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<nettime> Perry Anderson on the upcoming war
Patrice Riemens on Wed, 8 Jan 2003 21:14:10 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Perry Anderson on the upcoming war

Editorial in the New Left Review. Copyle/ifted from the Multitudes-Infos 
list where it was send to by Emmanuel Videcoq. URL unknown, sorry.

Date: Wed, 08 Jan 2003 13:54:05 +0100
From: "emmanuel.videcoq" <emmanuel.videcoq {AT} wanadoo.fr>
To: Liste Multitudes infos <multitudes-infos {AT} samizdat.net>
Subject: [multitudes-infos] Editorial de Perry Anderson de la NLR sur la




As a count-down to war begins once again in the Middle East, amid high
levels of sanctimony and bluster in the Atlantic world, it is the underlying
parameters of the current international situation that demand attention, not
the spray of rhetoric‹whether belligerently official or ostensibly
oppositional‹surrounding it. They pose three main analytic questions. How
far does the line of the Republican administration in Washington today
represent a break with previous US policies? To the extent that it does so,
what explains the discontinuity? What are the likely consequences of the
change? To answer these, it seems likely that a longer perspective than the
immediate conjuncture is required. The role of the United States in the
world has become the topic of an increasingly wide range of posturing across
the established political spectrum, and only a few of the complex issues it
poses can be addressed here. But some arrows from the quiver of classical
socialist theory may be better than none.


American policy planners today are the heirs of unbroken traditions of
global calculation by the US state that go back to the last years of the
Second World War. Between 1943 and 1945, the Roosevelt administration worked
on the shape of the American system of power which it could see that victory
over Germany and Japan, amidst mounting Russian casualties and British
debts, was bringing. From the start, Washington pursued two integrally
connected strategic goals. On the one hand, the US set out to make the world
safe for capitalism. That meant according top priority to containing the
USSR and halting the spread of revolution beyond its borders, wherever it
could not directly contest the spoils of war, as in Eastern Europe. With the
onset of the Cold War, the long-term aim of the struggle against Communism
became once more‹as it had been at the outset of Wilson¹s intervention in
1919‹not simply to block, but to remove the Soviet antagonist from the map.
On the other hand, Washington was determined to ensure uncontested American
primacy within world capitalism. That meant in the first instance reducing
Britain to economic dependency, a process that had begun with Lend Lease
itself, and establishing a post-war military regency in West Germany and
Japan. Once this framework was in place, the wartime boom of American
capitalism was successfully extended to allied and defeated powers alike, to
the common benefit of all OECD states.

During the years of the Cold War, there was little or no tension between
these two fundamental objectives of US policy. The danger of Communism to
capitalist classes everywhere, in Asia increased by the Chinese Revolution,
meant that virtually all were happy to be protected, assisted and
invigilated by Washington. France‹culturally less close than Britain, and
militarily more autonomous than Germany or Japan‹was the only brief
exception, under De Gaulle. This parenthesis aside, the entire
advanced-capitalist zone was integrated without much strain into an informal
American imperium, whose landmarks were Bretton Woods, the Marshall and
Dodge Plans, NATO and the US­Japan Security Pact. In due course, Japanese
and German capitalism recovered to a point where they became increasingly
serious economic competitors of the United States, while the Bretton Woods
system gave way under the pressures of the Vietnam War in the early
seventies. But the political and ideological unity of the Free World was
scarcely affected. The Soviet bloc, always weaker, smaller and poorer, held
out for another twenty years of declining growth and escalating arms race,
but eventually collapsed at the turn of the nineties.

The disappearance of the USSR marked complete US victory in the Cold War.
But, by the same token, the knot tying the basic objectives of American
global strategy together became looser. The same logic no longer integrated
its two goals into a single hegemonic system. [1] For once the Communist
danger was taken off the table, American primacy ceased to be an automatic
requirement of the security of the established order tout court.
Potentially, the field of inter-capitalist rivalries, no longer just at the
level of firms but of states, sprang open once again, as‹in theory‹European
and East Asian regimes could now contemplate degrees of independence
unthinkable during the time of totalitarian peril. Yet there was another
aspect to this change. If the consensual structure of American dominion now
lacked the same external girders, its coercive superiority was, at a single
stroke, abruptly and massively enhanced. For with the erasure of the USSR,
there was no longer any countervailing force on earth capable of
withstanding US military might. The days when it could be checkmated in
Vietnam, or suffer proxy defeat in Southern Africa, were over. These
interrelated changes were eventually bound to alter the role of the United
States in the world. The chemical formula of power was in solution.


In practice, however, the effects of this structural shift in the balance
between force and consent within the operation of American hegemony remained
latent for a decade. The defining conflict of the nineties, indeed, all but
completely masked it. The Iraqi seizure of Kuwait threatened the pricing of
oil supplies to all the leading capitalist states, not to speak of the
stability of neighbouring regimes, allowing a vast coalition of G-7 and Arab
allies to be swiftly assembled by the United States for the restoration of
the Sabah dynasty to its throne. Yet more significant than the range of
foreign auxiliaries or subsidies garnered for Desert Storm was the ability
of the US to secure the full cover of the United Nations for its campaign.
With the USSR out for the count, the Security Council could henceforward be
utilized with increasing confidence as a portable ideological screen for the
initiatives of the single superpower. To all appearances, it looked as if
the consensual reach of American diplomacy was greater than ever before.

However, the consent so enlarged was of a specialized kind. The elites of
Russia and‹this had started earlier‹China were certainly susceptible to the
magnetism of American material and cultural success, as norms for imitation.
In this respect, the internalization by subaltern powers of selected values
and attributes of the paramount state, which Gramsci would have thought an
essential feature of any international hegemony, started to take hold. But
the objective character of these regimes was still too far removed from US
prototypes for such subjective predispositions to form a reliable guarantee
for every act of complaisance in the Security Council. For that, the third
lever Gramsci once picked out‹intermediate between force and consent, but
closer to the latter‹was required: corruption. [2] Long used to control
votes in the General Assembly, it was now extended upwards to these
veto-holders. The economic inducements to comply with the will of the United
States stretched, in post-communist Russia, from IMF loans to the backdoor
funding and organization of Yeltsin¹s electoral campaigns. In the case of
China, they centred on the fine-tuning of MFN status and trade arrangements.
[3] Assent that is bought is never quite the same as that which is given;
but for practical purposes, it was enough to return the UN to something like
the halcyon days at the outbreak of the Korean War, when it automatically
did US bidding. The minor irritant of a Secretary-General who on occasion
escaped the American thumb was removed, and a placeman of the White House,
rewarded for covering the Rwandan genocide while the US pressed for
intervention in the Balkans, installed. [4] By the late nineties, the UN had
become virtually as much an arm of the State Department as the IMF is of the

