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 American Values & Pax Americana

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Oct 19, 2001
This is more properly use of the diary as diary. This is thinking out loud in writing. I don't mind people seeing my thougt process on this subject. The purpose as far as I am concerned is to further refine what it is I want to do in graduate school. Thus I am out loud exploring the questions that interest me in a series of drafts like this.

Needless to say your comments (especially the offhand ones) are irrelevant, unless they further the substance of the questions raised in what I write.


More diaries by Inden
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Justice for the Victims of 9/11 ! :: (a minority viewpoint)
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I Am Not A Pacifist - Taliban Must Go - We Must Rebuild Afghanistan Afterward
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It's *not* their Economy Stupid!
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Struggle With Violence Is Eternal
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The Reason I'm Posting on Adequacy Despite Being Unwelcome
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Nobel Prize for Irrelevance: How Wrong I Was !
Nurturing Healthy Palestinian and Israeli Senses of National Identity
West Virgina Allegory
The ZogCore? Answer Man Is Here !
Christian Sponsorship of Rationlist Islamic Charity as Foreign Policy
Meine Ehre Heisst Speaking Truth to Power
Brief Public Service Reminder
Galactic Hitchiker Travel Advisory
Writer vs. Editor Relationship in a Nutshell
Further Refinement of the Study Question: Is This The Best Way to Run a Pax Americana?

Taking another run at the question I first posed as "Are American Values Consistent With Superpower Status?" in order to better grasp what my work is about.

Is this the best way to run an empire? Does US hegemony on balance do more good than harm for the world? Does it do any harm to America's civic culture and national spirit? What do we mean by good and harm? Can we be more objective when using these words, perhaps approaching even a quantitative set of parameters?

The argument put to me by Gavin (a Political Science PhD) compares the Greeks to the Romans. The Greek experience of empire was less robust because a) they tried to impose their political structure on their colonies, and b) by the time their democratic form of government could be moved to finally go to war, they had a tendency to have themselves worked up into an irrational frenzy that worked at cross purpose to the longer term interests of the state. The Romans by contrast were able to adapt their administrative model widely and robustly by leaving the local form of political culture intact. There is obviously more to this but I have yet to look at the sources recommended to me. At least this gives a beginning shape to the discussion.

What do we count as the positive benefits of US hegemony in the world? A global military policing presence accomplished through direct US forces, allies, clients, that has reduced large scale warfare between nation states. Global trade has been able to flourish in this less bellicose environment, thereby more widely disseminating Western business methods, access to international capital investment, and further integration of the world's economy. Global economic integration is seen as the approach by which the have-nots of the world can raise their material standards of living by increasing the amount of business they do with the haves.

Smaller scale wars, especially ethnically fueled conflicts, have become the principle threats to peace and order between organized groups of people. Terrorism, in that respect, could be looked at as the smallest scale tactic of warfare possible. Smaller scale wars and conflicts are superior to the larger national level conflagrations of the past century because their impact is less invasive to the societies involved as well as the other communities of the earth. This isn't to say that their impact is negligible or emotionally less potent or debilitating, merely that this is so in comparison to total war between nations. Thus, it can be argued, with the existence of only one superpower, the world is doing better in terms of misery brought about by armed conflict. This is a parameter that can be quantified in a variety of ways.

Economically there has been much more argument about the alleged benefits of global economic integration. The displacement of the traditional livelihoods of rural peoples in favor of cash crops with the resultant 'surplus' poor population crowding into exploding third world urban centers thereby experiencing a very significant and troubling radical reduction in their quality of life versus that of the village. The developed world applies the historical model of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States to argue that this currently miserable quality of life for a greater proportion of the world's inhabitants was a stage that was passed through in a matter of two or three generations in Europe and the US, followed thereafter by greater material prosperity and improved opportunities, health, education, civil rights, for the transformed societies. This is a considerably more multi-faceted discussion than the peace-war aspect of the preceding paragraph. There are so many ways to approach this phenomenon, sociologically, psychologically, economically, and theologically-ideologically (social justice), that one hesitates to begin - let alone attempt multidisciplinary quantification.

A potential shortcut might be offered by asking the question if the Pax Americana is a necessary condition for global economic integration. Can it not be argued that global economic integration has been proceeding since the period when global trade became feasible with improved sea transportation in the 1500's? How closely tied to globalization is US hegemony? Would not economic opportunity takes its course with or without the role played by the US internationally? Another huge hard to answer question and not so much a shortcut as it might first have appeared. With the extancy of two global superpowers, there were two economic blocs which traded less with each other than the same countries currently do. I'm assuming this, without having looked into the specific trade figures of 1970 vs. 2000, but it sounds reasonable enough. It is a further rational assumption that having one larger trading zone is better than two smaller ones from the point of view of increasing prosperity, opportunity. This might however be offset by the anti-competitive monopolistic and oligopolistic business influence of the more dominant larger businesses in the merged trade zone.

