[Paleopsych] NYRB: Dreams of Empire

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Dreams of Empire
The New York Review of Books 
Volume 51, Number 17 · November 4, 2004

By [13]Tony Judt

[15]America's Inadvertent Empire
by William E. Odom and Robert Dujarric
    Yale University Press, 285 pp., $30.00

[16]The Imperial Tense: Prospects and Problems of American Empire
edited by Andrew J. Bacevich
    Ivan R. Dee, 271 pp., $28.95;$16.95 (paper)

[17]Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in
the Middle East
by Rashid Khalidi
    Beacon, 192 pp., $23.00

[18]The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America
by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
    Penguin, 400 pp., $25.95

by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
    Harvard University Press, 478 pp., $45.00; $19.95 (paper)

by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
    Penguin, 427 pp., $27.95

[21]The New Imperialism
by David Harvey
    Oxford University Press, 253 pp., $22.00

[22]Fear: The History of a Political Idea
by Corey Robin
    Oxford University Press, 316 pp., $28.00

[23]A New World Order
by Anne-Marie Slaughter
    Princeton University Press, 341 pp., $29.95


    Talk of "empire" makes Americans distinctly uneasy. This is odd. In
    its westward course the young republic was not embarrassed to suck
    virgin land and indigenous peoples into the embrace of Thomas
    Jefferson's "empire for liberty." Millions of American immigrants made
    and still make their first acquaintance with the US through New York,
    "the Empire State." From Monroe to Bush, American presidents have not
    hesitated to pronounce doctrines whose extraterritorial implications
    define imperial authority and presume it: there is nothing
    self-effacing about that decidedly imperious bird on the Presidential
    Seal. And yet, though the rest of the world is under no illusion, in
    the United States today there is a sort of wishful denial. We don't
    want an empire, we aren't an empire--or else if we are an empire, then
    it is one of a kind.

    This nervous uncertainty has given rise to an astonishing recent spate
    of books and essays. Some of these display a charming insouciance.
    America, write William E. Odom and Robert Dujarric, is an empire of a
    new type,

      unipolar, based on ideology rather than territorial control,
      voluntary in membership, and economically advantageous to all
      countries within it.^[24][1]

    Others--like the essays collected by Andrew Bacevich in The Imperial
    Tense: Prospects and Problems of American Empire--are a curious
    amalgam of military hubris and cultural anxiety: they dutifully
    document both America's truly awesome military reach and the
    widespread national uncertainty about what to do with it.

    The United States is different from other countries. But as an
    imperial power it is actually quite conventional and even familiar.
    True, modern America eschews territorial acquisitions. But that is
    irrelevant. Like the British at the height of their imperial majesty,
    the US prefers to get its way by example, pressure, and influence.
    Lord Palmerston's dictum--"trade without rule where possible, trade
    with rule where necessary"--has been applied by Washington with even
    greater success. Whereas the British were constrained (after some
    initial reluctance) to exercise formal--and costly--imperium over
    whole sub-continents, the US has hitherto perfected the art of
    controlling foreign countries and their resources without going to the
    expense of actually owning them or ruling their subjects.

    Even the story that America tells about its overseas initiatives is
    hardly original. Like the Victorians, Americans readily suppose that
    what is demonstrably to our advantage--free trade, democracy--must
    therefore serve everyone's interest. Like the French, we count
    ourselves blessed with laws and institutions whose incontrovertible
    superiority places a duty upon us to make them universally available.
    Europeans who cringe when George W. Bush describes America as "the
    greatest force for good in history" --or promises to export democracy
    to the Middle East because American values "are right and true for
    every person in every society"^[25][2] --would do well to recall
    France's "civilizing mission," or the White Man's Burden.

    They should recall, too, that empires are not all bad. They bring
    protection, especially to minorities. Joseph Roth correctly foresaw
    that Jews above all would have cause to rue the fall of the Habsburgs.
    And it is not by chance that the Abkhazian people trapped in
    independent Georgia dream today of returning to the anonymous security
    of the Russian imperial fold: there are many worse things than
    subjection to a distant imperial capital. Empires often bring modern
    institutions, too--an ambiguous economic benefit but not without other
    advantages. And some imperial powers just do have a better track
    record than others. There is little to say in defense of the Italian
    overseas empire, much less the Belgian. But if we apply the felicific
    calculus to the history of American foreign involvement, we shall find
    a lot to applaud.