In these conditions, American policy planners could confront the post-Cold
War world with an unprecedentedly free hand. Their first priority was to
make sure that Russia was locked, economically and politically, into the
global order of capital, with the installation of a privatized economy and a
business oligarchy at the switches of a democratic electoral system. This
was the major diplomatic focus of the Clinton administration. A second
concern was to secure the two adjacent zones of Soviet influence‹Eastern
Europe and the Middle East. In the former, Washington extended NATO to the
traditional borders of Russia, well before any EU expansion to the East, and
took charge of liquidating the Yugoslav estate. In the latter, the war for
Kuwait was a windfall that allowed it to install advanced military bases in
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, establish a protectorate in Kurdistan, and tie
the Palestinian national movement down in an Israeli-dictated waiting-zone.
These were all, in some degree, emergency tasks arising from the aftermath
of victory in the Cold War itself.


Ideologically, the outlines of a post-Cold War system emerged more
gradually. But the Gulf and Balkan Wars helped to crystallize an ever more
comprehensive doctrine, linking free markets (the ark of neoliberalism since
the Reagan­Thatcher period) to free elections (the leitmotif of liberation
in Central­Eastern Europe) to human rights (the battle-cry in Kurdistan and
the Balkans). The first two had, in varying tonalities, always been part of
the repertoire of the Cold War, although now they were much more confidently
asserted: a change most marked in the full-throated recovery of the term
Œcapitalism¹, held indiscreet at the height of the Cold War, when euphemisms
were preferred. It was the third, however, that was the principal innovation
of the period, and did most to alter the strategic landscape. For this was
the jemmy in the door of national sovereignty.

Traditional principles upholding the autonomy of nations in their domestic
affairs were, of course, regularly flouted by both sides in the Cold War.
But, as inscribed in diplomatic convention‹not least the UN Charter
itself‹these issued from the balance of forces during a period of
decolonization that had given birth to a multiplicity of often small, and
nearly always weak, states in the Third World. [5] Juridically, the doctrine
of national sovereignty presupposed notions of equality between peoples that
afforded some protection against the bullying of the two superpowers, whose
competition ensured that neither could seek openly to set it aside, for fear
of yielding too much moral advantage to the other. But with the end of the
Cold War, and the disappearance of any counterbalance to the camp of
capital, there was little reason to pay too much attention to formulations
that expressed another relationship of international forces, now defunct.
The New World Order, at first proclaimed in triumphalist but still
traditional terms by Bush Sr, became under Clinton the legitimate pursuit by
the international community of universal justice and human rights, wherever
they were in jeopardy, regardless of state borders, as a condition of a
democratic peace. 

>From the mid-nineties onwards, the setting in which the Democratic
administration operated was unusually propitious. At home it was cresting on
a speculative boom; abroad it enjoyed a set of European regimes tailored to
its domestic ideological agenda. The Third Way version of neoliberalism
fitted well with the catechism of the Œinternational community¹ and its
shared devotion to universal human values. In practice, of course, wherever
the logic of American primacy clashed with allied considerations or
objectives, the former prevailed. The political realities underlying
multilateral rhetoric were time and again made clear in these years. The US
scuppered the Lisbon accords in 1992, preferring to dictate its own
settlement in Bosnia, if necessary at the price of further ethnic cleansing,
rather than accept an EU initiative; imposed the ultimatum at Rambouillet
that launched full-scale war over Kosovo; bundled NATO to the frontiers of
Belarus and Ukraine; and gave its blessing to the Russian reconquest of
Chechnya‹Clinton hailing the Œliberation of Grozny¹ after an onslaught that
made the fate of Sarajevo look like a picnic.

In one way or another, all these moves in its backyard overrode or scanted
EU sensibilities. But in no case were these flouted too indelicately or
ostentatiously. Indeed, as the second Clinton administration wore on,
European officialdom actually became, if anything, more profuse and vehement
in announcing the interconnexion of free markets and free elections, and the
need to limit national sovereignty in the name of human rights, than
Washington itself. Politicians and intellectuals could pick what they wanted
from the mixture. In a speech in Chicago, Blair outdid Clinton in enthusiasm
for a new military humanism, while in Germany a thinker like Habermas saw
disinterested commitment to the ideal of human rights as a definition of
European identity itself, setting the Continent apart from the merely
instrumental aims of the Anglo-American powers in the bombing of Yugoslavia.

By the end of the decade, strategic planners in Washington had every reason
to be satisfied with the overall balance sheet of the nineties. The USSR had
been knocked out of the ring, Europe and Japan kept in check, China drawn
into increasingly close trade relations, the UN reduced to little more than
a permissions office; and all this accomplished to the tune of the most
emollient of ideologies, whose every second word was international
understanding and democratic goodwill. Peace, justice and freedom were
spreading around the world.


Two years later, the scene looks very different. But in what respects? From
the start, the incoming Bush administration showed a certain impatience with
the fiction that the Œinternational community¹ was an alliance of democratic
equals, and a disregard for the assorted hypocrisies associated with it,
grating to a European opinion still in mourning for Clinton. But such shifts
in style signified no change in the fundamental aims of American global
strategy, which have remained completely stable for a half-century. Two
developments, however, have radically modified the ways in which these are
currently being pursued.

The first of these, of course, was the shock of September 11. In no sense a
serious threat to American power, the attentats targeted symbolic buildings
and innocent victims‹killing virtually as many Americans in a day as they do
each other in a season‹in a spectacle calculated to sow terror and fury in a
population with no experience of foreign attack. Dramatic retribution, on a
scale more than proportionate to the massacre, would automatically have
become the first duty of any government, whatever party was in power. In
this case the new administration, elected by a small and contested margin,
had already posted its intention of striking a more assertive national
posture abroad, dispensing with a series of diplomatic façades or
placebos‹Rome, Kyoto etc‹its predecessor had, rather nominally, approved.
September 11 gave it an unexpected chance to recast the terms of American
global strategy more decisively than would otherwise have been possible.
Spontaneously, domestic opinion was now galvanized for a struggle
figuratively comparable to the Cold War itself.

