Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More on Lind

In the Lind piece I linked to earlier, he calls America the "Dispensable Nation", a twist on Madeleine Albright's famous phrase during the Clinton years. The interesting question is why this is happening now. Certainly, in many respects, America's international stature post-Vietnam seemed much worse than it it now. Militarily, the US was essentially emasculated by the Vietnam war - any bio of Powell, Franks or the other recent military luminaries will give you a good idea of exactly how broken the military was, especially in the Army. Further, the chaos of the late 1970s economically speaking would, one would think, have led other nations to try and challenge the US then when it appeared weak.

Of course, this didn't happen. The Cold War kept the international situation more-or-less static, and America's allies didn't abandon it during it's moment of weakness. Instead, the US recovered from the 1970s and during the 1980s rebuilt its military, which performed admirably in the most one-sided war in recent history, the First Gulf War.

Compare what actually did happen to what some people were predicting (Immanuel Wallerstein was prediciting the collapse of American Hegemony in the 1970s) and the differences are startling. However, the big difference that the Wallersteins of the world didn't address was that to a large extent, during the Cold War the US was the "indispensable nation", and Europe and Japan were hardly going to allow the US to 'collapse' like many were predicting. Furthermore, the US itself turned out to be a lot more resilient than people thought.

The major difference today is that Europe and Japan no longer seem to perceive the need for America anymore. The EU is chugging along nicely (certainly not without problems, but with less than most europhobes seem to think), Asia seems to have been so upset by the IMF's (and therefore the US's) response to the Asian crisis of 1997 that they're now explicitly excluding the US from future economic partnerships. Latin America, hit hard by currency crises (Brazil, Argentina) basically equates the IMF with imperialism, something Africa concluded a decade ago. The funny thing is that, while Democrats want to blame Bush for this, he is only responsible for this recent crisis over Iraq. The resentment and rejection of America has been building probably since the end of the Cold War, and (with the exception of Europe) was fostered by policies championed by Clinton.

It would be comforting to many if we could demonize Bush and the Republicans for ruining America's good name, but the blame should more properly be pinned on America's long-term policies of liberalization and globalization. Certainly, Bush deserves blame for his own actions, but he's really an outgrowth of a long history of American policy and thought.

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