    Nonetheless, even if it could be demonstrated beyond a doubt that
    American hegemony really was a net good for everyone, its putative
    beneficiaries in the rest of the world would still reject it. Whether
    they would be acting against their own best interests is beside the
    point--a consideration not always well understood even by proponents
    of "soft power."^[26][3] As Raymond Aron once observed, it is a denial
    of the experience of our century (the twentieth) to suppose that men
    will sacrifice their passions for their interests. And it is above all
    in its reluctance to grasp the implications of that experience that
    America today is genuinely different. For the world has changed in
    ways that make imperial power uniquely difficult to sustain.

    In the first place, it is hard to be an imperial democracy. Given the
    choice, voters are reluctant to pay the full cost of sustaining an
    empire. In a democratic setting the sentiment that money might be
    better spent at home can be more easily exploited by political
    opponents, especially when expensive postwar "stabilization and
    reconstruction" (i.e., nation-building) is at stake. That is why US
    administrations have sought to underwrite overseas adventures (first
    in Vietnam and now in Iraq) by borrowing money rather than taxing the
    American citizenry, and have tried, so far as possible, to
    outsource--i.e., privatize--the unglamorous nation-building part.

    Moreover, the US is handicapped when it comes to exporting the image
    of its own democratic virtues: because it has rather too many
    undemocratic allies (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan come to
    mind) and because America does not always regard democracy as an
    unalloyed virtue if it produces the wrong results. Open elections in
    Iraq or Palestine right now would produce outcomes wholly unwelcome in
    Washington, as they have done or threatened to do in other places at
    other times.^[27][4] The British and the French, not to mention the
    Russians, did not have this problem: whatever "values" they were
    exporting, universal suffrage was not one of them.

    Secondly, it is almost impossible to practice empire in a world of
    instantaneous mass media transmission. Imperial control is violent.
    Colonization, as the Marquis de Gervaisis observed apropos of France's
    seizure of Algeria back in the 1830s, unavoidably entails "the
    expulsion and extermination of the natives."^[28][5] But most people
    at home in the imperial metropole never saw that. Not so today.

    To watch crimes being enacted is very different from reading about
    them after the fact. That is why Bill Clinton was forced into the
    Balkans in 1995, once the images from Bosnia had become daily fare on
    American television. There is a good reason why Washington now
    "embeds" reporters and looks with disfavor upon the independent
    Qatar-based al-Jazeera television network (whose equipment we damaged
    in both Kabul and Baghdad and which the sovereign authorities in Iraq
    have now temporarily banned)-- the same reason the Bush administration
    severely restricts visual coverage of American casualties in Iraq.

    The crimes of Abu Ghraib were as nothing set against what King Leopold
    of Belgium did to his Congolese slave laborers or the British massacre
    of 379 civilians at Amritsar in the Punjab in 1919. The difference is
    that everyone has seen what happened at Abu Ghraib. We don't know how
    ordinary Belgians would have responded to seeing what their government
    was doing in central Africa; but in any case our own sensibilities are
    heightened. When the inevitable dirty work of exercising power over
    reluctant foreigners--expropriation, violence, corpses --is available
    in real time for all to see, the case for empire becomes a lot harder
    to sell.

    Thirdly, the US cannot be an effective empire precisely because it
    comes in the wake of all the other empires before it and must pay the
    price for their missteps as well as its own. The French had been to
    Vietnam before the US got there. The Russians (and before them the
    British) have been to Afghanistan. And everyone has been to the Middle
    East. When Donald Rumsfeld assured his troops in Baghdad that

      unlike many armies in the world, you came not to conquer, not to
      occupy, but to liberate, and the Iraqi people know this [emphasis

    he was decidedly unoriginal. That's what the British General Stanley
    Maude said in Baghdad ninety-seven years earlier ("Our armies do not
    come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as
    liberators") --not to mention Napoleon Bonaparte's proclamation upon
    occupying Alexandria in 1798:

      Oh Egyptians...I have not come to you except for the purpose of
      restoring your rights from the hands of the oppressors.