With this, a critical constraint was lifted. In postmodern conditions, the
hegemony of capital does not require mass mobilization of any kind. Rather,
it thrives on the opposite‹political apathy and withdrawal of any cathexis
from public life. Failure to vote, as Britain¹s Chancellor remarked after
the last UK election, is the mark of the satisfied citizen. Nowhere is this
axiom more widely accepted than in the United States, where Presidents are
regularly elected by about a quarter of the adult population. But‹here is an
essential distinction‹the exercise of American primacy does require an
activation of popular sentiment beyond mere assent to the domestic status
quo. This is far from readily or continuously available. The Gulf War was
approved by only a handful of votes in Congress. Intervention in Bosnia was
long delayed for fear of unenthusiastic reaction in the electorate. Even
landings in Haiti had to be quite brief. Here there have always been quite
tight constraints on the Pentagon and White House‹popular fear of
casualties, widespread ignorance of the outside world, traditional
indifference to foreign conflicts. In effect, there is a permanent
structural gap between the range of military-political operations the
American empire needs in order to maintain its sway, and the span of
attention or commitment of American voters. To close it, a threat of some
kind is virtually indispensable. In that sense, much like Pearl Harbour, the
attentats of September 11 gave a Presidency that was anyway seeking to
change the modus operandi of America abroad the opportunity for a much
swifter and more ambitious turn than it could easily have executed
otherwise. The circle around Bush realized this immediately, National
Security Adviser Rice comparing the moment to the inception of the Cold
War‹a political equivalent of the Creation. [6]

The second development, of no less significance, had been germinating since
the mid-nineties. The Balkan War, valuable as a demonstration of American
command in Europe, and uplifting in its removal of Milosevic, had also
yielded a premium of a more virtual yet consequential kind. Here for the
first time, in well-nigh ideal conditions, could be tested out what
specialists had for some time predicted as the impending Œrevolution in
military affairs¹. What the RMA meant was a fundamental change in the nature
of warfare, by comprehensive application of electronic advances to weapons
and communications systems. The NATO campaign against Yugoslavia was still
an early experiment, with a good many technical flaws and targeting
failures, in the possibilities for one-sided destruction that these
innovations opened up. But the results were startling enough, suggesting the
potential for a quantum jump in the accuracy and effect of American fire
power. By the time that plans for retaliation against Al-Qaeda were in
preparation, the RMA had proceeded much further. The blitz on Afghanistan,
deploying a full panoply of satellites, smart missiles, drones, stealth
bombers and special forces, showed just how wide the technological gap
between the US armoury and that of all other states had become, and how low
the human cost‹to the US‹of further military interventions round the world
might be. The global imbalance in the means of violence once the USSR had
vanished has, in effect, since been redoubled, tilting the underlying
constituents of hegemony yet more sharply towards the pole of force. For the
effect of the RMA is to create a low-risk power vacuum around American
planning, in which the ordinary calculus of the risks or gains of war is
diluted or suspended. The lightning success of the Afghan operation, over
forbidding geographical and cultural terrain, could only embolden any
Administration for wider imperial sweeps.

These two changes of circumstance‹the inflaming of popular nationalism in
the wake of September 11 at home, and the new latitude afforded by the RMA
abroad‹have been accompanied by an ideological shift. This is the main
element of discontinuity in current US global strategy. Where the rhetoric
of the Clinton regime spoke of the cause of international justice and the
construction of a democratic peace, the Bush administration has hoist the
banner of the war on terrorism. These are not incompatible motifs, but the
order of emphasis assigned to each has altered. The result is a sharp
contrast of atmospherics. The war on terrorism orchestrated by Cheney and
Rumsfeld is a far more strident, if also brittle, rallying-cry than the
cloying pieties of the Clinton­Albright years. The immediate political yield
of each has also differed. The new and sharper line from Washington has gone
down badly in Europe, where human-rights discourse was and is especially
prized. Here the earlier line was clearly superior as a hegemonic idiom.

On the other hand, in Russia and China, the opposite holds good. There, the
war on terrorism has‹at any rate temporarily‹offered a much better basis for
integrating rival power centres under American leadership than human-rights
rhetoric, which only irritated the principals. For the moment, the
diplomatic gains scored by the co-option of Putin¹s regime into the Afghan
campaign, and installation of US bases throughout Central Asia, can well be
regarded by Washington as more substantial than the costs of the listless
grumbling at American unilateralism that is so marked a feature of the
European scene. The ABM Treaty is dead, NATO is moving into the Baltic
states without resistance from Moscow, and Russia is eager to join the
Western concert. China too, put out at first by loose Republican talk on
Taiwan, has been reassured by the war on terrorism, which gives it cover
from the White House for ethnic repression in Xinjiang.


If such was the balance sheet as an American marionette was lowered smoothly
into place in Kabul, to all but universal applause‹from Iranian mullahs to
French philosophes, Scandinavian social-democrats to Russian secret
policemen, British NGOs to Chinese generals‹what explains the projected
follow-up in Iraq? A tougher policy towards the Ba¹ath regime, already
signalled during Bush¹s electoral campaign, was predictable well before
September 11, at a time when the long-standing Anglo-American bombardment of
Iraq was anyway intensifying. [7] Three factors have since converted what
was no doubt originally envisaged as stepped-up covert operations to
overthrow Saddam into the current proposals for a straightforward invasion.
The first is the need for some more conclusively spectacular outcome to the
war on terrorism. Victory in Afghanistan, satisfactory enough in itself, was
achieved over a largely invisible enemy, and to some extent psychologically
offset by continuing warnings of the danger of further attacks by the hidden
agents of Al-Qaeda. Functional for keeping up a high state of public alarm,
this theme nevertheless lacks any liberating resolution. The conquest of
Iraq offers drama of a grander and more familiar type, whose victorious
ending could convey a sense that a hydra-like enemy has truly been put out
of action. For an American public, traumatized by a new sense of insecurity,
distinctions in the taxonomy of evil between Kandahar and Baghdad are not of
great moment. 

