jch - thanks for your comment. I'll respond to it with an even longer one, more or less point by point, reserving the right to revise and extend.
1. Aint never noticed "many other participants" in these here parts, jch. I try to make things easy for those who do want to participate, but I'm grateful if I manage even a handful of "sanity testers." I apologize if I don't always seem to pass the test.
2. This whole blog is the table. I've been laying cards out to the best of my ability for years. Lately, I've been working harder at organizing the content and making it more accessible for those (including myself) who want to trace the development of an argument. Guess we'll just have to see how far I get before one or both of us check out in whatever way or ways. Maybe this comment will work as a template for a future index post or page.
3. I specifically distinguish between "exceptionalism" and "exceptionality." The exceptionality of the New World is a geographical fact with far-ranging effects on culture and state formation, in other words on history. One need not pinpoint and proclaim a single origin point to support this observation, which may seem too obvious even to require argument, but which for the same reason tends to be forgotten or set aside. Even if we managed to re-assemble Pangaea, the former separation of the nations by the oceans and the late settlement and development of former North America would still influence human culture uniquely or "exceptionally."
"There are no origins" is reminiscent of similar claims typical of the skeptical and eventually nihilistic position or pseudo-position, as in "there are no causes," "there is no reality," "truth is an illusion," "consciousness is an artificial construct," "nothing matters," and so on. In other words, it's one of those seemingly possibly or certainly true statements that no one truly believes or can self-consistently think true (in part because truly to believe requires and presumes truth, significance, a conscious being, reality, cause-and-effect, etc.).
4. To me, "global hegemony" isn't the right term for what the US has ever achieved or sought. "Neo-imperialism" is a term that acknowledges similarities and potentially as crucial differences between actual and possible constitutions of power in the world today as compared to previous eras. I like to date the neo-imperium to the birth of the United Nations, not the organization currently housed in New York City, but its immediate precursor, declared and founded by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who in a famous story is said to have excitedly announced the name to Winston Churchill, interrupting the latter in his bath. Churchill is supposed to have said to the startled FDR, "The Prime Minister has nothing to hide from the President of the United States": A worthy and telling origin story, in my view, since, in the Neo-Empire to come, the leaders of the former British Empire would in effect stand naked yet not truly vulnerable before the global "neo-hegemon."
But I'm happy to acknowledge this moment as just one of many candidates for leading origin among origins.
5. I'm not sure why we need to go to the periods, but in any event yours don't differ greatly from mine regarding sub-divisions of the longer "realized neo-imperial" period or "early global era" or Pax Americana. However, the sovereignty of nation-states was already compromised definitively by the new regime of international law, especially under the rather radically transformed international law of war, and in different ways throughout the period prior to the advent of neo-liberalism or financialized neo-liberalism.
As for the "unprecedented condition" of the global hegemon as debtor - everything or anyways much the global hegemon does would tend to be unprecedented, since there would have been, at most, only one other - while among empires in general, financial difficulties up to and including collapse are common.
6. The notion of an "Americanism not in the national and public interest of Americans" is in one sense paradoxical, in another, typically, to be presumed.
Specifically regarding majoritarianism, or simple numerical democratism, the American system today is arguably more majoritarian or majoritarianist than it was at inception, but still is built on numerous qualifications and exceptions against the "tyranny" of "majority faction."
As for the other contradictions you examine from your fourth, "ISTM" paragraph to the end of your comment, they comprise, ISTM, the typical tensions of the modern mixed regime. "Voluntaristic individualism" may propose a universal, but even as such it would not necessarily exhaust the whole: It suggests an essential and irreducible moment, the moment of (Cartesian, metaphysically individual) "man" in the neo-Judaic trinity of "God-world-man": that possessor of universal rights, of a juridical "person," of "a self," whose political annihilation reveals the worst of worlds.
7. In my view Schmitt happened to understand and also to explain the functioning of the modern state - mass liberal democracy under popular sovereignty (sacrificial communion) in a global state of sates - in ways that Adorno and Arendt, always keen to judge and to justify the urge to judge, something you seem to admire about them, could never allow for themselves. From a unique vantage point Schmitt observed, analyzed, participated in, and anticipated catastrophically apocalyptic or apocalyptically catastrophic developments that were, I believe, anticipated but necessarily only dimly in Hegel's philosophy of world history, and, one might say, prophesied by de Tocqueville as well as by the American founders of the "Empire of Liberty," by the re-founders and "consecraters" of the government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," and by, as already observed, a third set of founders, of the Americanized world state of states, or of the United States of America self-consciously as world-historical power.