    Let us concede, for the sake of argument, that American intentions are
    more honorable than those of the perfidious Brits and hypocritical
    French. It really doesn't matter. The history of what they went on to
    do is what counts--and what is remembered and weighed in the balance
    when American behavior is assessed from abroad.^[29][6] The name
    Mohammad Mossadegh doesn't trip readily off many educated American
    tongues. But as the elected prime minister of Iran who was
    unceremoniously bundled out of office in 1953 by an Anglo-American
    coup his memory is invoked all across the Middle East whenever the
    subject of Western intervention in the region comes up. Americans may
    be only dimly aware of this history, but others are better informed.

    Even when the US is free of any responsibility for some malevolent
    colonial undertaking, it still inherits the consequences. Iraq, it is
    now being whispered abroad, is America's "Suez": an ill-advised
    foreign expedition that brought initial military success but long-term
    discredit and catastrophic loss of influence. The implications of this
    demeaning comparison ought to be a source of concern in Washing-ton.
    Unparalleled military superiority counts for far less than its
    besotted advocates sometimes suppose.

    Americans may be from Mars, but this is Planet Earth. It isn't
    significant that our armed forces can outspend and outshoot any
    hypothetical foe. All they have to be able to do in order to exert
    effective military hegemony is beat with ease any actual, existing
    enemy. The rest is superfluity.^[30][7] And that level of domination
    has been reached by a number of empires and armies (or navies) in the
    past--Napoleon among them. In the end, of course, all were brought
    low: more often than not by their own mistakes. Are America's
    prospects any different?

    One reason to be pessimistic about America is the mediocrity of its
    current political class. A brilliant elite is no guarantee of
    political wisdom, as David Halberstam reminded us many years
    ago.^[31][8] But its absence is a bad omen. Douglas Feith, the
    Pentagon undersecretary for policy and a prominent representative of
    the generation of neoconservatives now installed in Washington, was
    recently described by General Tommy Franks (who had to deal with him
    in Iraq) as "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." Even
    allowing for the fighting soldier's traditional contempt for civilian
    interlopers, this should give us pause--it is hard to imagine
    Eisenhower being driven to describe Charles Bohlen or George Kennan in
    these terms.^[32][9]

    The generation of intellectuals and politicians responsible for US
    foreign policy today did not emerge by chance, as John Micklethwait
    and Adrian Wooldridge convincingly demonstrate in The Right Nation,
    their detailed account of right-wing political culture in contemporary
    America. While the great liberal foundations were irresponsibly
    throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at fashionable scholarship
    and "politically correct" causes, a small group of American
    philanthropists and institutions spent the Seventies and Eighties
    underwriting a revival of conservative political strategy. By the end
    of the cold war a new generation of right-wing thinkers and activists
    had recaptured--for the first time in many decades--the initiative in
    public policy making: so much so that their ideas had become the
    conventional wisdom. Many of Bill Clinton's successful domestic
    policies (like those of Tony Blair) were adaptations of initiatives
    first mooted in conservative think tanks.

    But overseas policy was another matter. In their prime the British and
    French empires could draw on a wealth of specialized overseas
    knowledge--of terrain, of history, of languages. The soldiers,
    administrators, businessmen, and proconsuls who ran these empires were
    often scholarly experts in their own right and had in many cases lived
    and traveled for decades in the countries they now ruled. The same was
    true of the journalists and writers who commented on them. That didn't
    make imperial rule any more welcome, but it did keep it well-informed.
    A comparably talented foreign policy elite emerged in the US in the
    wake of World War II; it has now been all but eclipsed.^[33][10]

    Although the new conservatives at the American Enterprise Institute or
    the Heritage Foundation never lacked for foreign policy pundits,
    expertise was another matter. Whereas position papers on domestic
    policy emanating from these institutions were usually detailed and
    rigorous--if somewhat ideologically tendentious--recommendations for
    US policy overseas inclined to the hyperbolic. Strategic ambition was
    typically present in inverse proportion to professional
    competence^[34][11] --and almost no one in these circles had any
    military experience, so there was a natural disposition to exaggerate
    the scope for military action and minimize its risks.

