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Thread: American Power

  1. #1

    Default American Power

    It's like, believe it or not, I'm not a neocon nut. I'm not a Cowboy. I don't have the means to watch Fox News. I read the Guardian more than the Telegraph or even the Times.

    I've read quite a lot about the abuse of American Power, especially under Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr, and Clinton.

    But reading the use, and abuse, of American Power as one consistent line seems rigid and counterproductive to me, especially now, when US foreign policy and international politics have both changed profoundly.

    The worse thing afflicting Bush's foreign policy is hypocrasy and lack of consistency, not neo-imperial aggression. For example, to bolster the idea of promoting democracy in the Middle East, they should promote fledgling democracies like Jordan and Bahrain, and vocally support the massive push for reform in Iran (maybe engagment is better than attack in this case: new ties between Iran and the US might, actually, kick off serious opposition to the Mullocrats), and, on the other side, distance themselves from the corrupt and disgusting House of Saud.

    Connect America to its rich vein of political literature: to critique its power interests and its State gangsters and fundamentalist nuts, but also to counter the prevalent mode of thinking that tars the US as neo-imperialist or, even, neo-fascist.

    Cos I'm not buying that argument, especially when it's based on analysis that's over 10 years out of date.

    The best and closest of you, like Sufi and Luka and Mark, have twigged that my attitude to US power is complex, convoluted, and somewhat derivative. I can't deny that. Actually, my attitude is also based on studying the greatest scandal of the last decade: Rwanda. So let's talk about the idea of intervention, too. Because serious intervention to stop such catastrophes (see the Balkans in particular) rests, for success, on US military balls.

    But to start, as Thomas Friedman put it, some reading: the US constitution, Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speech, and the Declaration of Independance. I'd add to that: the Prospect interview with and the <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?041101fa_fact">New Yorker portrait</a> of Paul Wolfowitz.

    Now, let's argue. (Come on, don't embarrass me, don't let this thread die, I know you all care passionately about this...)
    Last edited by craner; 10-12-2004 at 12:34 AM. Reason: I'm not telling.

  2. #2
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    you want to get pearsil in here,
    not sure if he's a neo-con either , but we're straight into discussing american power on darfur thread...
    i wonder if he'd agree with this:
    Quote Originally Posted by OC
    Because serious intervention to stop such catastrophes (see the Balkans in particular) rests, for success, on US military balls.

  3. #3
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    You can't use html on this board. Links work like this: [ url = http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?041101fa_fact ] blah [ /url ] (just remove the spaces)

    Paul Wolfowitz interview

    I'm not a neo-con, I'm basically a centrist who can swing quite a bit in either direction as I see fit. Mostly I dislike any systematic world view that claims that everything can be explained by looking through a certain prism - it's bullshit. I'm harsher on left-wing view points than I am on right-wing ones because I used to be a fairly orthodox liberal, but once you start questioning one aspect of it you find you have to re-evaluate a lot of your positions.

    As far as the discussion of American power goes, I broadly agree with you. I'll wait to see what else this thread throw up before I add my thoughts.

  4. #4
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    one thing right away: i need to find it again (hang on) but i read a comparison of the iraq invasion with an imagined rwanda intervention that contended that iraq was by far the easiest country on earth to invade; i think this was meant to have a chilling effect on any iran-talk. Iraq: lots of int'l "blue" water around to park carriers, surrounded by unsupportive or enemy states, 3 US allies among them, and the country itself photographed and bombed daily for a decade after an earlier overwhelming defeat. Rwanda had none of these handy logistical features and a "humanitarian" goal which always makes defense beancounter types nervous. But it's general thesis was "Iraq, easy; Rwanda, hard."

    ok i looked, but googling "Rwanda Iraq" turns up a billion things, sorry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oliver craner
    The worse thing afflicting Bush's foreign policy is hypocrasy and lack of consistency, not neo-imperial aggression.
    For what it's worth, I think that's dead right.

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    this thread is only going to be good if you can get someone to call america 'facist lite'
    then you can shout slogans at each other and get increasingly heated and unpleasant.
    it'll be really boring if everyone goes, yeah, good point about america, theyve got some good things going for them.

    iraq and afghanistan weren't really straight intervention, they certainly weren't sold that way. clinton did more actual intervening. i think its odd how you keep defending bush by reference to all the intervening (which he hasn't done) but, as i understand it, thats how you came to be a bush supporter, because you think its up for intervention and you think intervention is brilliant.

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    and by the way oliver, i'm not happy about being told to read a 500,000 word article on wolfovitz just to learn that 'some of his best friends are muslim'
    that took up a lot of my time, i could have been cutting my toenails.

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    ok, however far off it may be, wouldn't a better idea (than american intervention) be a functioning European army, or more realistically some kind of revived Nato that had and was prepared to use force?

    What the world needs most now is America being drawn back into a multilateral foreign policy environment. The UN, as far as the US is concerned, seems as discredited as the League of Nations was a couple of generations ago. In the FT, I think, there was a good article about a month ago proposing the idea of a new league of democratic nations, with some kind of pooled army. The key point of this league would be that it only admitted countries who could pass a strict democratic audit: no failed states, no theocracies, no corrupt princedoms. The authors suggested that America, in its current overstretched position, might welcome this potential support. what do people thinK?

  9. #9

    Default blah blah...

    Well, put! I was expecting more bile and silliness than this. Jeepers. Was the tone of my question too conciliatary? North Korea next! Nuke Tehran!

