Fear

As one philosopher and scholar argued, a ‘republic’ takes a turn towards hegemonic empire when two things happen, namely, when those in power decide to impose their culture overseas, and when the internal regime becomes less and less democratic and less and less representative of popular will. Based on this two-pronged criterion, it follows that the United States took a turn towards global hegemony a number of decades ago. And in order for America to return to at least a semblance of a republic that represents popular will, it means that Americans will somehow have to “take the country back from the Pentagon and the corporations.”

And as Michael Lind wrote, hegemony “represents a radical departure from America’s previous policy of seeking to preserve rather than prevent a diversity of power in the world, while sharing the burdens of preserving the peace with other rich and militarily powerful states.” Lind noted that proponents of American global hegemony claim that a policy of global hegemony “can be carried out indefinitely at a relatively low cost in terms of American taxes and the lives of American soldiers.” And as Lind correctly argued: “Neither of these arguments is persuasive. The truth is that the hegemony strategy is not necessary for U.S. security and it costs too much.” 

As Jeffrey Sachs wrote, the United States is the last Western country to engage in hegemonic empire-building, and as a result, the United States is a “latecomer” to imperial rule. And as Sachs also noted: “As a latecomer empire, the United States repeatedly found itself taking up the imperial cloak from a former European imperial power.” Sachs reiterated the position and notion that a policy of empire and hegemony is a costly and futile policy, even if the imperial and hegemonic power demonstrates overwhelming economic and military power vis-à-vis others. Sachs wrote:

“The issue is not whether an imperial army can defeat a local one. It usually can, just as the United States did quickly in Afghanistan and in Iraq. The issue is whether it gains anything by doing so. Following such a ‘victory,’ the imperial power faces unending heavy costs in terms of policing, political instability, guerilla war, and terrorist blowback.” 

Hegemonic decision-making is also shrouded in opaqueness and secrecy, as Sachs noted. This means that if future foreign policy decision-making is to be rational and sound, the decision-making process needs to become more democratic and transparent. But what can be deciphered in spite of the opaqueness and secrecy of American hegemonic decision-making is that America’s 21st century wars had “a quasi-religious significance, much as had the crusade against ‘international communism’ fifty years ago” as Rashid Khalidi noted. Khalidi added: “In certain senses…Americans have simply exchanged communism for terrorism as an all-encompassing, terrifying threat to their well-being.” 

Moreover, the cultural and religious guise of America’s 21st century wars – as mentioned before – is a requirement and a necessary prerequisite for the economic and political dimensions of hegemony because the cultural, ideological, and religious dimension of hegemony is what sustains the economic and military dimensions. And coincidentally, fear easily took the place of any effort towards logic or persuasion on the part of the American state when it came to compelling regular Americans to get on board with the cultural, ideological, and religious dimension of a hegemonic policy. And in a sense, fear as an all-powerful force in American public discourse as of late goes to the very heart of explaining the very basic nature of the social relations which in turn gives rise to a whole-of-government policy based on global hegemony. 

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