8. "World-historical power" is a term derived, as I assume you know, from that Hegelian discourse just referenced. It is a self-consciously "tendentious and teleological" comprehension of history, and I think in this sense Arendt, Adorno, Schmitt, among many others, whatever their differences, are all very much in Hegel's tradition, since all would view history taken as mere assemblage of facts, as one damn thing after another without tendency or telos, as pseudo-history or history without meaning, so history for meaningless people or subjectless subjects, or bourgeois science, or technologism, or ideology unaware of itself as such. More subtly, so therefore more seductively, it would be another one of those nihilisms (nowadays frequently "post-modernisms") that everyone imagines believable, but no one can really believe, yet which are not without power simply for being impossible. (Any inquiry or argument or logic at all must presume their falsehood.) It serves (as) the empty self-consciousness of the empty throne of the American neo-imperial pseudo-state or state of states, which locates and simultaneously dislocates or de-locates or universalizes absolute self-consciousness as telos properly and immanently of spirit creating itself or busy being born, never as simple particular or image or ideological reification.
9. What this all has to do with Syria... I've already been trying to explain, first to myself. I've written extensively on the topic of America as world-historical power, and somewhat intensively on the US in relation to the Middle East, and I've sought to link the two subjects, since current events and the longer historical and especially historical-philosophical view (ought to) illuminate each other even if the attempt brings constant risk of self-deception. The front-line participants in events seek meaning in them in a parallel way: They kill and die for something they perceive to be "transmortal" - greater than their own lives yet for that same reason lending their lives and possibly their deaths a greater meaning in a specifically and self-consciously historical relation. I think it's rather obvious, in fact, and is uppermost in the minds of leading participants, that in the fight between IS and the US, at least two theories of history, or standpoints on world history, or world-historical concepts, are also colliding.
However, here you seem dangerously close to counter-Enlightenment, as if unthinkingness were to be elevated into a supreme virtue,- (and then what next, stupidity and ignorance?)
I'm trying to understand, jch, not to advocate or to praise. As I understand Americanism, it does not locate "supreme virtue" in the administration of government or in policy, including foreign policy. It locates supremacy in the people or popular sovereignty prior to particular governmental (or formal political, administrative, and juridical) forms or actions. In this sense Americanism is pessimistic about government, though optimistic about the prospects for a national community well-guarded against excessive governmental optimism (or "governmentality" as apparently some are saying of late). From this point of view, for the sake of self-government, the government of "checks and balances" must itself by checked and balanced by the government that functions under a different name or under no name, and that is is customarily located in the "private" as opposed to "public" realm.
The theory of the mixed government or polity doesn't presume perfect and immortal success. It's a making the best of a situation (human life on Earth) in which the best in governance (rule by the wise) is either unattainable or, if attainable for a time (the rise of a Cyrus), unsustainable (Cyrus is mortal), and, as such, highly dangerous (succession crises tear apart the state), but I don't have time today to expand upon my parentheses and rehearse the defense of American liberal democracy before the court of history. It's also not my purpose to do so in these comments on Syria policy. As in my initial reply to Professor Quiggin, my objective is to view Syria policy apart from certain presumptions that I also see informing your critique.
I'll just add for now, until some time that I can develop the idea further (or look through places where I already have done so), that "grand strategy" is not the same as "grand design." Grand strategy can be as simple as its premises are stable. It can be seen to emerge more or less spontaneously from particular geographical and broad historical circumstances, and doesn't necessarily require a lot of self-conscious effort, or supreme virtue either, on the part of the people implementing it. For various reasons, that description may apply to America and Americans especially and typically, since we were born on 3rd base geo-historically: exceptionality prior to exceptionalism. To observe as much doesn't make me any more "aggressively Americanist" than natural history turned out to be.
The underlying justification will be in the first instance that the truly legitimate representatives of the Syrian people - i.e., not Assad, viewed as having lost legitimacy - will request and require assistance.
The possibility of force and the will to use it have not hitherto proven susceptible to the wish for their non-existence, meaning either that people will have to give in to whoever possesses it or call upon force of their own. So if absence of force is desirable, but not obtainable, and if giving in is not acceptable, then the question always comes down to the effort of putting preponderant force on the side of desirable ends. That formula even holds true for Gandhian pacifism, which of course relies on "soul-force" as a theoretically higher and more just or absolutely just means to compel obedience.