I ran across a provocative post at There Is No Plan calling for an increasing emphasis on US hegemony throughout the world.
The author first defines neo-liberalism (good hegemony) against neo-conservatism (bad hegemony):
We neo-libs do not feel that military power is the key to our continued dominance. Instead Neo-Liberalism calls for a Wilsonesque revival of America’s power through goodwill and largesse, backed by a Rooseveltian (and I mean Teddy) “big stick”.
Then the global centers of power are broken down into component parts: China, The Middle East, Europe, non-governmental organizations, etc.
While I certainly agree that “(w)e must regain the political and financial initiative in our dealings with Beijing” and that the problems of the Middle East should be considered one BIG problem, I hesitate to endorse full hegemony overseas.
I suppose it makes more sense if you look at it as a long-term project, because we clearly don’t have the resources to maintain such a construct at the moment. Getting China off of our back would have to be paramount.
So say this happens: our economy kicks into gear, The Middle East is relatively peaceful, and we have military bases in more countries than ever before. Countries like Pakistan develop a large middle class and religious extremism is in decline. Doesn’t history tell us that countries that develop in this way ultimately desire greater degrees of freedom? Isn’t the United States itself a testament to this?
What might likely occur is that acts of rebellion within these countries will be met with the stifling of civil liberties, threats of violence, then perhaps actual violence, i.e. the “big stick.” How else would we maintain our hegemony?
I’m inclined to agree that the US has the potential to be a force for ultimate good in the world. Providing a good example for other countries by instituting universal health care is a worthy first step. Getting out of debt with China is another. Perhaps this shows my bias toward setting discreet goals and achieving them. Setting a goal for global hegemony, however noble the aims, seems a bit starry-eyed and utopian.
Very few countries appear willing to adopt American-style democracy wholesale. How do we get our allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan) to adhere to modern notions like freedom of speech and labor protections? When labor unions become legal in Dubai, I will whole-heartedly pledge allegiance to the American hegemon.
Emmanuel Todd, in After the Empire:
(America's) specialty within the world has become, by a series of historical accidents, the defense of a democratic principle perceived as being under threat: by Nazi Germany, by militaristic Japan, and by communist regimes in Russia and China. The Second World War and then the Cold War have institutionalized, as it were, this historical function of America. But if democracy triumphs everywhere, we arrive at a paradoxical endpoint wherein the United States would be of no further use to the rest of the world as a military power and would have to accept being no more than one democracy among others.
I think only an extreme optimist would ever predict that democracy would triumph everywhere. Even if it did, wouldn't the reigning superpower be motivated to pretend that a threat remained, somewhere out there (if only to justify military expenditures)?