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  #1  
Old 12-29-2005, 12:31 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Unipolar vs. multipolar world: Which is better?

This issue is often brought up in debates about the U.S.' current military/political role on the post-Cold-War world, but I don't think we've ever had a thread actually debating it. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of a world overshadowed by a single military superpower, compared to a world with no one dominant power? Which is likely to be more peaceful? More safe? More just? More prosperous?
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  #2  
Old 12-29-2005, 06:46 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Also -- if a unipolar world is better, does it matter which power is the hegemon? You could make a case that the European Union is better suited than the U.S. for the role -- not in terms of effectiveness, but in terms of effects, on the rest of the world. Whereas if China is the hegemon . . . well, let's not think about that, shall we?
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  #3  
Old 12-29-2005, 08:01 PM
furt furt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Also -- if a unipolar world is better, does it matter which power is the hegemon?
Well, of course it does, as your China example points out.

As to what's "better," I think it will depend a lot on what you value. To put it one way: Rome was good for peace and progress; it was not so good for complete local autonomy. It was good for cross-pollinating ideas; not so good if you prefer cultures be forever preserved as they evolved.
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  #4  
Old 12-29-2005, 08:52 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
You could make a case that the European Union is better suited than the U.S. for the role -- not in terms of effectiveness, but in terms of effects, on the rest of the world.
I didn't know you favored Europe so much.

Out of curiosity, what would that case be?
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  #5  
Old 12-29-2005, 09:01 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace
I didn't know you favored Europe so much.

Out of curiosity, what would that case be?
1. The Europeans seems to have actually gotten over the idea of aggressive imperialism, just as the U.S. is really starting to feel its imperial oats. The role of global hegemon is definitely not a job that should go to a power who actually wants it.

2. By the same token, the Europeans (especially the Germans) seem to have a shared idea that they have a lot of past wrongs to make up for. (See this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=269082) So, in their future foreign adventures, they might be (compared to the U.S.) more inclined to be generous and less inclined to be exploitive.

3. Because Europe is not just one country, and the European Union not really a government in the full sense, the various governments would have to agree among themselves before taking any military action abroad. This would make them less effective, less able to take quick, decisive action -- but also less rash (and I think we Yanks are learning a bitter lesson right now in the folly of rash action). This situation also makes it harder for any particular corporation to enlist the Union forces in its service.
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  #6  
Old 12-30-2005, 12:27 AM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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Some required reading:

William Wohlforth. 1999. “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security, 24, 1, Summer, 5-41.

Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno. 1999. “Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War,” in E. Kapstein and M. Mastanduno, eds., Unipolar Politics, NY: Columbia University Press

Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno. 1999. “Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War,” in E. Kapstein and M. Mastanduno, eds., Unipolar Politics, NY: Columbia University Press
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  #7  
Old 12-30-2005, 08:25 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maeglin
Some required reading:

William Wohlforth. 1999. “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security, 24, 1, Summer, 5-41.

Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno. 1999. “Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War,” in E. Kapstein and M. Mastanduno, eds., Unipolar Politics, NY: Columbia University Press

Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno. 1999. “Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War,” in E. Kapstein and M. Mastanduno, eds., Unipolar Politics, NY: Columbia University Press
Could you, well, summarize those for us?
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  #8  
Old 12-30-2005, 09:35 AM
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Unipolar versus multipolar? Hmmm.

One problem with a unipolar world is, what happens if something 'goes wrong' with the ruling power? This is the problem with all monocultures*, from single-species industrial farming to the Windows quasi-monopoly: their vulnerabilities have disproportionately-large effects. In a unipolar world, there may not be another system to take up needed tasks if the first one breaks down.

What if the ruling state turns to tyranny, ruling all for the benefit of a tiny elite? What if it gets distracted by a philosophy that makes it less able to survive?

I have read that one reason Europe was so successful in the past 500 years is that it was internally multipolar, and many different philosophies and strategies had to compete to survive.

It's not multipolarity; it's... 'competition'.