    The result was a form of intellectual overreach whose best-known
    public manifestation comes in the messianic sound-bites written for
    George W. Bush: America is engaged in a historic mission "to change
    the world" (from the presidential press conference on April 13 of this
    year) is a representative example. The point, as William Kristol
    explained it at the American Enterprise Institute in March 2003, is to
    get some "respect" for America in places like the Middle East: first
    Baghdad, and then on to regime change in Tehran and Damascus. The
    inept execution of the Iraq misadventure has thus been a severe
    disappointment to the Pentagon cheerleading bench, who spent the
    Nineties dreaming of a Mesopotamian initiative. They now feel
    personally affronted. When the editors of The New Republic asked "Were
    we wrong?" (to advocate war in Iraq), they concluded that no, war was
    always a good idea. But by misleading the country and the world in
    order to get his war, the President let them down.^[35][12]

    If the right has proved inadequate to the task of imagining and
    executing a responsible foreign policy for the twenty-first century,
    its critics have done little better. While neoconservatives culpably
    overestimated America's capacity to dominate the actual world, the
    left continued to dream up worlds of its own imagining. In an age when
    the right to bear (nuclear) arms may soon be available to any
    criminally disposed person on the planet, and when the problem of
    maintaining security in an open society is the most difficult
    challenge facing any democratic government (albeit cynically exploited
    by the present American one), what is the most popular source of
    political enlightenment on American campuses today? Empire, by Michael
    Hardt and Antonio Negri--now accompanied by the same authors'

    Both books are dreadful. Anyone old enough to remember the
    revolutionary rhetoric of the Seventies will recognize the style,
    notwithstanding the postmodern updating. Negri, who spent many years
    in prison for his part in the homicidal radicalism of Italy's Lead
    Years, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing (Hardt is presumably
    too young to have known anything in the first place). There are no
    subjects in these books: just structures, processes, and "de-centered"
    forces and "encounters." The proposition--to flatter more than nine
    hundred pages of flaccid, inept prose--is that the "multitude" will be
    brought together by the workings of "empire" and (with the familiar
    help of some cleansing violence) will rise up and break its shackles:

      Empire...by colonizing and interconnecting more areas of human life
      ever more deeply, has actually created the possibility for
      democracy of a sort never before seen. Brought together in a
      multinoded commons [sic] of resistance, different groups combine
      and recombine in fluid new matrices of resistance.

    This is globalization for the politically challenged. In place of the
    boring old class struggle we have the voracious imperial nexus now
    facing a challenger of its own creation, the de-centered multitudinous
    commonality: Alien versus Predator. Through his American dummy, Negri
    is ventriloquizing a twenty-first-century paraphrase of Marxist
    theories of imperialism popularized by Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin at the
    end of the nineteenth. The originals were much better written and
    distinctly more poli-tically threatening, since they had some purchase
    upon reality. With the American left reading Multitude, Dick Cheney
    can sleep easy.

    David Harvey, by contrast, is a Marxist anthropologist who actually
    does know something about the way empires work. Building on his claim
    that there is a permanent tension in American foreign policy between
    the logic of territorial dominion and the imperatives of a global
    market, Harvey has some interesting geopolitical reflections to offer
    upon the illusion of democratic "voluntary" empire. However much the
    US might genuinely seek to democratize the foreign countries dependent
    on it and win them over for its way of life, it is sooner or later
    driven to undermine such exercises of "soft power" by manipulating
    their domestic policies through a "predatory devaluation of [their]

    There seems to me some uncertainty in The New Imperialism over what
    distinguishes "function" (the core workings of capitalism) from
    "intention" (the stated aims of American foreign policy): in Harvey's
    hands the latter is accorded little autonomy and even less attention.
    There is also a little too much genuflection in the direction of Lenin
    and Kautsky. But that is negligible beside the major drawback to this
    book, which is that Harvey, too, has a writing problem. Some samples:

      The consolidation of bourgeois political power within the European
      states was, therefore, a necessary precondition for a reorientation
      of territorial politics to-wards the requirements of the
      capitalistic logic.

