Sunday, September 2, 2012

Research Paper on America

Rainer Rilling. “American Empire” as Will and Idea. The new major strategy of the Bush Administration

Rainer Rilling’s idea of the America’s future is based on the the National Security Strategy of the United States of America published on 17 September 2002. According to this document, Rilling claims, there is a new division of the world and a new perspective for the United States to maintain political and military leadership. He sites the report on “Rebuilding America’s Defense” stating “the 21st century world is – for the moment, at least – decidedly unipolar, with America as the world’s “sole superpower” to emphasize the idea of the U.S. clearly-defined strategy for the world’s dominance. Among the major proponents of this grand strategy there are such notable political personalities include Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and many other well-known politicians, famous for their neo-conservative standpoint.

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According to Reiner Rilling, the essence of the strategy is “the maintenance and extension of the disparity between America and the rest of the world and the worldwide enforcement of the model of American dominance”. The strategy is enforced via the means of US Global sovereignty, preventive wars and military superiority, to support this statement Rilling recites George W. Bush (Quoted from Michael Lind: Is America the New Empire? In: The Globalist 19 June 2002) “America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge.”). Rilling actually believes the “American Empire” concept is, thus, “in power”. To illustrate this idea, the author quotes Stephen Peter Rose, the Director of the neo-conservative Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, and one of the founding member of the Project for a New American Century: “our goal is not combating a rival, but maintaining our imperial position, and maintaining imperial order”. The American Empire is about to come?

Is the U.S. an Empire? By Paul Schroeder 
Professor Paul Schroeder starts the article stating that the idea of “American Empire” already enjoys popularity as a fact both in the United States and abroad there is a widely-diffused opinion that “America already enjoys a world-imperial position and is launched on an imperial course”. But the rest of the article deals with the refutation of this “fact”. The author dethrones the “US Empire” by analyzing the term “empire” and opposing it to the concepts of “unchallenged hegemony” or "unipolar moment". According to Schroeder, the authentication of these terms is “a misleading, unhistorical understanding of empire”. The author is taking a close look at a historical meaning and essence of the word “empire”, and logically proves the United States can hardly be called that at the moment (it is rather a “hegemon” - the first among equals). An imperial power, according to Schroeder, rules over subordinates, and is in the core – “the negation of political freedom, liberation, and self-determination” – the ideas quite opposite to the proclaimed American ideas and values. But Professor Schroeder believes there is great potential for the US to become an empire – taking into consideration the imperialist ambitions and goals of the America’s new strategy. The author, though, warns that choosing the path of empire – instead of pursuing hegemonic stability -will undoubtedly lead to the ruin of the country and the system. There is trustworthy historical evidence of the empires from the past.

Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order By G. John Ikenberry. Foreign Affairs. March/April 2004

Similar to the article by Paul Schroeder, John Ikenberry starts the debate over whether the US is an empire by defining the term and turning to the countries past. Mentioning the relatively recent National Security Strategy and describing the policy, the author comes to the conclusion that “If empire is defined loosely, as a hierarchical system of political relationships in which the most powerful state exercises decisive influence, then the United States today indeed qualifies.” But Ikenberry’s idea is that even if the United States is an empire, it is “like no other before it”. The principal differences underlie in three respects: the provision of public goods in exchange for the cooperation of other states; the excursion of power through rules and institutions; and provision of "voice opportunities" to the weaker states (informal approach).

John Ikenberry campares and contrasts the several ideas of the US empire - including Niall Ferguson’s liberal empire(described in the “Collossus”) and Chalmers Johnson’s military empire from “The Sorrows of Empire” - the and their application to the current U.S. position in the world. And finally concludes that of all imperialistic theories, the US is more like Ferguson’s idea. Still, Ikenberry claims, the notion of the empire is “misleading” – it does not fully describe the path and essence of America’s global political order, which was reached by rather liberal and democratic power.