[sub]*Note that having a monoculture is not the same thing as having common standards or protocols. It's perfectly possible to have diversity and competition among entities that use a single communications protocol, for instance; the Internet is one example of this.
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  #9  
Old 12-30-2005, 09:47 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by furt
As to what's "better," I think it will depend a lot on what you value. To put it one way: Rome was good for peace and progress; it was not so good for complete local autonomy. It was good for cross-pollinating ideas; not so good if you prefer cultures be forever preserved as they evolved.
Curious how you gloss over the worst thing about Rome: It was an empire -- a government of the foreigners, by the Romans, for the Romans. At least in its early centuries, the empire was, like most empires known to history*, quite frankly and unapologetically a system of organized banditry, which existed to enrich Romans (meaning, mainly, the Roman nobility and elite) at the expense of non-Romans, often by enslaving non-Romans. That goes way, way beyond loss of "complete local autonomy." Unlike most empires, Rome also had a highly sophisticated system of justice and government, and a facility for useful public works, and several ways by which an energetic and lucky person could earn citizenship in the ruling nation. Still, on that balance, not a good model for this discussion.



*The Warsaw Pact, the empire of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1991, was a curious anomaly -- almost the imperial model stood on its head. The subject nations were oppressed, but, for the most part, not economically exploited, in fact their peoples generally enjoyed a higher standard of living than Soviet citizens; and the Soviet Union spent a lot more money/resources maintaining its rule there than it got out of the arrangement in economic advantages. This curious empire existed partly because of the ideological imperative of spreading Communism, but mainly to make sure Russia would never again be invaded from the West, as it had been so many times before.
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  #10  
Old 12-30-2005, 11:43 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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The problem with the multipolar model is that one pole tends to be the good guys and the other pole tends to be the bad guys. Whatever stability was gained during the Cold War was bought at the price of the democratic aspirations of hundreds of millions of people in the USSR and its satellites.

The goodness or badness of a unipolar world, too, is going to depend on whose at the top of the pole. Had the USSR prevailed and become the dominant power today, we'd have an entirely different situtation than the present condition.

So, it depends on what you value. If you value security and stability over freedom, then the Cold War wasn't such a bad time. If you value freedom more, then you'll probably prefer a unipolar world with a western style deomcracy at the top. And don't kid yourself about Europe. Europe and the US have largely overlapping interests. If Europe were "on top" right now, they would probably behave differently than they do at present. The guy at the top is an easy target, and a static analysis of that guy's behavior is overly simplisitic-- ie, assuming Europe would stay as neutral as it tends to be now if it were the dominant power in the world.
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  #11  
Old 12-30-2005, 11:51 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
The problem with the multipolar model is that one pole tends to be the good guys and the other pole tends to be the bad guys.
No, that would be a bipolar world, like we had during the Cold War. A multipolar world would be one without any global hegemons at all. Like the world always was, before the age of European colonial imperialism.
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  #12  
Old 12-30-2005, 05:34 PM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Could you, well, summarize those for us?
Uh, well, no. A huge amount of ink has been spilled on this subject in the subfield of IR theory. It has ranged from case studies to econometrics to game theory. One of my favorite books on the subject argues essentially that this matters far less than the ratio of the winning coalition to the selectorate. I'd be happy to run through the literature if I had a lot more time.
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  #13  
Old 12-31-2005, 01:33 AM
Gestalt Gestalt is offline
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As an IR major with a relatively shallow (standard undergrad) understanding of the field, I can try to give you a very basic summary of what is taught to undergrads about the subject currently (at least, at the University of Georgia).

From what I can tell, almost no one supports the idea of a multipolar world being "better," in the sense of more stable or secure. The debate is between bipolar vs. unipolar, with more scholars leaning towards bipolar. Multipolarity was standard in Europe until the ascendancy of Great Britian as a hegemon in (I believe), the late 18th century. The world was unipolar until the end of World War I, at which point British hegemony declined and American hegemony was yet to begin. Multipolarity is generally associated with highly unstable alliance structures and war.

There has only been one case of global bipolarity, the Cold War period. There was no direct conflict between the major powers, although we came close to it; also, there were numerous proxy conflicts. In addition, it should be noted that both poles were nuclear powers; most scholars find this fact essential to a study of Cold War bipolarity. Bipolarity is considered stability-enhancing because neither pole can become aggressive, as it has a check in the other pole, and it creates tight alliance structures, meaning that you know where everyone stands. In addition, with nuclear powers, agression can equal armageddon, so the poles are even less likey to engage in conflict.