      The molecular processes of capital accumulation operating in space
      and time generate passive revolutions in the geographical
      patterning of capital accumulation.

    If you didn't already agree, you aren't likely to be convinced by
    something that reads like a parody of a radical sociology lecture from
    1972. The point, as Marx observed back in 1845, is either to interpret
    the world or to change it. This sort of prose advances neither

    Fortunately, not everyone writes like this. Corey Robin's account of
    the place of fear in American life is refreshingly clear--and timely.
    The first half of his book is a brisk account of the idea of fear in
    political argument from Hobbes to Arendt; the second a forthright
    discussion of "Fear, American Style." Some of his observations about
    the American pairing of optimism and fear--or autonomy and compliance
    --will be familiar to readers of Tocqueville, though Robin illustrates
    the American propensity to conformity with a particularly chilling
    quotation from Dan Rather on media self-censorship in the wake of
    September 11:

      It is an obscene comparison--you know I am not sure I like it--but
      you know there was a time in South Africa that people would put
      flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented. And in some
      ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a
      flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck.... Now it
      is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the
      tough questions.

      It starts with a feeling of patriotism within oneself. It carries
      through with a certain knowledge that the country as a whole--and
      for all the right reasons--felt and continues to feel this surge of
      patriotism within themselves. And one finds oneself saying, "I know
      the right question, but you know what? This is not exactly the
      right time to ask it."


    Two of the author's arguments have a special bearing on our present
    situation. The Madisonian institutions of limited government and
    separated powers are commonly believed to protect the citizenry
    against the abuses of state power, and so they do (although only
    citizens, not aliens, need feel protected). But in Robin's view the
    American system leaves civil society disproportionately
    underregulated, with the result that the American workplace in
    particular is a site of managerial coercion and workers' fear in a way
    no longer true of any other Western society. This overstates the
    case-- and anyway, whether the US government in the age of John
    Ashcroft would be quite so recognizable to Madison may be open to
    question. But there is no doubt that the American social model now
    stands at a disconcerting tangent to the rest of the West.^[36][13]

    Robin's most interesting observation, however, concerns what he calls
    the "liberalism of terror." For some time now the center of gravity of
    left-liberal politics in America and elsewhere has been what Judith
    Shklar once called the liberalism of fear: the belief that the
    twentieth century taught us that radical projects to accomplish social
    goals in the service of grand visions were unwise and that the best
    way to think about liberal politics was to "ramble through a moral
    minefield." This was one source of the turn to human rights in the
    last third of the century; it is the reason why many otherwise secular
    thinkers are sympathetic to George Bush's emphasis on "evil" and
    "terror" as the ultimate threats to the republic; and it accounts for
    support by many liberals for overseas intervention to prevent genocide
    or topple dictators.^[37][14]

    Robin argues, against the grain of a generation of mainstream liberal
    thought, that this is a seriously insufficient basis for political
    action. He also claims that it diverts liberal attention away from
    domestic injustice, since it is easier to identify absolute evil in
    Bosnia or Rwanda (or Iraq) than in one's own democratic republic,
    however imperfect. And of course it is easier to triumph over terror
    or evil in foreign incarnations than it is to conquer injustice or
    fear at home, where compromises and disappointments are inevitable.

    I'm reluctant to swallow this argument whole. Having favored
    intervention in Kosovo but opposed it in Iraq, I--like anyone else who
    wishes to be taken seriously in public policy debates--had better come
    up with good reasons for these hard choices: there will be more of
    them in years to come. A left that won't engage the reality of evil
    overseas because it wants to refocus attention on injustice at home is
    no better equipped to face our brave new world than a right that
    invokes the "war against terror" as an excuse for thinking about
    nothing else.