Beyond such atmospherics, however, the drive to attack Iraq answers to a
rational calculation of a more strategic nature. It is clear that the
traditional nuclear oligopoly, indefensible on any principled grounds, is
bound to be more and more challenged in practice as the technology for
making atomic weapons becomes cheaper and simpler. The club has already been
defied by India and Pakistan. To deal with this looming danger, the US needs
to be able to launch pre-emptive strikes at possible candidates, whenever it
so wishes. The Balkan War provided a vital first precedent for overriding
the legal doctrine of national sovereignty without any need to invoke
self-defence‹one retrospectively sanctioned by the UN. In Europe, this was
still often presented as a regrettable exception, triggered by a
humanitarian emergency, to the normal respect for international law
characteristic of democracies. The notion of the axis of evil, by contrast,
and the subsequent targeting of Iraq, lays down the need for pre-emptive war
and enforcement of regime change as a norm, if the world is ever to be made

For obvious reasons, this conception‹unlike the battle against terrorism
more narrowly construed‹is capable of making all power-centres outside
Washington nervous. Misgivings have already been expressed, if not too
loudly, by France and Russia. But from the viewpoint of Washington, if the
momentum of the war on terrorism can be used to push through a de facto‹or
better yet, de jure‹UN acceptance of the need to crush Saddam Hussein
without further ado, then pre-emptive strikes will have been established
henceforward as part of the regular repertoire of democratic peace-keeping
on a global scale. Such a window of ideological opportunity is unlikely to
come again soon. It is the juridical possibilities it opens up for a new
Œinternational constitution¹, in which such operations become part of a
habitual and legal order, that excite such a leading theorist of earlier
human-rights interventions as Philip Bobbitt, a passionate admirer and close
counsellor of Clinton during the Balkan strikes‹underlining the extent to
which the logic of pre-emption is potentially bipartisan. [8] The fact that
Iraq does not have nuclear weapons, of course, would make an attack on it
all the more effective as a lesson deterring others from any bid to acquire

A third reason for seizing Baghdad is more directly political, rather than
ideological or military. Here the risk is significantly greater. The
Republican administration is as well aware as anyone on the Left that
September 11 was not simply an act of unmotivated evil, but a response to
the widely disliked role of the United States in the Middle East. This is a
region in which‹unlike Europe, Russia, China, Japan or Latin America‹there
are virtually no regimes with a credible base to offer effective
transmission points for American cultural or economic hegemony. The assorted
Arab states are docile enough, but they lack any kind of popular support,
resting on family networks and secret police which typically compensate for
their factual servility to the US with a good deal of media hostility, not
to speak of closure, towards America. Uniquely, indeed, Washington¹s oldest
dependency and most valuable client in the region, Saudi Arabia, is more
barricaded against US cultural penetration than any country in the world
after North Korea. 

In practice, while thoroughly subject to the grip of American Œhard¹ power
(funds and arms), most of the Arab world thus forms a kind of exclusion zone
for the normal operations of American Œsoft power¹, allowing all kinds of
aberrant forces and sentiments to brew under the apparently tight lid of the
local security services, as the origins of the assailants of 9.11
demonstrated. Viewed in this light, Al-Qaeda could be seen as a warning of
the dangers of relying on too external and indirect a system of control in
the Middle East, an area which also contains the bulk of the world¹s oil
reserves and so cannot be left to its own devices as an irrelevant marchland
in the way that most of Sub-Saharan Africa can. On the other hand, any
attempt to alter the struts of US command over the region by tampering with
the existing regimes could easily lead to regime backlashes of the Madame
Nhu type, which did the US no good in South-East Asia. Taking over Iraq, by
contrast, would give Washington a large oil-rich platform in the centre of
the Arab world, on which to build an enlarged version of Afghan-style
democracy, designed to change the whole political landscape of the Middle

Of course, as many otherwise well-disposed commentators have hastened to
point out, rebuilding Iraq might prove a taxing and hazardous business. But
American resources are large, and Washington can hope for a Nicaraguan
effect after a decade of mortality and despair under UN siege‹counting on
the end of sanctions and full resumption of oil exports, under a US
occupation, to improve the living conditions of the majority of the Iraqi
population so dramatically as to create the potential for a stable American
protectorate, of the kind that already more or less exists in the Kurdish
sector of the country. Unlike the Sandinista government, the Ba¹ath regime
is a pitiless dictatorship with few or no popular roots. The Bush
administration could reckon that the chances of a Nicaraguan outcome, in
which an exhausted population trades independence for material relief, are
likely to be higher in Baghdad than they were in Managua.

In turn, the demonstration effect of a role-model parliamentary regime,
under benevolent international tutelage‹perhaps another Loya Jirga of the
ethnic mosaic in the country‹would be counted on to convince Arab elites of
the need to modernize their ways, and Arab masses of the invincibility of
America. In the Muslim world at large, Washington has already pocketed the
connivance of the Iranian clerics (conservative and reformist) for a repeat
of Enduring Freedom in Mesopotamia. In these conditions, so the strategic
calculus goes, bandwagoning of the kind that originally brought the PLO to
heel at Oslo after the Gulf War would once again become irresistible,
allowing a final settlement of the Palestinian question along lines
acceptable to Sharon.


Such, roughly speaking, is the thinking behind the Republican plan to occupy
Iraq. Like all such geopolitical enterprises, which can never factor in
every relevant agent or circumstance, it involves a gamble. But a
calculation that misfires is not thereby necessarily irrational‹it becomes
so only if the odds are plainly too high against it, or the potential costs
far outweigh the benefits, even if the odds are low. Neither appears to
apply in this case. The operation is clearly within American capabilities,
and its immediate costs‹there would undoubtedly be some‹do not at this stage
look prohibitive. What would upset the apple-cart, of course, would be any
sudden overthrow of one or more of the US client regimes in the region by
indignant crowds or enraged officers. In the nature of things, it is
impossible to rule out such coups de théâtre, but as things stand at the
moment, it looks as if Washington is not being unrealistic in discounting
such an eventuality. The Iraqi regime attracts far less sympathy than the
Palestinian cause, yet the Arab masses were unable to lift a finger to help
the second intifada throughout the televised crushing by the IDF of the
uprising in the occupied territories.

Why then has the prospect of war aroused such disquiet, not so much in the
Middle East, where Arab League bluster is largely pro forma, but in Europe?
At governmental level, part of the reason lies, as often noted, in the
opposite distribution of Jewish and Arab populations on the two sides of the
Atlantic. Europe has no strict equivalent to the power of AIPAC in the US,
but does contain millions of Muslims: communities in which an occupation of
Iraq could provoke unrest‹possibly triggering, in freer conditions,
unwelcome turbulence in the Arab street itself, where the reactions to an
invasion after the event might prove stronger than inability to block it
beforehand would suggest. The EU countries, far weaker as military or
political actors on the international stage, are inherently more cautious
than the United States. Britain, of course, is the exception, where an
equerry mentality has led to the other extreme, falling in more or less
automatically with initiatives from across the ocean.

In general, while European states know they are subaltern to the US, and
accept their status, they dislike having it rubbed in publicly. The Bush
administration¹s dismissal of the Kyoto Protocols and International Criminal
Court has also offended a sense of propriety earnestly attached to the
outward forms of political rectitude. NATO was accorded scant attention in
the Afghan campaign, and is being completely ignored in the drive to the
Tigris. All this has ruffled European sensibilities. A further ingredient in
the hostile reception the plan to attack Iraq has met in the European‹to a
lesser extent also liberal American‹intelligentsia is the justified fear
that it could strip away the humanitarian veil covering Balkan and Afghan
operations, to reveal too nakedly the imperial realities behind the new
militarism. This layer has invested a great deal in human-rights rhetoric,
and feels uncomfortably exposed by the bluntness of the thrust now under

In practice, such misgivings amount to little more than a plea that whatever
war is launched should have the nominal blessing of the United Nations. The
Republican administration has been happy to oblige, explaining with perfect
candour that America always benefits if it can act multilaterally, but if it
cannot, will act unilaterally anyway. A Security Council Resolution framed
vaguely enough to allow an American assault on Iraq soon after the elapse of
some kind of ultimatum would suffice to appease European consciences, and
let the Pentagon get on with the war. A month or two of sustained official
massaging of opinion on both sides of the Atlantic is capable of working
wonders. Despite the huge anti-war demonstration in London this autumn,
three-quarters of the British public would support an attack on Iraq,
provided the UN extends its fig-leaf. In that event, it seems quite possible
the French jackal will be in at the kill as well. In Germany, Schroeder has
tapped popular opposition to the war to escape electoral eviction, but since
his country is not a member of the Security Council, his gestures are
costless. In practice, the Federal Republic will furnish all the necessary
staging-posts for an expedition to Iraq‹a considerably more important
strategic service to the Pentagon than the provision of British commandos or
French paras. Overall, European acquiescence in the campaign can be taken
for granted. 

This does not mean that there will be any widespread enthusiasm for the war
in the EU, aside from Downing Street itself. Factual assent to an armed
assault is one matter; ideological commitment to it another. Participation
in the expedition, or‹more probably‹occupation to follow it, is unlikely to
cancel altogether resentment about the extent to which Europe was bounced
into the enterprise. The demonstration of American prerogatives‹Œthe
unilateralist iron fist inside the multilateralist velvet glove¹, as Robert
Kagan has crisply put it‹may rankle for some time yet. [9]


Does this mean, as a chorus of establishment voices in both Europe and
America protests, that the Œunity of the West¹ risks long-run damage from
the high-handedness of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice? In considering this
question, it is essential to bear in mind the formal figure of any hegemony,
which necessarily always conjugates a particular power with a general task
of coordination. Capitalism as an abstract economic order requires certain
universal conditions for its operation: stable rights of private property,
predictable legal rules, some procedures of arbitration, and (crucially)
mechanisms to ensure the subordination of labour. But this is a competitive
system, whose motor is rivalry between economic agents. Such competition has
no Œnatural¹ ceiling: once it becomes international, the Darwinian struggle
between firms has an inherent tendency to escalate to the level of states.
There, however, as the history of the first half of the twentieth century
repeatedly showed, it can have disastrous consequences for the system
itself. For on the plane of inter-state relations, there are only weak
equivalents of domestic law, and no mechanisms for aggregating interests
between different parties on an equal basis, as nominally within electoral

Left to itself, the logic of such anarchy can only be internecine war, of
the kind Lenin described in 1916. Kautsky, by contrast, abstracting from the
clashing interests and dynamics of the concrete states of that time, came to
the conclusion that the future of the system must‹in its own interests‹lie
in the emergence of mechanisms of international capitalist coordination
capable of transcending such conflicts, or what he called
Œultra-imperialism¹. [10] This was a prospect Lenin rejected as utopian. The
second half of the century produced a solution envisaged by neither thinker,
but glimpsed intuitively by Gramsci. For in due course it became clear that
the coordination problem can be satisfactorily resolved only by the
existence of a superordinate power, capable of imposing discipline on the
system as a whole, in the common interests of all parties. Such Œimposition¹
cannot be a product of brute force. It must also correspond to a genuine
capacity of persuasion‹ideally, a form of leadership that can offer the most
advanced model of production and culture of its day, as target of imitation
for all others. That is the definition of hegemony, as a general unification
of the field of capital.

But at the same time, the hegemon must‹can only‹be a particular state: as
such, inevitably possessed of a differential history and set of national
peculiarities that distinguish it from all others. This contradiction is
inscribed from the beginning, in Hegel¹s philosophy, in which the necessity
of the incarnation of reason in just one world-historical state, in any
given period, can never entirely erase the contingent multiplicity of
political forms around it. [11] Latently, the singular universal always
remains at variance with the empirical manifold. This is the conceptual
setting in which American Œexceptionalism¹ should be viewed. All states are
more or less exceptional, in the sense that they possess unique
characteristics. By definition, however, a hegemon will possess features
that cannot be shared by others, since it is precisely those that lift it
above the ruck of its rivals. But at the same time, its role requires it to
be as close to a generalizable‹that is, reproducible‹model as practicable.
Squaring this circle is, of course, in the end impossible, which is why
there is an inherent coefficient of friction in any hegemonic order.
Structurally, a discrepancy is built into the harmony whose function it is
to install. In this sense, we live in a world which is inseparably‹in a way
that neither of them could foresee‹both the past described by Lenin and the
future anticipated by Kautsky. The particular and the general are condemned
to each other. Union can only be realized by division.

In the notebooks he wrote in prison, Gramsci theorized hegemony as a
distinctive synthesis of Œdomination¹ and Œdirection¹, or a dynamic
equilibrium of force and consent. The principal focus of his attention was
on the variable ways in which this balance was achieved, or broken, within
national states. But the logic of his theory, of which he was aware,
extended to the international system as well. On this plane too, the
elements of hegemony are distributed asymmetrically. [12] Domination‹the
exercise of violence as the ultimate currency of power‹tends necessarily
towards the pole of particularity. The hegemon must possess superior force
of arms, a national attribute that cannot be alienated or shared, as the
first condition of its sway. Direction, on the other hand‹the ideological
capacity to win consent‹is a form of leadership whose appeal is by
definition general. This does not mean that a hegemonic synthesis therefore
requires a persuasive structure that is as purely international as its
coercive structure must be irreducibly national. The ideological system of a
successful hegemon cannot derive solely from its function of general
coordination. It will inevitably also reflect the particular matrix of its
own social history. [13] The less marked the distance between these two, of
course, the more effective it will be.


In the case of the United States, the degree of this gap‹the closeness of
the join‹is a reflection of the principal features of the country¹s past. A
large literature has been spent on the American exception. But the only
exceptionality that really matters‹since all nations are in their way sui
generis‹is the configuration that has founded its global hegemony. How is
this best expressed? It lies in the virtually perfect fit the country offers
between optimal geographical and optimal social conditions for capitalist
development. That is: a continental scale of territory, resources and
market, protected by two oceans, that no other nation-state comes near to
possessing; and a settler-immigrant population forming a society with
virtually no pre-capitalist past, apart from its local inhabitants, slaves
and religious creeds, and bound only by the abstractions of a democratic
ideology. Here are to be found all the requirements for spectacular economic
growth, military power and cultural penetration. Politically, since capital
has always lorded it over labour to an extent unknown in other
advanced-industrial societies, the result is a domestic landscape well to
the right of them. 

In Western Europe on the other hand, virtually all the terms of the American
equation are reversed. Nation-states are small or medium in size, easily
besieged or invaded; populations often go back to neolithic times; social
and cultural structures are saturated with traces of pre-capitalist origin;
the balance of forces is less disadvantageous for labour; by and large,
religion is a played-out force. Consequently, the centre of gravity of
European political systems is to the left of the American‹more socially
protective and welfarist, even under governments of the right. [14] In the
relations between Europe and the US, there is thus abundant material for all
kinds of friction, even combustion. It is no surprise that sparks have flown
in the current tense situation. The relevant political question, however, is
whether these portend some larger rift or modification in the balance of
power between the two, as the European Union acquires a stronger sense of
its own identity. 

Viewing the two capitalist centres comparatively, the contrast between their
international styles is clear enough. The characteristic European approach
to the New World Order is drawn from the internal experience of gradual
integration within the EU itself: treaty-based diplomacy, incremental
pooling of sovereignty, legalistic attachment to formal rule-making, voluble
concern for human rights. American strategic practices, based on a
hub-and-spokes conception of inter-state relations, are blunter and more
bilateral. But US diplomacy has always had two languages: one line
descending from the macho axioms of Theodore Roosevelt, the other from the
presbyterian cant of Woodrow Wilson. [15] These are respectively, the
national and international idioms of American power. Whereas in the early
twentieth century, the latter was more alien to European statecraft, today
it has become the Atlantic raft to which EU susceptibilities desperately
cling. But both are quintessentially American. A great deal of the recent
commotion in the Democratic intellectual establishment within the US has
consisted of a reminder to the White House of the need to offer the world a
palatable blend of the two. [16] The National Security Strategy delivered on
21 September to Congress by Bush has met the demand with aplomb. Here, for
listeners at home and abroad, is a perfectly interwoven duet of the two
voices of Œa distinctively American internationalism¹. The phrase is well
chosen. The exercise of hegemony requires just such duality.

American direction, as opposed to domination, of the globe does not, of
course, rest simply on an ideological creed. Historically, it has been the
attractive power of US models of production and culture that has extended
the reach of this hegemony. The two have over time become increasingly
unified in the sphere of consumption, to offer a single way of life as
pattern to the world. But analytically they should be kept distinct. The
power of what Gramsci theorized as Fordism‹the development of scientific
management and the world¹s first assembly lines‹lay in its technical and
organizational innovations, which by his time had already made the United
States the richest society in existence. So long as this economic lead was
maintained‹in recent decades it has had its ups and downs‹America could
figure in a world-wide imaginary as the vanishing point of modernity: in the
eyes of millions of people overseas, the form of life that traced an ideal
shape of their own future. This image was, and is, a function of
technological advance.

The cultural mirror the US has offered the world, on the other hand, owes
its success to something else. Here the secret of American hegemony has lain
rather in formulaic abstraction, the basis for the fortune of Hollywood. In
a vast continent of heterogeneous immigrants, coming from all corners of
Europe, the products of industrial culture had from the start to be as
generic as possible, to maximize their share of the market. In Europe, every
film came out of, and had to play to, cultures with a dense sedimentation of
particular traditions, customs, languages inherited from the national
past‹inevitably generating a cinema with a high local content, with small
chance of travelling. In America on the other hand, immigrant publics, with
weakened connexions to heteroclite pasts, could only be aggregated by
narrative and visual schemas stripped to their most abstract, recursive
common denominators. The filmic languages that resolved this problem were,
quite logically, those that went on to conquer the world, where the premium
on dramatic simplification and repetition, across far more heterogeneous
markets, was still greater. The universality of Hollywood forms‹US
television has never quite been able to repeat their success‹derives from
this originating task, although like every other dimension of American
hegemony, it drew strength from expressly national soil, with the creation
of great popular genres drawn from myths of the frontier, the underworld,
the Pacific war. 

Last but not least, there was the legal framework of production and culture
alike: unencumbered property rights, untrammelled litigation, the invention
of the corporation. Here too, the result was the creation of what Polanyi
most feared, a juridical system disembedding the market as far as possible
from ties of custom, tradition or solidarity, whose very abstraction from
them later proved‹American firms like American films‹exportable and
reproducible across the world, in a way that no other competitor could quite
match. [17] The steady transformation of international merchant law and
arbitration in conformity with US standards is witness to the process. The
political realm proper is another matter. Notwithstanding the formal
universality of the ideology of American democracy, untouched by the
complications of the French Revolution, the constitutional structures of the
country have lacked this carrying power. [18] Remaining for the most part
moored to eighteenth-century arrangements, these have left the rest of the
world relatively cold; although, with the spread of money and television
politics, affected by their corruption.


How does the European Union stand in relation to this complex? The
population and output of the EU exceed that of the US, and compose a mosaic
of social models widely considered more humane and advanced than the
American. But these are characteristically embedded in local historical
legacies of every kind. The creation of a single market and introduction of
a single currency are starting to unify conditions of production,
speculation and consumption, but there continues to be little mobility of
labour, or shared culture, high or low, at continental level. The past
decade has seen increasing talk of the need for the Union to acquire more of
the characteristics of a traditional state and its peoples more of a common
identity. There now even sits a constitutional convention, of advisory
status. But the same period has also seen economic, social and cultural
paradigms from the New World spreading steadily through the Old. The extent
of this process can be exaggerated: the two still look, and remain, very
different. But the tendencies of change are all in one direction. From
labour-market flexibility, shareholder value and defined contributions to
media conglomerates, workfare and reality TV, the drift has been away from
traditional patterns towards the American standard. Despite much European
investment in the United States, there is scarcely any evidence of
reciprocal influence at all. This is the unilateralism that counts most, yet
features least in the current complaints-book.

Politically, on the other hand, where the American system is petrified, the
European is theoretically in motion. But the Union is not a state, and the
prospects of anything like one emerging are dwindling. On paper, enlargement
of the EU to the East is an enterprise of world-historical magnitude, on a
scale to match the most heroic US ambition. In practice, trailing in the
wake of the American expansion of NATO, thus far it appears largely a
project by default, with no clear constitutional or geopolitical aim, which
on present showing is likely to distend and weaken the already
semi-paralysed congeries of institutions in Brussels even further. In
practice, abandonment of federal deepening can only lead to national
layering, as the existing hierarchy of member-states becomes a more overt
pyramid of power without a summit, with a semi-colonial annexe to the
East‹Bosnia writ large. At the top of the system itself, let alone further
down, the limits of coherence are set by recurrent asynchronies in the
political cycle of the leading countries, as today when Centre Left
governments rule in Berlin and London, Centre Right in Paris, Rome and
Madrid. In such conditions, the external policies of the Community tend to
become little more than a quest for the highest common factor of ideological
vapour. [19] Whatever the long-run logic of pan-European construction, today
the EU is in no position to deflect or challenge any major American

It follows that there is no longer an Œorganic formula¹ of internal
neoliberal hegemony across the whole advanced-capitalist world. [20] The
Republican conquest of the White House in 2000 did not reflect any major
shift of political opinion in America, but essentially the faux frais of
Clinton¹s conduct for the Democratic cause. In office, the new
Administration has exploited‹adroitly over-interpreted‹its lease to give a
sharp twist away from the rhetoric, and to some extent the practice, of its
predecessor. In Europe, the Centre Right has won convincing victories in
Italy, Denmark, Holland and Portugal, while the Centre Left has held out in
Sweden, and will no doubt soon regain Austria. But in France and Germany,
the two central countries of the Union, the opposite electoral upshots that
have kept Chirac and Schroeder in power were equally adventitious: the one
saved by chance dispersion of the vote, the other by the waters of an act of
god. Neither Centre Right in France nor Centre Left in Germany currently
command much attachment in the population. In this lightweight scene,
policies are often the inverse of labels. Today the SPD clings to the iron
corset of the Stability Pact, while Berlusconi and Chirac plead for
Keynesian loosening.

In other words, as could be deduced from the contingent momentum coming from
the US itself, there has been neither an extension of the life of the Third
Way, nor a general turn of the tide towards a tougher version of
neoliberalism, of the kind that set in with Thatcher and Reagan. We are back
rather in the chequered circumstances of the seventies, in which there was
no clear pattern of domestic political alignments in the OECD. In these
conditions, we can expect the volume of low-level dispute and recrimination
within the Atlantic bloc to go up. The slippage between the plates of
consent and force within the system of American hegemony that became
possible with the end of the Cold War is becoming more actual.


Its immediate symptom, of course, is the outpouring of protest among the
Atlantic intelligentsia‹overwhelming on the EU side, substantial on the
US‹against the impending war on Iraq. At the time of writing, a torrent of
worries that America has forgotten its best self, invocations of the UN,
paeans to European values, fears of damage to Western interests in the Arab
world, hopes in General Powell, compliments to Chancellor Schroeder,
continue to course through the media. The Gulf, Balkan and Afghan Wars, we
are given to understand, were one thing. These were expeditions that
commanded the emphatic support of this stratum‹its sober applause
accompanied, of course, by that sprinkling of critical observations which
denotes any self-respecting intellectual. But an American attack on Iraq is
another matter, the same voices now explain, since it does not enjoy the
same solidarity of the international community, and requires an
unconscionable doctrine of pre-emption. To which the Republican
administration has no difficulty replying, in Sade¹s firm words: Encore un
effort, citoyens. Military intervention to prevent the risk of ethnic
cleansing in Kosovo violated national sovereignty and flouted the UN
charter, when NATO so decided. So why not military intervention to prevent
the risk of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, with or without the nod of
the UN? The principle is exactly the same: the right‹indeed the duty‹of
civilized states to stamp out the worst forms of barbarism, within whatever
national boundaries they occur, to make the world a safer and more peaceful

The logic is unanswerable, and in practice the outcome will be the same. The
White House is unlikely to be cheated of its quarry by any concessions on
the part of the Ba¹ath regime in Baghdad. A Democratic Congress could, even
now, make more difficulties for it; and any sudden, deep plunge on Wall
Street remains a risk for the administration. But the probability remains
war; and if war, the certainty is an occupation of Iraq‹to the applause of
the international community, including the overwhelming majority of the
commentators and intellectuals now wringing their hands over Bush¹s
Œunilateralism¹. Reporters from the New Yorker and Le Monde, Vanity Fair and
the New York Review of Books, the Guardian and La Repubblica, will descend
on a liberated Baghdad and‹naturally with a level-headed realism, and all
necessary qualifications‹greet the timid dawn of Arab democracy, as earlier
Balkan and Afghan. With the rediscovery that, after all, the only true
revolution is American, power and literature can fall into each other¹s arms
again. The storm in the Atlantic tea-cup will not last very long.

Reconciliation is all the more predictable, since the current shift of
emphasis from what is Œcooperatively allied¹ to what is Œdistinctively
American¹ within the imperial ideology is, of its nature, likely to be
short-lived. The Œwar on terrorism¹ is a temporary by-pass on the royal road
leading to Œhuman rights and liberty¹ around the world. Products of an
emergency, its negative goals are no substitute for the permanent positive
ideals that a hegemony requires. Functionally, as the relative weight of
force rises within the American synthesis and consent declines, for the
objective long-run reasons touched upon, the importance of the Œsofter¹
version of its set of justifications will increase‹precisely in order to
mask the imbalance, which the Œharder¹ version risks accentuating. In the
not too distant future, the widows of Clinton will find consolation.
Whatever the upshot in the Middle East, the sputtering of the US economy,
where the ultimate foundations of American hegemony lie, does not, in any
case, promise the Republican administration a long leash.


Is it necessary to say that the war, if it comes to pass, should be opposed?
The tissue of cruelties and hypocrisies that has justified the blockade of
Iraq for a decade, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, requires
no further exposure in these pages. [21] The weapons of mass destruction
possessed by the Ba¹ath regime are puny compared with the stockpile
accumulated by Israel, and winked at by the Œinternational community¹; its
occupation of Kuwait was an afterthought to the record of the West Bank; its
murder of its own citizens far surpassed by the dictatorship in Indonesia,
feted in Washington or Bonn to the end of its days. It is not Saddam
Hussein¹s atrocities that have attracted the hostility of successive
American administrations, and their various European sepoys, but his
potential threat to imperial emplacements in the Gulf and‹more
notionally‹colonial stability in Palestine. Invasion and occupation are a
logical upshot of the strangulation of the country since Desert Storm.
Disputes in Western capitals over whether to proceed to conclusions
forthwith, or drag out asphyxiation to the end, are differences of tactics
and timing, not of humanity or principle.

Republican and Democratic administrations in the US are not the same, any
more than Centre Right and Centre Left governments in Europe. It is always
necessary to register the differences between them. But these are rarely
distributed along a moral continuum of decreasing good or evil. The
contrasts are nearly always more mixed. So it is today. There is no cause to
regret that the Bush administration has scotched the wretched charade of the
International Criminal Court, or swept aside the withered fig-leaves of the
Kyoto Protocol. But there is every reason to resist its erosion of civil
liberties in America. The doctrine of pre-emption is a menace to every state
that might in future cross the will of the hegemon or its allies. But it is
no better when proclaimed in the name of human rights than of
non-proliferation. What is sauce for the Balkan goose is sauce for the
Mesopotamian gander. The remonstrants who pretend otherwise deserve less
respect than those they implore not to act on their common presumptions. The
arrogance of the Œinternational community¹ and its rights of intervention
across the globe are not a series of arbitrary events or disconnected
episodes. They compose a system, which needs to be fought with a coherence
not less than its own.

[1] In what follows, which owes much to a debate between Gopal Balakrishnan
and Peter Gowan, the notion of hegemony is taken from its usage in Gramsci.
The term has recently been given another meaning, in John Mearsheimer¹s
tightly and powerfully argued Tragedy of Great Power Politics; for which see
Peter Gowan, ŒA Calculus of Power¹, NLR 16, July­August 2002.

[2] ŒThe ³normal² exercise of hegemony¹, he wrote, Œis characterized by the
combination of force and consent, in variable equilibrium, without force
predominating too much over consent¹. But in certain situations, where the
use of force was too risky, Œbetween consent and force stands
corruption-fraud, that is the enervation and paralysing of the antagonist or
antagonists¹: Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del Carcere, Turin 1975, vol. III,
p. 1638. 

[3] The two cases are not identical; but in each, alongside pecuniary
considerations, there has been an element of moral submission. On a purely
material calculation of advantage, the rulers of Russia and China would do
better to exercise their vetos from time to time, to raise their purchasing
price. That they should fail to see such an obvious logic of political
venality suggests the degree of their internalization of hegemonic

[4] For Kofi Annan, see Colette Braeckman, ŒNew York and Kigali¹, NLR 9,
May­June 2001, pp. 145­7; Peter Gowan, ŒNeoliberal Cosmopolitanism¹, NLR 11,
September­October 2001, p. 84.

[5] For discussion of this background, see David Chandler, Œ³International
Justice²¹, NLR 6, November­December 2000, pp. 55­60.

[6] See Bob Woodward, ŒWe Will Rally the World¹, Washington Post, 28 January
2002, who reports that Rumsfeld pressed for war on Iraq on the morning of
September 12; and for Rice¹s assessment of the situation, Nicholas Lemann,
ŒThe Next World Order¹, New Yorker, 1 April 2002, pp. 42­48.

[7] For the escalation of aerial assaults on Iraq by Clinton and Blair, see
Tariq Ali, ŒThrottling Iraq¹, NLR 5, September­October 2001, pp. 5­6.

[8] ŒFormer US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair,
and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who have been widely criticized in
their respective parties, will be seen as architects attempting a profound
change in the constitutional order of a magnitude no less than Bismarck¹s.
As of this writing, US President George W. Bush appears to be pursuing a
similar course . . . No state¹s sovereignty is unimpeachable if it studiedly
spurns parliamentary institutions and human rights protections. The greater
the rejection of these institutions‹which are the means by which sovereignty
is conveyed by societies to their governments‹the more sharply curtailed is
the cloak of sovereignty that would otherwise protect governments from
interference by their peers. US action against the sovereignty of Iraq, for
example, must be evaluated in this light¹: The Shield of Achilles: War,
Peace and the Course of History, London 2002, pp. xxvii, 680. This work is
the most extended theorization of the constitutional imperative to crush
states that are insufficiently respectful of human rights, or the oligopoly
of nuclear weapons. The homage to Chancellor Schroeder can be overlooked, as
a forgivable expectation of his high calling.

[9] ŒMultilateralism, American Style¹, Washington Post, 14 September 2002.

[10] For Kautsky¹s prediction, see the text of ŒUltra-Imperialism¹ in NLR
I/59, January­February 1970, pp. 41­6, still the only translation.

[11] For this tension in Hegel¹s thought, see ŒThe Ends of History¹, A Zone
of Engagement, London 1992, p. 292.

[12] For the asymmetry within any national state, see ŒThe Antinomies of
Antonio Gramsci¹, NLR I/100, November 1976­January 1977, p. 41.

[13] In other words, the Œuniversal and homogeneous state¹ imagined by
Alexandre Kojève remains out of reach; for his conception, see A Zone of
Engagement, pp. 315­9 ff.

[14] Thus Berlusconi, epitome of the right most feared by the left in
Europe, could in many ways be said to stand to the left of Clinton, who
built much of his career in America on policies‹delivering executions in
Arkansas, scything welfare in Washington‹that would be unthinkable for any
Prime Minister in Italy.

[15] This is, of course, a short-hand. A more complex genealogy is offered
by Walter Russell Mead in Special Providence (New York 2001), who
distinguishes between strands deriving from Hamilton, Jefferson, Jackson and

[16] For a good example, see Michael Hirsh, ŒBush and the World¹, Foreign
Affairs, September­October 2002, pp. 18­43, full of expostulation about the
importance of consultation with allies, sanctity of international
agreements, value of lofty ideals, while at the same time making it clear
that ŒUS allies must accept that some US unilateralism is inevitable, even
desirable. This mainly involves accepting the reality of America¹s supreme
might‹and, truthfully, appreciating how historically lucky they are to be
protected by such a relatively benign power¹.

[17] For this phenomenon, see the searching remarks in John Grahl,
ŒGlobalized Finance¹, NLR 8, March­April 2001, pp. 28­30.

[18] At most, diffusing the plague of presidentialism in caricatural
forms‹Russia is the obvious example. Of the recent crop of new democracies,
no East European state has imitated the American model.

[19] This is also, of course, a function of the provincialization of
European cultures in recent years. It is striking how little serious
geopolitical thought of any description is now produced in Europe. We are a
long way from the days of Schmitt or Aron. Virtually all such thinking now
comes from America, where the exigencies of empire have constructed an
imposing intellectual field in the past twenty years. The last work of real
prescience to appear on the other side of the Atlantic was probably Régis
Debray¹s Les Empires contre l¹Europe, which appeared in 1985.

[20] For a discussion of this notion, see ŒTesting Formula Two¹, NLR 8,
March­April 2001, pp. 5­22.

[21] For a full discussion of these points, see the editorial by Tariq Ali,
ŒThrottling Iraq¹, NLR 5.



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