Example: GM was permitted to buy and destroy the light rail system of Los Angeles in order to be able to sell more buses to the municipality. On balance, this reduced the transit welfare of the Los Angeleno as buses and cars share the same transit network. From the economic standpoint one would weigh the GDP impact of an increased motor transit industry production subtracting the loss in light rail industry production and also subtracting the hypothetical costs of increased congestion, loss of time, and human frustration in the altered urban transit monoculture environment. The biological principle of robustness and flexibility through diversity is not often applied in economics and political science as far as I am aware. I seem to have expanded this short cut into another big multidisciplinary study again.

Ideologically-Theologically (which I am considering as one for this purpose), the argument is also rather complex. Whose standards do we apply? Since I began this from the jumping off point of American values and superpower status, I need to identify the American values I have in mind here to use as our basis. I am calling American values those principles of free speech, assembly, religion, equal economic opportunity, equal and fair treatment before the law, and democratic self-determination. These are commonly referred to as human rights in our political ideological theology. The uniqueness of the American political experience is grounded in our professed allegiance to these rights as ideals of human to human conduct. Although at our inception we did not adhere to these ideals as well as we do now (slavery, voting for women and people without property), overall it can be said that we share a political faith in these as universal goods, even if we squabble and shed blood even over the specifics of their application on a particular point at a particular time. These are the principles that define America as American, distinct from the other political traditions of the world. In effect, this we are taught is the American contribution to world civilization.

Having thus defined ourselves in theological-ideological terms, we become faced with the dilemma of whether and how or how much or how active to be in supporting and advancing these principles among the other countries of the world. In practical terms, there are many countries of very different historical and cultural heritages where supporting these principles in a meaningful applied policy way is quixotic. Yet as a global superpower, we are called upon to have some kind of stance regarding almost every other group of people on the earth. We are chastised for our non-intervention in the appalling slaughter of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda. We are castigated for providing a bulwark to the anti-democratic monarchy of the Saudis where the alternative to this monarchy would possibly be an equally distasteful, to American principles, Islamic fundamentalism, as happened in Iran after the Shah. In China we do not seem to engender the animosity of pro-Democracy forces for our coziness with the Communist administration there.

There are other parts of the world where our committment to individual human rights and empowering the disenfranchised would fall on more fertile civic soil (Latin America), but seems to run counter to particular global business trade motives. These contradictory situations are the ones that cause the most turmoil within our character as moral actors in the political realm. These are the cases where our values can be understood and appreciated by the masses, but for short-term advantage we sometimes overlook or act contrary to them. I could be better informed about the counter-arguments that justify our backing of military dictatorships in Central and South America by arguing that it is in the longer interest of developing democratic institutions that will one day predominate - once the standards of living have risen enough there to develop a significant consumer middle class. This argument is also presented as a justification for our support of autocratic regimes in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia with apparently similar to China lack of too much hostility to the US. There is also a little of the echo flavor of the Soviets explaining the problems of their form of Socialism by arguing that the autocracy and other problems were temporary issues on the way to eventual Communism.


My God. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
by tkatchev on Fri Oct 19th, 2001 at 12:06:18 PM PST
That is one long-ass diary entry...


Peace and much love...

too much information... (none / 0) (#4)
by Frithiof on Fri Oct 19th, 2001 at 03:03:25 PM PST
my brain stopped working after the first 500 words...I'm sorry.

maybe I'll read the rest of it later tonight and give you my enlightened response. or something.


keep 'em coming (5.00 / 1) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Oct 19th, 2001 at 01:11:02 PM PST
I just want to say your diaries are really excellent, lucid material.

Well Informed, Rambling (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by Bluesee on Fri Oct 19th, 2001 at 03:03:03 PM PST
You have a lot of insights, but it's really hard to read, due to the rambling nature of the article, which is probably appropriate for a diary. Might I suggest that you consolidate it and post it to Quorum?

My initial thoughts, scattered as they are from jumping around too much, is that corporations are emerging as the new flagships of the world, not nations, and it might help if we can distinguish those exported items according to the nature of their origin: 1) military/diplomatic/geopolitical, and 2) capitalist with governmental catalysts.

Bluesee (Michael Kenny)

Rambling guy (none / 0) (#5)
by Inden on Sat Oct 20th, 2001 at 12:54:55 PM PST
Yep it is a rambling thinking out loud that doesn't climax with a moral lesson. It is hard to follow.

The big question is "Is the world better off or worse off when all the United States foreign policy actions and inactions are taken into account over the last fifty years?" Too big? I think it can only be approached by more than one mind at the same time looking at different parts of the elephant in different ways. Right now my opinion is the world would have been better off if we hadn't been so hot to give the Russians hell with the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. The occupation wouldn't have lasted forever.

Holy crap. (none / 0) (#6)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 21st, 2001 at 12:03:05 PM PST
At a whopping 1600+, it might actually be too long for the submission queue at Do not under any circumstances combine the reading of this diary entry with alcohol.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.


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