitimacy, it will not worry when others do.

  • Second, the broad security interests of the United States are sufficiently close to theirs, on a costs and benefits basis, that they will be willing to go along with the overall US security plan, even as they seek to alter it to meet their interests by the effect of talking, complaining, maintaining an illusion of collective security, and so on.


The question is whether President Obama is genuinely signaling a new paradigm [of]
Multilateralism...

[Perhaps Obama's speech indicates that the] Tired Superpower that wants to refocus inwards and let the rest of the world deal with its own problems...

One can’t say with certainty at this point – what the President would like to do is clear; not clear whether political events will let him. |They Made a Multilateralism and Called It Peace - Volokh Conspiracy|


It's a long article referencing even longer law review articles, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

In today’s version [of American Declinism] is a consequence of the loss of US dominance over the global financial system, loss of dominance of the dollar, and so on finally extending to undercut the economic basis of the US empire.

Michael Lind, whose intellect I greatly respect even when I find his ideas not at all right, has a recent essay linking multipolarity to the end of US security hegemony.

I’ve written quite skeptically about all this, in yet another unread academic article on the relationship between UN collective security, the Security Council, and the US security guarantee....

One of these days [America's] decline will turn out to be true... It is always possible for a society to eat its seed corn, and that seems to me an apt description of what the administration and Congress are proposing for American society domestically.

A long-term collateral effect... of debt-financing domestic social democracy is to starve the US security guarantee to the point that it can no longer even guarantee the freedom of the high seas.

Don’t get all schadenfreudey too soon, however .... The dream of global governance through international institutions and law is a lovely dream that supervenes, like oil floating upon water, alas, upon the fact of the American hegemonic security guarantee.

A genuinely multipolar world is not only a more insecure one ... it is also a more unjust one. Be careful what you wish for... [Dreams] of liberal internationalism [rest upon] the US’s clumsy and imperfect security hegemony ....

President Obama might well have put the capstone on human rights as the apex language, and signalled a return to a more multipolar world in which the apex language of values is, once again, world peace. |Id.|
We live in interesting times and this post (and the dozens of comments following it) are entertaining fare.

Based upon my own eccentric interests, I think the US security umbrella will increasingly be provided by unmanned vehicles and killer robots.

This will make it far easier to kill people and blow up their stuff whenever they threaten US interests or its allies' interests.

Of course, I think we also stand on the precipice of global ecological disaster and the jockeying for the top position in international politics is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Of course, when this Titanic sinks, it will take most (if not all) of modern civilization with it.

The decline of the United States relative to other countries is of minor interest to me, I am concerned that the damage we are inflicting on the planet as a whole is the real problem. See Earth Trends, for instance.

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