There have been more examples of unipolarity than bipolarity, in modern times, British and American. I don't know that the periods of British or American hegemony have been characterized as relatively peaceful. I believe there were many 19th century European wars, although I may be mistaken. In addition, unipolar American hegemony has only existed since 1990 on; although conflict overall has declined during this time, it still doesn't seem to be to be that peaceful. Gulf Wars I&II and the Balkan conflict all occured in these 15 years, as well as numerous smaller conflicts throughout the world. Most IR scholars are realists, which means that they don't attribute particular importance to a state's ideology; therefore, theoretically, China being a hegemon would not be different than America as hegemon. Actually, I can't off the top of my head think of discussions about polarity that aren't realist in orientation. Anyways, the benefit to unipolarity is that the hegemon can function as a policeman, to curb aggression, and also facilitate trade and other international agreements.

That's what I can remember off the top of my head at 2:30 in the morning. Sorry, I don't have any cites : (. Again, this is a very rudimentary outline; please feel free to get more specific and/or correct any mistakes I have made. Also, it just occurred to me that i have conflated unipolarity with hegemony; please note that this is not always the case. America was arguably a hegemon from 1945 onward, although the world was only unipolar until 1990. Which actually seems like a contradiction; can anyone resolve this for me?


Gestalt
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  #14  
Old 12-31-2005, 01:43 AM
Gestalt Gestalt is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
1. The Europeans seems to have actually gotten over the idea of aggressive imperialism, just as the U.S. is really starting to feel its imperial oats. The role of global hegemon is definitely not a job that should go to a power who actually wants it.
Could this not simply be because Europe is not the current hegemon, and thinks that the United States might oppose imperialist actions? From what I know, China has not had imperialistic overtures (outside of Taiwan), but that doesn't mean that it lacks imperialistic intentions, just that it doesn't have the power to exercise these intentions. Yes, it has engaged in arms trade, but then again, so has the EU.


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3. Because Europe is not just one country, and the European Union not really a government in the full sense, the various governments would have to agree among themselves before taking any military action abroad. This would make them less effective, less able to take quick, decisive action -- but also less rash (and I think we Yanks are learning a bitter lesson right now in the folly of rash action). This situation also makes it harder for any particular corporation to enlist the Union forces in its service.
Why do you feel the ability to act less decisively would make a hegemon more inclined to promote stability? Wouldn't potential aggressors see a militarily indecisive hegemon as less of a deterrant?

Gestalt
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Old 12-31-2005, 10:19 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by Maeglin
Uh, well, no. A huge amount of ink has been spilled on this subject in the subfield of IR theory. It has ranged from case studies to econometrics to game theory. One of my favorite books on the subject argues essentially that this matters far less than the ratio of the winning coalition to the selectorate. I'd be happy to run through the literature if I had a lot more time.
What is "IR theory"? And what is a "selectorate"?
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  #16  
Old 12-31-2005, 10:27 AM
XT XT is online now
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I don't think one is better than the other (well, if we are talking bipolar instead of multipolar...I think multipolar is inherently unstable in the long term. See WWI). 'It depends' is the operative statement. The CURRENT unipolar situation I believe is a lot better than some other situations of the past. While its not optimal I think its about as good as its likely to get. Enjoy it while you can...it won't last forever and we will probably all live to see less stable times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
1. The Europeans seems to have actually gotten over the idea of aggressive imperialism, just as the U.S. is really starting to feel its imperial oats. The role of global hegemon is definitely not a job that should go to a power who actually wants it.
Why? I see nothing to indicate that the Europeans have undergone some fundamental change that has put them at a higher plane. All I see is that WWII basically wrecked the various multipolar powers, shattering their industries and crippling their war fighting capabilities from a force projection standpoint, FORCING them to loosen their grip on their various overseas empires. Kicking and screaming in most cases. Couple that with their dependance on the US for aid and support during the cold war, the fact that they haven't needed to devote large percentages of resources to their military aside from some local defense (relying on the US and all), thus enabling them to have decent economic growth while supporting their various social programs (at our expense) and you have the current situation.