    Oh and the thing about Rwanda is this: the point was never full scale invasion a la Iraq. Basically Clinton dropped to ball badly and got his administration to say anything to get out of admitting that straightfoward, clean-cut genocide was being unleashed, and with this US reluctance to get involved in any capacity, the UN was too tied and timid and weak to do anything, and Romeo Dallaire (you shoild never forget him) was militarily paralysed, stuck there with his troops watching Tutsis being machine gunned and chopped to bits, without being able to do anything. Clinton didn't want to get sucked in BECAUSE of, among other things, the nightmare in Somalia...oh, anyway, you get the picture.

    I liked it when Madaleine Albright tackled Colin Powell, who didn't want his boys going anywhere near the Balkans, and said "what do we have this big army for anyway?"

    He went mental! "I almost had an aneurysm," he said.

    Intervention isn't just military invasion, of course: it can = good old diplomacy, like Colin Powell helping to diffuse nuclear war between India and Pakistan, although India's powerful IT sector probably had the most influence there.

    Bush hasn't really "intervened" at all. But he has destroyed two nasty regimes, and scared a bunch of others witless. Therefore he's empowered the opponents of tyranny across the world, unless they're in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan or...

    There are people here, I know, who despise America, and not just because of Bush and not just because of the American military, but because of American everything. The United Snakes crew.

    I want to get them out of the woodwork.

    And K-Punk's already decided that America is a fascist superpower. So where's the K-Punk chorus?

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    trouble is those failed states, theocracies and corrupt princedoms are inherently suspicious of any intervention, not to mention the concerns of various democaracies with similar suspicions...international relations have (& i'm not defending them) grown up with various working concepts (such as sovereignty) that are difficult to replace, though the us seems to be attempting to do so...in many reespects for itss own interests, which leads back too the former suspicions...rather ethnocentric to limit the moral authority of sadi body to 'strict deemocratic audit'...no? also weren't the authors rather close to an essentially internationally authoritarian position?
    Last edited by rewch; 10-12-2004 at 11:29 AM. Reason: missed out a word & thanks for romeo's name...see darfur thread

  11. #11

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    Robert Kagan made the same point in 'Paradise and Power', he reckons that the key to peace in the future between US and Europe is by Europe investing more in its military and becoming a counterweight, in some respects, to the US.

    He's like, otherwise European resentment of US dominance will fester and become something much more malignant. It's literally military power that creates the gulf: economically, Europe and the US are more equal.

    And, the best thing for Darfur, for instance, is a strong, functioning African Union army. And the leaders of the free world willing to say the word genocide when they ought to.

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    yeah in terms of your argument, (intervention is cool, use to Power to defeat Evil), the us can't really do it anyway because it doesn#t have the public support, the military muscle or the dollars. it might be able to handle a couple of projects a year, but theres loads of fucked up shit in the world. if you want to have a go at every fucked up situation you need an international body.

  13. #13

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    Of course, but an international body is no use of it cannot handle a situation with any skill or consistency, or if it's used as a mechanism for countries to protect their own interests by censoring those of others, because then nothing happens. The international body slumps into a state of paralysis and then everybody else is paralysed too. I'm thinking of France in relation to Rwanda, and Russia in relation to the Balkans, in particular.

    It would help if things like NATO, the UN, the African Union had some teeth. If more money was put into their armies. Because when things need to get done properly, the US are the only ones with the right kit and convinction to do it. They have mental shit, they can land fighter jets in the dark, and everyone else has rag tag armies in comparison.

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    Damnit, I was really trying to not to get sucked in to Dissensus untill after my exams were done, but this lackluster argument was just too much to take!

    so basically, I take issue with this:

    Originally posted by Oliver Craner
    But reading the use, and abuse, of American Power as one consistent line seems rigid and counterproductive to me, especially now, when US foreign policy and international politics have both changed profoundly.
    Surely you realize that this argument has been used many times before, during many previous administrations? The myth of change: "Well the US gov't may have done some bad things in the past, but things are different now, and stuff like that can't happen now." Yes the Bush doctrine of preemptive war is definitely new, but in reality it just makes explicit what has been implicit in America's foreign policy for decades: that the US will unilateraly act to protect it's interests.

    So basically, I'm interested to know why you think US policy is so suddenly different now. Many of the people in the Bush administration have been around for a long time (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.). Reagan already had a war on terror back in the 80's. And US economic interests have really not changed at all since Clinton, and have changed very little in the last 50 years or so. America has abused its power pretty terribly in the past, and many of the same people that performed that abuse are still in power, and many of their reasons for performing these abuses are still just the same.

    Basically, 9/11 has been used as a pretext to persue existing and long standing goals. Things haven't really changed.

    Hopefully this get's things going a bit more!



    (yes yes I know, university student with leftist politics. shocker! )

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    Well, perhaps you can tell me of a great power (either global or regional) in history that has not abused its power somewhat?

    Since obviously you think many US actions in the Cold War were bad (and I'll surely agree on some of them) I'd be interested to hear whether you think some of them were necessary in countering the Soviet Union. Or are you of the leftist school that holds that American actions in the Cold War, morally, were the same/worse than those of the Soviet Union and China in the same period? If the overall result (end of Communism) was a good thing, is that end unjustified by some of the means?

    I guess we're getting closer to the heart of the matter now: is it possible to have a purely benevolent foreign policy if you are a nation that wields great power? Where should governments draw the line between their responsibilities to their people and their responsibilities to the world as a whole?

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