Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hegemony Over

Well, it sure was nice being the world's hyperpower while it lasted. We won the Cold War in 1989 and it took less than 20 years to watch a restructuring. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to a bygone era - not the hair-trigger peace of mutually assured destruction and spy vs. spy stuff between the Superpowers - no, we go further back than that. Welcome back to the time of the Great Powers.

Yeah, we're still at the top of the totem pole. But somewhere along the way, we couldn't hear what was going on elsewhere over the sound of how awesome we were, and now we're learning in a very loud way that not very many folks were listening to the music at our house party.

If you thought we heard the words "appeasement" and "intrigue" in our political discourse before, just wait. Welcome back to "sphere of influence." Now we're going to have to balance our tough Texas talk with our actual national priorities, goals and the realpolitik of any given situation. I mean, could we back up a real pro-Western democracy in Georgia (the nation) if Russia really, really wanted to make a point of it?

If you've got the time, you may want to dust off your old poli-sci textbooks and brush up on your rational actor theories and balance of power models within the scope of foreign policy analysis. (And by being at the top, we're not in the best shape in the 'balance of power' models...just ask the British Empire...)

I was totally looking forward to never having to read Global Shift again, evar.

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1 comment:

Dante said...

Yeah, it was easy to be the lone super power when your peer absolutely crashed economically. Funny now that they're regained the bulk of their economic footing, they're acting an awful lot like their pre-Cold War selves.

The US alone probably couldn't keep a pro-Western democracy going in Russia but they never really could. That's why we have NATO. Keeping Russia in check is exactly why NATO is as big a deal as it is today. The NATO membership push that's been happening for almost 20 years now has been specifically aimed at crippling Russia's "sphere of influence."

So far, it's been fine because Russia isn't really interested in world domination anymore. They're interested in selling oil and arms. In fact, just the other day I heard Putin yell, "I fight for me. FOR ME!!!" (Ok, that might've been Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV.) You'll notice that anything we do to try and stop Russia's newfound lust for such sales is met with much hostility.

Whether it be threatening their domination of oil pipelines in the region or putting in a radar that will help shoot down the missiles their business clients purchase (but not the ones the Russians have stashed away for themselves), Russia is going to respond in a rather nasty manner. You'll note they didn't particularly care when Poland joined NATO. They kicked up a fuss but that's about it for a nation that matters so little in their current business plans.

When it comes down to it, trying to get Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was the right move and even if it damages our rather unrealistic image of ourselves as the great all-powerful United States, it's still worth it. We need as many allies as we can get but we should've done this 15 years ago when Russia would have been in a weaker position to fight and a more Western-friendly Yeltsin was running the show.

That doesn't change the fact that we're in a bit of a pickle right now since we really have to do something for Georgia. This administration has done the right thing so far in my opinion. They're going out and looking for International help, both at NATO and with the UN. (I believe that's what everyone thought they should do with Iraq.) Sure, UN action will get vetoed by Russia but if Russia actually has to veto, it'll make Russia look like an International bad guy instead of like someone just out to defend their turf.

The one good thing to come out of this Georgia conflict is that it gives us an opportunity to tighten our relationships with Germany and France. I hope we use that opportunity.