BTW, what indications do you have that US imperialism in on the rise? Are you talking from an economic perspective or something else? What do you see as the prime indications?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
2. By the same token, the Europeans (especially the Germans) seem to have a shared idea that they have a lot of past wrongs to make up for. (See this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...ad.php?t=269082) So, in their future foreign adventures, they might be (compared to the U.S.) more inclined to be generous and less inclined to be exploitive.
Er...because they were evil, expansionist bastards in the past this makes them ideal to take the US's place as the unipolar power once we fold??? Maybe they are less inclined simply because they are less capable. Make them more capable and perhaps they will become more inclined.

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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
3. Because Europe is not just one country, and the European Union not really a government in the full sense, the various governments would have to agree among themselves before taking any military action abroad. This would make them less effective, less able to take quick, decisive action -- but also less rash (and I think we Yanks are learning a bitter lesson right now in the folly of rash action). This situation also makes it harder for any particular corporation to enlist the Union forces in its service.
Again, I don't see this as a big advantage. You are saying that because they are divided amongst themselves this makes them the ideal unipolar power. Myself I think its the worst of both worlds. No one will take them seriously if they are constantly divided into factions. And of course, re-arming such an entity to the point that they are militarily capable beyond Europe, while maintaining those various factions...well, perhaps they are over their seemingly endless slaughtering of themselves. However, I'm not too keen to find out and have the US embroiled in yet another massive European killfest. YMMV and all that.

-XT
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  #17  
Old 12-31-2005, 10:49 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
BTW, what indications do you have that US imperialism in on the rise?
I'm gonna pretend you didn't post that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
You are saying that because they are divided amongst themselves this makes them the ideal unipolar power.
Not the ideal, merely the least dangerous.
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  #18  
Old 12-31-2005, 01:12 PM
E-Sabbath E-Sabbath is offline
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No, Brain, I'd like a cite on that. I shall point out, Korea, Vietnam, Panama... I don't see any great _increase_ in imperialistic tendencies.

I am currently hoping Iraq II is a abberation, but it's not any great increase in imperalism, compared to the past. If we'd won in Nam, would it be any different?
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Old 12-31-2005, 02:15 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by E-Sabbath
No, Brain, I'd like a cite on that. I shall point out, Korea, Vietnam, Panama... I don't see any great _increase_ in imperialistic tendencies.
What has increased is our tendency to act like we're the imperial power in this world and we don't have to give a shit what anybody else thinks or wants. During the Cold War, the U.S. was merely the senior partner in an alliance. Now, we (or rather, our leaders) seem to be thinking in terms of PNAC ideology.

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As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's pre-eminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?
From PNAC's 1997 statement of principles -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pnac. Just the way that was phrased -- "American principles and interests" as opposed to "free" or "democratic" or "capitalist" -- reflects a fundamental sea change in foreign-policy thinking.
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Old 12-31-2005, 02:40 PM
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I'm gonna go with Multipolar. I think that comparisons to the past are not going to really help us in this one, because of the state of globalisation. We are moving into corporatism, or anarcho-syndicalism right now, and states are more about balancing power than anything. I think as time goes by what's going to be more important is economic stability than anything else, and with the complex lattice of economic ties that span the globe, any major war would cause serious problems. I have been glad to see that America is being pushed back against.

I think that what is happening in South America is ultimately a good thing, and a powerful Iran with strong economic ties to China, Russia and India will put American adventurism into perspective.

It is becoming less and less relevant what nation you are from, as national identity is having less impact upon what your power base is. Multinational corporations have headquarters offshore in order to lower their tax burden yet they have high levels of power over the American political machine. I do not believe that these companies feel any particular allegiance to America as much as they feel allegiance to themselves as their own entities. This is why Halliburton will have subsidiaries working in Iran even with sanctions there.

Basically, the lines on the map are becoming less and less important in the power games that people are playing on a global scale. It's more about multinational conglomerates, and being invited to the right conference where execs of these conglomerates meet with diplomats to discuss policy decisions.

I don't think that unipolar is even an option, much less a desirable one, and I don't see a bipolar world in our future either. America may have a strong military, but what good does that do us if we can't hold the nation's we conquer? Certainly we could reduce almost any nation in the world to a lower economic rank with cruise missiles, but if we can't exploit them economically, what benefit is there in it for us to do so?

Erek
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  #21  
Old 12-31-2005, 03:10 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by mswas
We are moving into corporatism, or anarcho-syndicalism right now . . .
Those are synonyms? I thought they were practically antonyms. And why would you think we are moving towards either?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-syndicalism
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Old 12-31-2005, 03:44 PM
mswas mswas is offline
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Well, I meant a world ruled by corporations or syndicates. If the theory that you have read disagrees with my usage then I am not interested in backing up what I say based upon an old theory.

My definition is in a nutshell, feudalism where the property is not necessarily based upon land ownership, and isn't limited to particular geographical locations or ethnocentric bonds. If you have a better word, by all means share it with me.

I think that is what we are entering into right now, the old nation-state structures are relevant in that they are syndicates, but their power is waning, and they are only as useful as the syndicates/corporations/institutions/conglomerates/cartels etc... find them to be.

The decline of the nation-state will be a long process, but we are in the first part which I see as the most dramatic portion of the ride. People will always have territory that they will maintain a power base with, that can be land, it can be mineral rights, it can be stocks and bonds, it can be administrator privileges in a computer system, it can be a bureaucratic stamp of approval necessary to initiate an action, it can be pat/matriarchy over a family, and various other forms of power, but I do not think that the past systems can really be relied upon as indicators of future performance, because near-instantaneous global communication was never a standard part of human activity until now.

So I go for multi-polar as I think it will be the best way to ease us into the globalised system where your location on the map or ethnicity will be less important when determining your status in society.

Did you ever pick up "A New World Order" by Anne-Marie Slaughter? btw? I really think you in particular would be into it.

Erek
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  #23  
Old 01-01-2006, 11:24 AM
XT XT is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
I'm gonna pretend you didn't post that.
Why...it was a serious question. Could you give some examples of American Imperialism on the rise in recent years? To me it seems to be at about the same level as always, especially considering US policy towards Central and South America during the 19th and 20th century. I assume you are using 'Imperialism' as "through indirect methods of exerting control on the politics and/or economy of other countries", and not through "through direct territorial conquest"...and I assume you mean economic "empire" with reguards to the US.

So...please take the question seriously and give some examples of US imperialism on the RISE.

-XT
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Old 01-01-2006, 11:25 AM
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Crap...the quoted parts were from Wikipedia on Imperialism. My bad.

-XT
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Old 01-01-2006, 12:22 PM
E-Sabbath E-Sabbath is offline
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Good point, xtisme. I was going to add the Fruit Company, but I forgot if it was the AFC or ABC? The one the CIA ran that did the imperialist dance through most of South America.

America's always been a bit of a bully. Ask Teddy Roosevelt. And remember the Maine?

I don't see any _huge_ increase. I don't think I like it. I don't like the way we got into this war, but I don't see anything that really even comes close to the Marshall Plan era, economically.
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  #26  
Old 01-01-2006, 12:37 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
Could you give some examples of American Imperialism on the rise in recent years?
Our current occupation of Iraq is really a new thing. During the Cold War, we could make a case that any foreign military intervention was essentially defensive, i.e., a move to block Soviet aggression. That no longer applies. (We do have the "war on terror" but it is fairly obvious Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with that.) In Iraq we have a war of aggression fought mainly to secure control of a foreign country's most valuable resource, in this case, oil. That represents a revival of the kind of thinking that led Hawaii to be taken over as a coaling station for the U.S. Navy.
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Old 01-01-2006, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Our current occupation of Iraq is really a new thing. During the Cold War, we could make a case that any foreign military intervention was essentially defensive, i.e., a move to block Soviet aggression. That no longer applies. (We do have the "war on terror" but it is fairly obvious Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with that.) In Iraq we have a war of aggression fought mainly to secure control of a foreign country's most valuable resource, in this case, oil. That represents a revival of the kind of thinking that led Hawaii to be taken over as a coaling station for the U.S. Navy.
Er...I'm not sure I agree that Iraq is an indication of RISING (Economic/Political) Imperialism. Hell, I'm unsure its even a good example of Imperialism on the US's part.

