The Great Delusion

One of the underlying assumptions or premises of the logic that underpins a whole-of-government policy of global hegemony is that all three of the major regions of the world system – namely, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – can be controlled by one person or one country such as the United States. There is now perhaps a realization in Washington after the experience in Afghanistan – as well as the rise of China, the inability to put a lid on Iran’s regional influence in the Middle East, in addition to the systemic pressures that Russia and Turkey are able to put on the European Union despite a heavy American military presence there – that American involvement and interference in the affairs of these regions as a result of a whole-of-government policy of global hegemony has both consequences and limits.

            In consideration of the consequences and limits of a whole-of-government policy of global hegemony, the default foreign policy of the United States is perhaps the “Monroe Doctrine,” whereby the United States becomes the “core state” of the Western Hemisphere and fosters the economic, political, and social elements of its own hemisphere. Part of the delusion associated with the global hegemonic foreign policy out of Washington over the last three decades has largely been fueled by lobbying. But lobbying was never intended to be part of a Smithian or Lockean form of government. Decisions and strategies in the foreign policy realm are supposed to be based on concrete and well-defined national interests that are derived from the three core national security principles of any country, namely, political independence, economic viability, and territorial sovereignty.

            Thus, after a thirty-year push to control the world system through military hegemony, American foreign policy may need a scaling back of sorts where the focus is on becoming the “core state” of its own hemisphere and focusing on issues like mass migration, commerce and trade with its neighbors, Venezuela (which has the world’s largest oil reserves and can dramatically bring down gas prices in the United States), and improving ties with Latin American countries which have had historically frosty relations with the United States such as Cuba and others. As mentioned before, military hegemony as a primary method and strategy of controlling the world has limits and is unsustainable in the long run. One former defense official, Lawrence Korb, argued that by the year 2039, the entire American defense budget will go to pensions and social benefits at the current rate.

            Breaking out of the path dependency fostered by a whole-of-government policy of global hegemony is thus an issue that is perhaps more urgent than the issue of climate change at this particular moment. Many people have pointed out that China, the United States, and India are the top three polluters. But due to their population size, this fact will remain constant, even if technologies are implemented to limit pollution and carbon emissions. Also, despite the technologies that can limit pollution and carbon emissions, nature cannot be controlled. However, the majority of other economic, political, and social factors can be controlled and managed properly if the path dependency on a failed government policy is finally broken. Once we identify the core problem – namely, one’s delusion that Washington can control the entire world – solutions may automatically follow.

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