    Nevertheless, after reading Robin with a skeptical eye, I found my
    attention caught by a recent remark by Michael Ignatieff, perhaps the
    best-known proponent of the "negative" liberalism Robin dislikes.
    "Iraq...," Ignatieff declared, "has made the case for liberal
    interventionism impossible."^[38][15] Really? So in retrospect we were
    wrong to attack the Serbs in Bosnia? And we would be wrong again to
    send the Marines into Darfur? Isn't Michael Ignatieff folding the tent
    just a little bit hastily? He is one of a number of prominent liberal
    intellectuals--Adam Michnik in Poland, for example, and André
    Glucksmann in Paris--who supported George W. Bush's Iraq policy as
    part of the ongoing struggle against political tyranny and moral
    relativism. Having thus deluded themselves into believing that the
    American president was conducting his foreign policy for their
    reasons, some of them are understandably disgruntled.

    But is liberal internationalism so vulnerable, so politically
    unsecured that one of its core moral tenets can be collapsed by the
    mendacious misdealings of a single conservative president? Maybe Robin
    is correct after all. But in that case how should Americans think
    about foreign policy?

    One problem with both left and right is that they look upon America's
    foreign dealings as a zero-sum game. Either the US is sovereign, in
    which case it should be free of all foreign entanglements, cooperating
    only with those willing or constrained to accept its leadership. Or
    else the US, like everyone else, must adapt to a borderless world and
    relinquish some national sovereignty to international authorities for
    the benefit of all.

    Faced with that choice the outcome is foreordained. Their debt-ridden
    economy may be in thrall to foreign investors and their overstretched
    military desperate for allied help; but most US congressmen (like
    their constituents) don't hold a passport and haven't been overseas.
    They will never "relinquish" sovereignty to some toothless
    international authority. Liberal internationalists who want to justify
    intervention in foreign lands--on the grounds that the tradition of
    "Westphalia"^[39][16] is defunct and the integrity of states has been
    replaced by international law--will be doomed to accept one law for
    the US and another for everyone else.

    But that isn't the choice and it hasn't been for quite a while. As
    Anne-Marie Slaughter shows in her new book, A New World Order, from
    the World Trade Organization and the World Court to the international
    organization of securities commissioners, the United States is already
    inextricably integrated into a complex web of agencies and networks
    that inform, oversee, regulate, negotiate, and in practice shape much
    of what happens in America no less than everywhere else. This much is
    the truth in "globalization." The fallacy, as she demonstrates, is to
    suppose that all this either signals or necessitates the end of the
    sovereign state, much less the coming of a supranational, global
    system of government.

    A New World Order offers copious evidence for what Slaughter, a
    prominent international lawyer and dean of the Woodrow Wilson School
    of Public Policy at Princeton, calls de facto global "governance." Of
    course states exist, she says, and they aren't going away. They will
    be the only imaginable form of legitimate political organization and
    government for the foreseeable future. But untrammeled, autonomous
    sovereignty is no more. Instead sovereignty is "relational": bankers,
    policemen, environmentalists, doctors, Supreme Court justices,
    ministers, and countless others now exchange and share information and
    precedents and proposals.

    Some trans-state links and networks are based on an explicit treaty or
    agreement; others--such as the US committee on international judicial
    relations in which American judges collaborate with their colleagues
    abroad --remain informal. But the mere existence of this horizontally
    networked world--some of it truly venerable, like the International
    Postal Union or the Nordic Council, but with new intergovernmental
    entities "popping up" every year--encourages convergence and
    cooperation with, and compliance by, the vertically organized states
    in its embrace. The result is not top-down imposition of rules but an
    accumulation of common cross-border practices and the domestic
    incorporation of regulations and procedures first applied or proposed
    somewhere else. In the longer run Slaughter sees this producing, in
    her own field for instance, a global legal system "established not by
    the World Court in The Hague, but by national courts working together
    around the world."

    A New World Order is not an easy book to read but it is important. By
    showing how today's world--of what she calls "disaggregated
    states"--actually works, Slaughter cuts the ground away from
    nationalists and internationalists alike. This, she says, is how it
    is, for America and everyone else. She also, quite clearly, believes
    that this is how it should be--because a world of collaborative
    networks that acknowledges state sovereignty while securing and
    facilitating interstate cooperation is inherently desirable; and
    because nothing else will work.

    It is not clear to me how democratic politics fits in here--this may
    be how the world actually works but most people don't know that. What
    if they choose--like the American people-- to be governed in their own
    country by leaders who are actively unsympathetic to Slaughter's new
    world order and who would seek to unravel or just ignore it? There
    would be nothing to stop them: certainly not the United Nations. As
    Slaughter acknowledges, a certain kind of power will always be
    retained by the state and no supervening authority exists to stop it
    abusing that power. The problem of force, and the legitimate
    application and regulation of force in international affairs, are not
    addressed in her book.

    But if Slaughter doesn't pretend to have all the answers, she does
    have a working model. If you want to see what this new world order of
    voluntarily linked sovereign states will actually look like, she says,
    go to Europe. There, the European Union is "pioneering a new form of
    regional collective governance that is likely to prove far more
    relevant to global governance than the experience of traditional
    federal states." The "genius" of the EU, in Slaughter's view, is that
    it maximizes the benefits of international governance while avoiding
    the risks of centralization. Legitimacy and power remain at the
    national level while the regulatory agencies in Brussels are
    authorized to organize and administer transnational regulations and
    rules that are supposed to work to everyone's advantage and often do.

    This seems to me a rather generous reading of the EU, which is not
    universally appreciated in Europe these days, and is anyway an
    accident of that continent's unique history. But I have absolutely no
    doubt that Slaughter is on to something. Seen from the rest of the
    world, the arrangements that Europeans have worked out for themselves
    are by far the most attractive and realistic solution to the problems
    that states and societies alike will face in the coming decades. Given
    that we have to start from where we are and not some better place,
    they are the only way to get anywhere.

    And what of the US, all dressed up in its martial finery but with no
    place to go? What if America--"the hope of the world," as Churchill
    told Clark Clifford on the train to Fulton in March 1946--were now
    irrelevant: still Madeleine Albright's "indispensable nation," but
    less for the example it offers than because of its capacity to impede
    the wishes of others? We haven't reached that point yet--in 1995 the
    chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili,
    observed that "absent America's leadership role, things still don't
    get put together right"; and little has changed.^[40][17]

    But as Shalikashvili would doubtless agree, it is hard to be a leader
    if your behavior is not admired, your authority not respected, your
    example not emulated. All that remains to you is force. Of course, as
    the neocons are fond of repeating, a good prince would rather be
    feared than loved; but what they forget is that the same is true of
    most bad princes. An empire built on fear--fear of terror and the
    aspiration to make others fear us in turn--is not what Machiavelli (or
    Jefferson) had in mind.

    The challenge facing American voters in the coming elections is not to
    find a president who can convince the world that the US isn't an
    empire--or else, if it is an empire, that its intentions are
    honorable. That argument has been lost and is now beside the point.
    Nor is it even a question of choosing between being loved and being
    feared. Thanks to America's performance in Iraq--and our evident
    inability to plan one war at a time, much less two--we are neither
    loved nor feared. We have shocked the world, yes; but few now hold us
    in awe.

    And yet the election of 2004 is the most consequential since 1932, if
    not since 1860. Is John Kerry the man for the moment? I doubt it. Does
    he fully grasp the scale of America's crisis? I'm not sure. But what
    is absolutely certain is that George W. Bush does not. If Bush is
    reelected much of the world (and many millions of its own citizens)
    will turn away from America: perhaps for good, certainly for many
    years. On November 2 the whole world will be looking: not to see what
    America is going to do in future years, but to find out what sort of a
    place it will be.

    With our growing income inequities and child poverty; our
    underperforming schools and disgracefully inadequate health services;
    our mendacious politicians and crude, partisan media; our suspect
    voting machines and our gerrymandered congressional districts; our
    bellicose religiosity and our cult of guns and executions; our
    cavalier unconcern for institutions, treaties, and laws--our own and
    other people's: we should not be surprised that America has ceased to
    be an example to the world. The real tragedy is that we are no longer
    an example to ourselves. America's born-again president insists that
    we are engaged in the war of Good against Evil, that American values
    "are right and true for every person in every society." Perhaps. But
    the time has come to set aside the Book of Revelation and recall the
    admonition of the Gospels: For what shall it profit a country if it
    gain the whole world but lose its own soul?