As for your Cold War comparison...even if I agree with you (which I don't), that doesn't take into account US economic Imperialism in the time frame I used as and example. Again, I don't see US RISING Imperialism and your citing Iraq (a single example) doesn't seem to indicate this. Perhaps you'd like to take 'rising' out and simply say that the US is still an economic/political Imperialistic power? Its a debatable point but I think you'd be on firmer ground with that. YMMV and all that.

-XT
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  #28  
Old 01-01-2006, 08:49 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
Hell, I'm unsure its [Iraq] even a good example of Imperialism on the US's part.
What would you consider a good (post-Cold-War) example?
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Old 01-01-2006, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
What would you consider a good (post-Cold-War) example?
Well, its not really up to me to provide one...its up to you since it was your statement that the US has rising Imperialistic tendencies. Myself I don't see it...thats why I asked. But then I don't particularly think the US is currently imperialistic...and really hasn't been since the gun boat diplomacy days in Central/South America. Even then it was pretty mild imperialism as far as these things go when compared to our Euro brethren, no?

Instead of throwing it back on me why don't you show me how Iraq is: A) Imperialistic at all and B) How this one event shows a RISE in US Imperialism.

Seriously. You seem to think its a no brainer but really how is Iraq an indication of US imperialism? How does this one event, even if it was imperialistic, indicative of a rise in US imperialism?

-XT
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Old 01-01-2006, 09:22 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
Well, its not really up to me to provide one...its up to you since it was your statement that the US has rising Imperialistic tendencies.
I said only, "the U.S. is really starting to feel its imperial oats." I.e., after the Cold War we found ourselves, for the first time in our history, the only remaining military power of global reach, and we immediately started to act as if that was a situation to be preserved and taken advantage of. The most significant thing about Gulf War I was the timing.
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  #31  
Old 01-01-2006, 09:25 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
You seem to think its a no brainer but really how is Iraq an indication of US imperialism?
Using military force to secure control of a desired resource is classic imperialism. So is using military force to establish a permanent and effective presence in a strategically resource-rich region.
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  #32  
Old 01-03-2006, 10:11 AM
XT XT is online now
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Using military force to secure control of a desired resource is classic imperialism. So is using military force to establish a permanent and effective presence in a strategically resource-rich region.
I would agree except for one thing....in 'classic imperialism' we would have used military force to secure control of said resource FOR us exclusively. At the least we would have forced Iraq to sell us their resource with extremely favorable trade conditions that were in our own favor a la the British. We have done neither afaik...in fact I don't think we actually buy all that much oil from Iraq even today after the invasion.

-XT
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  #33  
Old 01-03-2006, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
I said only, "the U.S. is really starting to feel its imperial oats." I.e., after the Cold War we found ourselves, for the first time in our history, the only remaining military power of global reach, and we immediately started to act as if that was a situation to be preserved and taken advantage of. The most significant thing about Gulf War I was the timing.
I agree that post Cold War the US found itself the sole military superpower. I disagree that we immediately started to act more imperialistic. I think the US in the past, even before WWII when we were a major military power, arguably acted more 'imperialistic' than we do today...even though NOW we are pretty much the only military superpower AND an economic superpower with considerably more influence throughout the world. I'm not saying that your assessment of the US acting imperialistic is necessarily wrong today (its debatable certainly)...just that I don't think the US is acting more imperialistic than it did in the past. I think that in fact we are acting less imperialistic these days just about across the board...even if I were to agree that Iraq is a good example. Again YMMV.

-XT
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  #34  
Old 01-03-2006, 10:26 AM
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Oh...and compared to EUROPEAN imperialism we are certainly pikers...even at our worst. Just wanted to toss that in.

-XT
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  #35  
Old 01-03-2006, 12:35 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
...in fact I don't think we actually buy all that much oil from Iraq even today after the invasion.
Because the insurgents keep blowing up the pipelines, I suppose. Still, it doesn't matter much to whom Iraq's oil is sold, so long as it is sold on the world market; oil is fungible and every available barrel lowers the average price. But the real point of the war was to secure the supply -- mainly by establishing a U.S. "police station" at the fulcrum of the world's richest oil-producing regions, and reducing the danger that some local government might try to withhold it for strategic purposes, or that some MENA country would collapse into chaos and keep everybody too preoccupied with survival to do any pumping or shipping.

James Howard Kunstler -- www.kunstler.com -- agrees with this assessment (see his recent "Clusterfuck Nation" columns) -- and actually defends the war as necessary on that ground alone.
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  #36  
Old 01-05-2006, 05:18 PM
furt furt is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Curious how you gloss over the worst thing about Rome.
Sorry I missed this earlier. I wasn't trying to gloss over anything; I was more wary of someone coming along to pedantically assert that in fact Rome did grant some freedoms to conquered peoples, yadda yadda yadda.

My point is still the same: it comes down to what one values. The good and bad things of either world model come in a package deal. If eliminating large-scale war is the highest good, then obviously the closer you get to a unipolar world the better. If, however, you'd prefer to see meaningful power vested in the most local level of government possible, then a multipolar world is better. And on and on with a whole host of variables.
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  #37  
Old 01-05-2006, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Because the insurgents keep blowing up the pipelines, I suppose. Still, it doesn't matter much to whom Iraq's oil is sold, so long as it is sold on the world market; oil is fungible and every available barrel lowers the average price. But the real point of the war was to secure the supply -- mainly by establishing a U.S. "police station" at the fulcrum of the world's richest oil-producing regions, and reducing the danger that some local government might try to withhold it for strategic purposes, or that some MENA country would collapse into chaos and keep everybody too preoccupied with survival to do any pumping or shipping.
Its hardly a text book example though of imperialism...no? And even if it was, its one example. Hardly the steep escallation that you seemed to be implying. All in all I still think our imperialistic tendencies (such as they were) were during the whole 'gun boat diplomacy' days. (You could probably make a better case with either cultural imperialism or economic with the US) Iraq's are few and far between these days (and this is assuming I agree its a good example of imperialism).

-XT
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  #38  
Old 01-05-2006, 06:53 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
Its hardly a text book example though of imperialism...no? And even if it was, its one example. Hardly the steep escallation that you seemed to be implying.
Of course it's a steep escalation! We never did anything like this during the Cold War! Even Vietnam wasn't a war of naked aggression and occupation!
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  #39  
Old 01-06-2006, 09:08 AM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
What is "IR theory"? And what is a "selectorate"?
IR theory is a subtheory of political science. It has been historically dominated by a handful of mutually exclusive schools of thought that have, to be fair, undergone substantial change over the years. The wiki article is only minimally informative, but at least it links to summaries of some of the competing schools.

The "selectorate" is an idea from, in my opinion, the most interesting and useful realm of IR, that is, game theory. It comes from a book called The Logic of Political Survival. The linked review doesn't do a bad job of laying out the central idea of the book.

In this context, the selectorate is the set of individuals who might find themselves in a winning coalition, that is, people whose support really matters to keep the incumbent in power. In the US, the selectorate (roughly speaking) is everyone who can vote, and the winning coalition is everyone who backs the winner. In North Korea, the selectorate is everyone in the communist party, and the winning coalition is a handful of extremely wealthy and powerful apparatchiks who keep the dictator in power. Finally, in Kenya, the selectorate is everyone who can vote, but since major elections are almost inevitably rigged, the winning coalition is composed of a few bureaucrats and wealthy campaign backers. The book argues that you can model a country's domestic policies, tax rates, and the choice to go to war entirely based on the ratio of the winning coalition to the selectorate.

I confess my own bias: two of the books coauthors were my game theory and IR theory mentors in grad school. Nevertheless, it is a very good book and very rigorously argued. The authors also plainly state the limitations of their method and analysis and make plenty of suggestions for future work.
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  #40  
Old 01-06-2006, 01:32 PM
E-Sabbath E-Sabbath is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Of course it's a steep escalation! We never did anything like this during the Cold War! Even Vietnam wasn't a war of naked aggression and occupation!
Brain? Remember the Maine.
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  #41  
Old 01-06-2006, 03:16 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by E-Sabbath
Brain? Remember the Maine.
I'm focusing on the distinction between what the U.S. government did when we had the Soviets to keep us in check, and vice-versa ("bipolar world") and what we've been doing since the USSR collapsed ("unipolar world"). And yes, I do see an "escalation." And yes, the most significant thing about Gulf War I was the timing. Hussein would not have invaded Kuwait if the U.S. ambassador had not at least implied we would be cool with that (an inference that must have seemed all the more reasonable to him since we had been backing him against Iran for years). The results giving Bush I the chance to assert American global leadership just at the most propitious moment, just when it seemed possible that in the post-CW world there would be no hegemonic power at all.
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  #42  
Old 01-06-2006, 03:30 PM
E-Sabbath E-Sabbath is offline
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Fruit_Company

It ain't pretty there, either. 1899-1970.
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  #43  
Old 01-06-2006, 05:27 PM
XT XT is online now
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
I'm focusing on the distinction between what the U.S. government did when we had the Soviets to keep us in check, and vice-versa ("bipolar world") and what we've been doing since the USSR collapsed ("unipolar world").
Ah...I see. Now I can detect the disconnect. I didn't realize you were using an arbitrary time frame. Certainly if you do so your arguement looks a lot better...and of course you can detect the 'escalation' if you pick and choose the frame of reference. This is commonly refered to as 'cherry picking the data'. Perhaps you and GW have more in common than you think.

-XT
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  #44  
Old 01-09-2006, 04:09 AM
alaricthegoth alaricthegoth is offline
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Originally Posted by E-Sabbath
Brain? Remember the Maine.
I think he did say the cold war--that would be, classically, 1945-1990 or so.

I think the necessity to compete internationally at least made us more skillful hypocrites.
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  #45  
Old 01-09-2006, 09:03 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
This is commonly refered to as 'cherry picking the data'.
It's also called "relevance." America's Cold War role in the world is something most living adults remember, you see, and our present role in the world is something everybody has to deal with now.

But, we're getting sidetracked. Perhaps we should get back to discussing the relative merits of a unipolar world vs. a world with no clear hegemon.
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  #46  
Old 01-09-2006, 10:37 AM
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Certainly I don't want to hijack things BG...my apologies. I've already chimed in on the OP earlier FWIW. I think the current Unipolar world is about as good as its likely to get...of course I'm an American so I definitely have a skewed viewpoint (which could work both ways depending on the specific American ). I'm sure that if you asked the average British citizen during the height of their empire they would say something similar.

As I said though...it depends which is better. I'm sure sometimes in either the past or potential future either could be the most optimal.

-XT
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  #47  
Old 01-10-2006, 10:44 AM
Citizen Bob Citizen Bob is offline
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I have to partially agree somewhat with Furt in this one. From the global values I treasure, I must say Multi-polar. From the local values I treasure, I must say Mono-polar.

I lean more toward Multi/bi-polar, because I believe that best for technology, business, innovation. It parallels the fundamentals of Capitalistic systems. With sturdy competition, there is pressure for businesses to streamline their services & keep prices in check in order to keep consumers from going elsewhere. Back to governments - space exploration competes, spy techs improve, translation protocols improve, pressure to take great care in foreign policy, etc. However, there is always the danger that military machines improve faster than the knowledge/understanding of commanders of those machines/bombs and actual defense and long term effects from "our boys" using those machines -- Thermo-nuclear prowess, for example -- possible negative.

However, on the Mono-polar side, I might say that without any real competition, one might expect relative security, superiority, and (if one is on the right side of the fence) social and economic nets, in case things aren't going well for you. BUT on the down-side, you have the usual symptoms of the capitalist 'monopoly' - prices drift too high, consumer complaints won't be taken seriously because there's no where else to go, and corruption to preserve the system becomes a daily occurrence.

From all historical accounts, all good things come to an end. In Multi-polar systems, I would imagine that it is easier for technology to permanently stay seated than if there was a mono-polar system -- eg, when Egypt and Rome fell [the lesson I believe Plato is trying to remind students, in his 'Atlantis' stuff], technology and the security of society rolled back for a couple hundred years, especially on communication, hydro-mechanical devices, architecture, use of cement, art, etc.


space programs dwindle, care may not be
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  #48  
Old 01-10-2006, 10:49 AM
Citizen Bob Citizen Bob is offline
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space programs dwindle, care may not be
Oops,, sorry. That last line was vestigial to a thought I never put up.
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