The Rediscovery of Imperialism By John Bellamy Foster. Monthly Review. November 2002

The name of the article states a totally new approach to the idea of the American imperialism. If all the previous scholars questioned the idea of the US Empire itself, John Bellamy Foster claims the United States are now facing the return to the concept of imperialism, as it has been always one of the America’s political opportunities. Foster describes the US historical background – addressing the time of the Spanish-American War - as one of the impulses for the formation of the Imperialism concept.

Foster analyses the core literature on Imperialism, written at the breaking of the XX century – including the works of John A. Hobson, Vladimir Lenin, and a book by Harry Magdoff, written significantly later, in 1969. Foster mentions the rediscovery of the term imperialism took place in the 90th of the XX century, before this - Prabhat Patnaik wrote on November, 1990 an article for Monthly Review entitled “Whatever Happened to Imperialism?”, raising “the question of the almost complete disappearance of the term from left analysis in the United States and Europe”.

In the XXI century America’s political leaders have rediscovered the term to describe the US world domination and influence.

John Bellamy Foster analyses the situation in the countries that are believed to have “raced ahead economically” in the last decades. Foster proves there believes are not as persuasive as they seem, thus undermining the belief US imperialism with its liberalization is making the world a better place to live.

Even though Foster’s view on the concept of the US Empire is different than that of the other scholars he predicts basically the same future for the country “the U.S. imperialism resembles the exploitative empires of the past, and will likely suffer the same fate as past empires – revolt from within and “barbarians” at the gate”. The Third Stage of American Empire By William Rivers Pitt. truthout March 1, 2005

William Rivers Pitt’s concept of the American Empire is based on the idea that Empire has survived three stages of formation since the creation of the United States. The first stage included the Mexican-American war and the Civil War – when America formed its economic, military and industrial potential. The second stage lasted much longer and covered the two World Wars and the Cold War. The end of World War II enabled the United States to stretch throughout Europe to the borders of the Soviet Union. The author also claims that the “strongholds of the second stage could be likewise found in Africa, the Japanese mainland and many Pacific islands and, with the creation of the state of Israel, the strategically-vital Middle East”. The Cold War has stimulated the arms race that made the United States the only truly dominant military country of the world with the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990th.

The rise of the third wave took place on realizing America’s superpower and was rocketed by the events of September 11th.

Again, by describing dollar declines, scarce oil supplies, new more powerful players of the world’s political arena, all tend to destabilize the America’s domination. The author predicts that the “third American empire is threatening to collapse under its own ponderous weight”. The Empires fall, always, he claims. For those, who think the American Empire is still about to come, and for those, who believe it is already here, the conclusions are basically the same – and are hardly optimistic.

Essay #2 
The development of the modern world economic system started with the transition of the medieval world from the stage of feudal crisis to the rise of capitalism. The world system analysis, introduced and developed, among others, by Immanuel Wallerstein, suggested the world regions may be categorized as cores, semi-peripheries, peripheries and external.

According to Wallerstein, the core territories can be characterized by powerful central governments, vast bureaucracies, and substantial mercenary armies. The local bourgeoisie obtained control over international commerce and extracted capital surplus from this type of trade.

Most core territories were political and economic centers of the region (e.g. England, France, Spain, etc), but the domination did not guarantee the perpetual prosperity. Many countries (often considered to be the “Empires”) experienced the extensive growth and development, exercised power over the subdominant territories, but then, due to various reasons, declined in development, and became semi-peripheries (e.g. Spain and Portugal).

The peripheral zones were the territories that, unlike the core countries, lacked strong central governments or were controlled by other states. Coercive labor practices were normal for the peripheries (e.g. Africa, Latin America, Poland, etc.). Most peripheral countries exported raw materials to the core and worked for the benefit of the latter. The unequal trade relations enabled the core countries to expropriate the capital surplus generated by the periphery.

The nature of relationships between the core and peripheries is, thus, the core’s political, economic and often military dominance over the peripheral zones, with the exploitation, extraction of resources, and surplus transfer from the latter to the former. One of the most common characteristics of the core is the extensive bureaucracy and army, and these are the major means of maintaining dominance over periphery.