    ^[41][1] America's Inadvertent Empire, p. 36. The book is not all this
    bad, though much of it is trite and smug. One chapter, on the US
    military, is excellent--presumably written by Odom, a retired
    lieutenant general and former director of the National Security
    Agency. Odom provides a cogent account of the Pentagon's remarkable
    failure to anticipate the tasks that American forces will face in
    coming years, including peacekeeping and maintaining the security of
    beleaguered states. Like many other commentators, Odom and his
    coauthor make much of the way America's allies in Europe were
    "free-riders" during the cold war, suggesting that this somehow makes
    American power distinctive. But there were free riders under the
    British Empire too--that is just how empires work.

    ^[42][2] Bush speech at the White House, July 30, 2002; presidential
    cover letter (September 17, 2002) to The National Security Strategy of
    the United States of America, quoted in Rashid Khalidi's excellent
    essay Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous
    Path in the Middle East, p. 3.

    ^[43][3] See, e.g., Joseph S. Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in
    World Politics (Public Affairs, 2004), a restatement of his earlier
    essay The Paradox of American Power (Oxford University Press, 2002),
    which I discussed in The New York Review, August 15, 2002.

    ^[44][4] On April 13, 1976, fearing that the Italian Communist Party
    (at the time supported by over one third of Italian voters) might be
    invited to take office in a coalition ministry, Secretary of State
    Henry Kissinger publicly declared --just nine weeks before the
    forthcoming Italian elections--that the US would "not welcome" a
    Communist role in the government of Italy.

    ^[45][5] Quoted by Khalidi in Resurrecting Empire, p. 182.

    ^[46][6] In Iraq Rumsfeld is best remembered for his enthusiastic
    wooing of Saddam Hussein in the early Eighties, when the Iraqi
    dictator really was manufacturing and using chemical weapons-- on
    Iranians. See Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire, p. 187, n. 13.

    ^[47][7] This seems to be better appreciated by soldiers than by their
    civilian superiors. See America's Inadvertent Empire, Chapter 3: "The
    Military Power Gap."

    ^[48][8] The Best and the Brightest (Random House, 1972).

    ^[49][9] Franks is quoted by Bob Woodward in Plan of Attack (Simon and
    Schuster, 2004), p. 281. Feith, now number three in the Defense
    Department, was coauthor, along with Richard Perle, of A Clean Break:
    A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, a foreign policy memorandum
    delivered to incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in
    1996. Among its recommendations is the removal of Saddam Hussein as
    the opening move in a plan to reshape the Middle East. See www

    ^[50][10] The US State Department remains a repository of specialized
    knowledge and skills; but one of the achievements of the conservative
    intellectual revolution has been to ensure that no one listens to the
    State Department any more.

    ^[51][11] Thus Charles Krauthammer advised an audience at the American
    Enterprise Institute in May 2003 that the "Bush Doctrine" (of
    preemptive, preventive war) rivaled the Truman Doctrine in "audacity,
    success and revolutionary nature." See The Right Nation, p. 414, n.
    10. Audacity, perhaps.

    ^[52][12] Kristol and others are quoted in the Financial Times of
    March 22, 2003. For The New Republic see its edition of June 28, 2004,
    "Were We Wrong?" Note the unconscious echo here of an earlier
    generation of intellectuals out to change the world on the backs of
    others, and who particularly resented Stalin for blotting the
    escutcheon of Marxism.

    ^[53][13] I shall have more to say about this in a subsequent essay.

    ^[54][14] Judith Shklar, Ordinary Vices (Harvard University Press,
    1984), p. 6; also "The Liberalism of Fear," in Political Thought and
    Political Thinkers, edited by Stanley Hoffmann (University of Chicago
    Press, 1998).

    ^[55][15] Quoted in the Financial Times, June 26/27, 2004, p. W2.

    ^[56][16] The reference is to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia that ended
    the European Thirty Years' War and is commonly taken as the starting
    point for the modern state system.

    ^[57][17] Shalikashvili is quoted by Richard Holbrooke in To End a War
    (Random House, 1998), p. 173.

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