Trolling @attackerman 13 Aug 2012

Trolling @attackerman 13 Aug 2012

Storified by CK MacLeod · Tue, Aug 14 2012 12:04:29

Good profile of Susan Rice by James Traub, but when exactly did the US enter a "post-hegemonic era"?
.@attackerman Traub implies only that transition into "a post-hegemonic era" is one way to explain policy, doesn’t require a "when exactly"CK MacLeod
Traub’s phrase appears in his discussion of the Obama administration’s “reticence” on Libya.  According to Traub, the approach “would later be stigmatized as ‘leading from behind,’ but perhaps it’s better understood as leading without wishing to be seen as taking the lead — a new model of multilateralism suitable to a post-hegemonic era.” Though Traub here seems to presume that American “hegemony” might accurately describe the U.S. role in the world at some point, his phraseology does not commit him or Dr. Rice to any “when exactly” at all. Even assuming that America or American power ever did or could qualify as hegemonic, globally or perhaps in and around North Africa, Traub’s phraseology takes no position on whether “a post-hegemonic era” is a reality already upon us, or something more in the nature of a direction for policy.
.@attackerman now seems clear post-hegemony was always the destination, most serious question since ca. 2003-4 has been pace of transitionCK MacLeod
The reference to ’03-’04 is to the first proofs that War on Terror policy in its most aggressive form was not going to succeed – specifically that Iraq, would not be easily pacified, controlled, and turned into a secure base for further operations in the region. There would be no “cakewalk,” no installation of a compliant client government, no easy turn or effective domination to the immediate east and west. The answer to the Petraeus question – “how does this end?” – would be an exit strategy, not an exploitation strategy. How could an authentic “hegemon” or “hyperpower” find itself in such a position? Put differently, what does or can being a hegemon mean if it does not include the ability to shape politico-military events decisively?

Ackerman’s response somewhat surprised, and also intrigued me:

@CK_MacLeod that is not something that seems clear in the slightest.attackerman
.@attackerman are you saying you see the US of A as global hegemon, able to remain so indefinitely, and ought to do so?CK MacLeod
@CK_MacLeod No, what I’m saying is that abandoning a hegemonic geopolitical position is not going to be something politicians choose.attackerman
I would argue that “hegemonic geopolitical position” is, at best, an obsolete description, if it was ever really tenable at all. It seems more likely to me that no truly hegemonic geopolitical position has ever been available to anyone. A highly favorable geopolitical position, a geopolitical position that all but guarantees significant influence unmatched by any single rival, is far from hegemonic if it still means that some combination of lesser powers can frustrate the country in that position and force it to reverse and retreat, or prevent it from exerting its will at all.
@CK_MacLeod It may or may not be something a rising China forces on us, but if it is, it’ll happen gradually & not for decades.attackerman
Logically, it seems to me, there are two ways that “rising China” becomes highly problematic in relation to U.S. hegemony: 1) If U.S. hegemony ever existed in relation to China and is also of vital importance, or 2) if a delusion regarding the existence of such hegemony and its vital importance, as possibly implied by familiar political rhetoric, led to catastrophic American miscalculations.

The remaining two tweets can be taken to condense the perspective I’ve outlined above:

.@attackerman seems to me that hegemony means "power to choose" – otherwise someone or no one is "hegemonic"CK MacLeod
(shoulda said there “otherwise someone else or no one”)
.@attackerman so it wouldn’t be a rising China, but total resistance to dominance by any one nation-state, even the good ol US of ACK MacLeod
To go much further, we would have to examine what “geopolitical hegemony” ever meant or could mean. In summary, I’m going beyond anything Traub said, though in a direction that his phraseology, and for that matter Obama policy, leaves open: I’m suggesting that U.S. global hegemony may never have existed except as an idea that, when put to the test via the Iraq and the Neoconservative program, was proven as self-defeating as the critics of such thinking, from the outset of the Cold War to the triumphalist ’90s, had always said it would be. 


It was a little while later that this other non-quite-an-exchange occurred:

What political scientists study incentives that lead ppl to choose what they know are bad outcomes; & also are not annoying to talk to?attackerman
.@attackerman taken literally your ? is nonsensical. To "choose" is to affirm one outcome to be "better" than another.CK MacLeod
Oddly, but on reflection inevitably, this exchange has something in common with the discussion of hegemony.

First to the point I was trying to make when I called the question “nonsensical”: One can, of course, choose what one knows will be a “bad outcome” for oneself in the service of some greater goal – heroic sacrifice. Or, for another example, one might choose physical harm in order to enjoy a thrill – masochism. In each case, and every such case, you are willing the good, or the good or better outcome, as you understand it. To choose in this sense always means to choose the good. There is no choosing of the “bad” outcome except as against a worse one.

I suspect that Ackerman was instead looking for a public choice explanation of what the matter with Kansas was, or some such, but the infirmity of the original question actually gets at what political-cultural liberalism, whether in the academy or in journalism, misses about the meaning of such choices to those who make them. I don’t know what particular issues Ackerman was wondering about, but the possible illusion of hegemony alongside enduring emotional investments in underlying presumptions – that “we” are good, that “we” must be most powerful, that “we” deserve to be most powerful, that our ways are best materially and morally not least because they are ours, and so on – provide one set of answers regarding those incentives embraced despite superficially “bad” outcomes. Such mechanisms may affect the thinking even of occasional critics of hegemonist policy.

Political science as defined and practiced in the United States is not just ill-equipped but congenitally unable to comprehend the underlying questions on their own terms. The fact-value distinction at the core of political science is alien to the determination of the badness or goodness of outcomes for those making the choices in question. As soon as political science confronts such distinctions on their own terms, it is no longer political science, but just another interloper in the hostile territory of political belief, political meaning, political philosophy.

it’s not like I spend every day on @attackerman’s case, btwCK MacLeod

Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

2 comments on “Trolling @attackerman 13 Aug 2012

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

  1. Well the term is ‘fraught’ with certain premises, from the beginning, are their any American politicians who really speak of it; In addition, the cakewalk, as compared to the three year slog, that the Brits endured typified by Kut, One judged the problem that motivated Iraq’s expansionism was the Baath, that had provoked the previous two wars, The failure of American policy makers realization that this was a proxy fight with contributions from the Ilkwan, the IRGC
    and the Syrian Mukharabat, was a serious error.

  2. It’s arguable that Venice at least tried for regional hegemony, with mixed results, I didn’t know they had settlements as remove as Kaffa on the Black Sea, the Ottomans ultimately undid them, which is why that alt history tale is set a century before the major events

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins