Hegemony causes global war
Gabriel Kolko, historian of modern warfare, THE AGE OF WAR: THE UNITED STATES CONFRONTS THE WORLD, 2006, p. 173-6
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, only the United States has the will to maintain a global foreign policy and to intervene everywhere it believes necessary. Today and in the near future, the United States will make the decisions that will lead to war or peace, and the fate of much of the world is largely in its hands. It possesses the arms and a spectrum of military strategies all predicated on a triumphant activist role for itself. It believes that its economy can afford interventionism and that the American public will support whatever actions necessary to set the affairs of some country or region on the political path it deems essential. This grandiose ambition is bipartisan, and details notwithstanding, both parties have always shared a consensus on it. The obsession with power and the conviction that armies can produce the political outcome a nation's leaders desire is by no means an exclusively American illusion. It is a notion that goes back many centuries and has produced the main wars of modern times. The rule of force has been with humankind a very long time, and the assumptions behind it have plagued its history for centuries. But unlike the leaders of most European nations or Japan, US leaders have not gained insight from the calamities that have so seared modern history. Folly is scarcely a US monopoly, but resistance to learning when grave errors have been committed is almost proportionate to the resources available to repeat them. The Germans learned their lesson after two defeats, the Japanese after World War II, and both nations found wars too ehausting and politically dangerous. The United States still believes that if firepower fails to master a situation, the solution is to use it more precisely and much more of it. In this regard it is exceptional—past failures have not made it any wiser. Wars are at least as likely today as any time over the past century. Of great importance is the end of Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe and Moscow's restraining influence elsewhere. But the proliferation of nuclear technology and other means of mass destruction have also made large parts of the world far more dangerous. Deadly local wars with conventional weapons in Africa, the Balkans, Middle East, and elsewhere have multiplied since the 1960s. Europe, especially Germany, and Japan, are far stronger and more independent than at any time since 1945, and China's rapidly expanding economy has given it a vastly more important role in Asia. Ideologically, communism's demise means that the simplified bipolarism that Washington used to explain the world ceased after 1990 to have any value. With it, the alliances created nominally to resist communism have either been abolished or are a shadow of their original selves; they have no reason for existence. The crisis in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), essentially, reflects this diffusion of all forms of power and the diminution of US hegemony. Economically, the capitalist nations have resumed their rivalries, and they have become more intense with the growth of their economies and the decline in the dollar—which by 2004 was as weak as it has been in over fifty years. These states have a great deal in common ideologically, but concretely they are increasingly rivals. The virtual monopoly of nuclear weapons that existed about a quarter-century ago has ended with proliferation.?, Whether it is called a "multipolar" world, to use French president Jacques Chirac's expression in November 2004, in which Europe, China, India, and even eventually South America follow their own interests, or something else, the direction is clear. There may or may not be "a fundamental restructuring of the global order," as the chairman of the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA's) National Intelligence Council presciently reflected in April 2003, but the conclusion was unavoidable "that we are facing a more fluid and complicated set of alignments than anything we have seen since the formation of the Atlantic alliance in 1949." Terrorism and the global economy have defied overwhelming US military power: "Our smart bombs aren't that smart."' Wars, whether civil or between states, remain the principal (but scarcely the only) challenge confronting humanity in the twenty-first century. Ecological disasters relentlessly affecting all dimensions of the environment are also insidious because of the unwillingness of the crucial nations—above all the United States—to adopt measures essential for reversing their damage. The challenges facing humanity have never been so complex and threatening, and the end of the Cold War, although one precondition of progress, is scarcely reason for complaceriby or optimism. The problems the world confronts far transcend the communist-capitalist tensions, many of which were mainly symptoms of the far greater intellectual, political, and economic problems that plagued the world before 1917—and still exist. Whatever the original intention, US interventions can lead to open-ended commitments in both duration and effort. They may last a short time, and usually do, but unforeseen events can cause the United States to spend far more resources than it originally anticipated, causing it in the name of its credibility, or some other doctrine, to get into disastrous situations that in the end defeat the United States. Vietnam is the leading example of this tendency, but Iraq, however different in degree, is the same in kind. Should the United States confront even some of the forty or more nations that now have terrorist networks, then it will in one manner or another intervene everywhere, but especially in Africa and the Middle East. The consequences of such commitments will be unpredictable. The United States has more determined and probably more numerous enemies today than at any time, and many of those who hate it are ready and able to inflict destruction on its shores. Its interventions often triumphed in the purely military sense, which is all the Pentagon worries about, but in all too many cases they have been political failures and eventually led to greater US military and political involvement. Its virtually instinctive activist mentality has caused it to get into situations where it often had no interests, much less durable solutions to a nation's problems, repeatedly creating disasters and enduring enmities. The United States has power without wisdom and cannot, despite its repeated experiences, recognize the limits of its ultrasophisticated military technology. The result has been folly and hatred, which is a recipe for disasters. September 11 confirmed that, and war has come to its shores. That the United States end its self-appointed global mission of regulating all problems, wherever, whenever, or however it wishes to do so, is an essential precondition of stemming, much less reversing, the accumulated deterioration of world affairs and wars. We should not ignore the countless ethical and other reasons it has no more right or capacity to do so than any state over the past century, whatever justifications they evoked. The problems, as the history of the past century shows, are much greater than the US role in the world: but at the present time its actions are decisive, and whether there is War or peace will be decided far more often in Washington than any other place. Ultimately, there will not be peace in the world unless all nations relinquish war as an instrument of policy, not only because of ethical or moral reasoning but because wars have become deadlier and more destructive of social institutions. A precondition of peace is for nations not to attempt to impose their visions on others, adjudicate their differences, and never to assume that their need for the economic or strategic resources of another country warrants interference of any sort in its internal affairs. But September 11 proved that after a half-century of interventions the United States has managed to provoke increasing hatred. It has failed abysmally to bring peace and security to the world. Its role as a rogue superpower and its promiscuous, cynical interventionism has been spectacularly unsuccessful, even on its own terms. It is squandering vast economic resources, and it has now endangered the physical security of Americans at home. To end the damage the United States causes abroad is also to fulfill the responsibilities that US politicians have to their own people. But there is not the slightest sign at this point that voters will call them to account, and neither the AMerican population nor its political leaders are likely to agree to Rich far-reaching changes in foreign policy. The issues are far too grave to wait for US attitudes and its political process to be transformed. The world will be safer to the extent that US alliances are dissolved and it is isolated, and that is happening for many reasons, ranging from the unilateralism, hubris, and preemptory style of the Bush administration to the fact that since the demise of communism, the world's political alignments have changed dramatically. Communism and fascism were both outcomes of the fatal errors in the international order and affairs of states that World War I spawned. In part, the Soviet system's disintegration was the result of the fact it was the aberrant consequence of a destructive and abnormal war, 11,);t at least as important was its leaders' loss of confidence in socialism. And suicidal Muslims are, to a great extent, the outcome of a half-century of US interference in the Middle East and Islamic world, which radicalized so many young men and women ready to die for faith. Just as the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 created Bolsheviks, the repeated grave errors of the United States, however different the context or times, have produced their own abnormal, negative reactions. The twenty- first century has begun very badly because the United States continues with its aggressive policies. They are far more dangerous than those of the twentieth century. The destructive potential of weaponry has increased exponentially, and many more people and nations have access to it. What would once have been considered relatively minor foreign policy problems now have potentially far greater consequences. It all augurs very badly. The world has reached the most dangerous point in recent, or perhaps all of, history. There are threats of war and instability unlike anything that prevailed when a Soviet-led bloc existed. Even if the United States abstains from interference and tailors its actions to fit this troubled reality, there will be serious problems throughout much of the world. Internecine civil conflicts will continue, as well as wars between nations armed with an increasing variety of much more destructive weapons available from outside powers, of which the United States remains, by far, the most important source. Many of these conflicts have independent roots, and both principles and experiences justify the United States staying out of them and leaving the world alone. Both the American people and those involved directly will be far better off without foreign interference, whatever nation attempts it. US leaders are not creating peace or security at home or stability abroad. The reverse is the case: its interventions have been counterproductive, and its foreign policy is a disaster. Americans and those people who are the objects of successive administrations' efforts would be far better off if the United States did nothing, closed its bases overseas and withdrew its fleets everywhere, and allowed the rest of world to find its own way. Communism is dead, and Europe and Japan are powerful and both can and will take care of their own interests. The United States must adapt to these facts. But if it continues as it has over the past half-century, attempting to satisfy its vainglorious but irrational ambition to run the world, then there will be even deeper crises and it will inflict wars and turmoil on many nations as well as on its own people. And it will fail yet again, for all states that have gone to war over the past centuries have not achieved the objectives for which they sacrificed so much blood, passion, and resources. They have only produced endless misery and upheavals of every kind.