The West-European colonization of Africa, Britain’s influence on the commonwealth territories, and overseas expansionism of the United States to foreign territories at the end of the nineteenth century are all the examples of the core-peripheries relations.

Centuries ago, core territories used to exempt the peripheral resources and use the labor to enrich the treasury, the main influence on the dependent territories was through military control, trade and profit maximization, religion and technological (industrial) advantages. The modern era has basically kept these instruments of influence, adding other aspects like social and cultural expansion, informational flow, technological superiority, financial bondage, global political alliances and organizations, etc. In addition, multinational corporations that operate on the modern global market provide means of surplus extraction (e.g. via the repatriation of profits) and obstacles to the internal development (e.g. via the provision of large quantities of capital and thus sweeping aside the domestic investors.

The communication and transportation technologies enable core countries (that are generally a leap ahead in these spheres, as compared to the peripheral zones) to reinforce the impact and the dependence.

The extensive development of these industries provides rapid exchange of data, resources and overall influence of the technologically advanced countries. The new transportation technologies quickened and improved the production processes and provided new opportunities for the core countries. Prompt and technologically superior transportation and communication technologies give a chance to extend influence over the “new” territories (peripheral zones of other core countries (or ex-“cores”)) and enable the new level of domination – worldwide.

There is no doubt the United States are the core country – the switch of influence from the British empire to the US in the 20th century (after the two World Wars and the Cold War), that made the United States superior in almost all spheres, especially in military, political and economical aspects.

The question whether the United States have an “empire” is very complex and quite controversial. Modern scholars do not have any common view upon the issue – the variety of ideas has been caused by the different understanding of the concept of “empire” and distinctions in interpretation of the history of the United States, especially its political and military expansion from the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th century.

Those, who interpret the American modern “imperial strategy” in terms of military and political domination, address the comparatively recent document – National Security Strategy of the United States of America published (of 17 September 2002).

This strategy is believed to be created in response to the 9/11 events. The essence of the strategy is the worldwide US military and political dominance, or, put in other words, through the extension of the disparity between America and the rest of the world. To support the idea of the US imperialism in power, one could quote Stephen Peter Rose, the Director of the neo-conservative Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, and one of the founding members of the Project for a New American Century: “our goal is not combating a rival, but maintaining our imperial position, and maintaining imperial order”.

Some other scholars doubt the United States can lay claim to be the modern “empire”, it is rather an “unchallenged hegemony”. The empire, at least historically, negated the concepts of the political freedom, liberation, and self-determination, which is quite opposite to the concept of “American values” (the defense of human rights and democracy), as the US and the rest of the world see it. The US expansion has always been based (according to its advocates) on belief in free trade and open markets. I certainly agree that if the empire is understood as the most powerful state exercising decisive influence upon the rest of the world, the United Stated states, with their extensive military and political impact, can be labeled as that. But still, it is quite difficult to parallel the United States as they are and the idea of the American Empire. It is, in fact, quite different from the historical empires. United States as a core country shows a rather informal approach: it provides public goods in exchange for the cooperation of other states, exercises power through rules and institutions and provides "voice opportunities" to the weaker states.

Politicians and those interested in profiting from the US hegemony around the world, might, certainly, proclaim the ambitions of imperial power of the United States, but I doubt that this is what the nation really sees as the essence of their living. Being (or rather becoming) an Empire is a very controversial issue, especially taking into consideration the sad experience of all the empires in the course of the centuries of the world’s history. The fact is, all the empires, either vast or small, have faced the same crisis (under its own weight), which, in the end, destroyed the country and the system itself.

It is obvious that the hegemonic stability is far more promising and beneficial (in both economic and social aspects) than the imperial usurpation, which shall undoubtedly face serious confrontation. And, knowing, that the humanity might not survive the third world war, does the United States really need to become an Empire?
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