Kinda like this thing but there’s something you should know
we just came to bomb hello
*(revised Azure Sky video edit)
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These are dangerous times even without hype. For the first time since 1918, Waltz’ structural architecture of systemic international anarchy (defined not as ‘chaos’ but competitive positioning limited only by viable international means) puts forth a vacating chair. The Continent anticipated and feared the coming American century. The foundations of this entire blog have roots there.
We Americans, blissfully withdrew to our own continent, focusing on accumulating capital, ignoring the tired Lion’s increasingly feeble efforts to maintain its seat. Wilson thusly delivered a double blow — demonstrating the Empire’s implausibility then failing to deliver American power to the systemic framework. Now it’s our turn to look back at our ‘Diamond Jubilee’, perhaps.
It’s become oddly jejune to muse about international theory in practical terms. Recently,
Japan (remember when Summers glommed onto that one in *1990*?) emerged a contender. A hard case of the unipolar flu in the 1990s restored American swagger only to give way to today’s feverish China nightmares. After squandering circa a trillion dollars a year on spastic militarism for the last decade, re-calibrating America’s strategic footprint happens in a conceptual vacuum.
Some argue re-callibration without intellectual infrastructure poses risk but also presents opportunity. These American Great Jump Aheaders urge us to see the de-stabilized Waltzian international order as Kobe Bryant looks down court on a fast break: reacting to what just passed (the old-bi-polar comfort and the briefly hellish uni-polar fever). The analogy? The U.S. naturally adapts to reality now but can shape shape fluid events “on the fly”. No excessive dwelling on the last play. (Forgive the sports metaphors. We rarely use them). Taken to extreme, the argument descends to the ad hoc.
Some permutations of the ad hoc are undeniably fanciful. Most seem unsound. Some might evolve into strategic merit if ever we Americans reconcile national interest with ideals. And it’s not at all clear that a nominal, constitutional republic premised on separation of powers will have the wherewithal to think, let alone act, with the necessary alacrity should it find a strategy conducive to Kobe Bryant fast breaks.
The future in ad hoc formulations usually is more of “now”, only more so. Or it filters down to Friedman banality such a America as “brand”: the least offensive to American consumerism. Recipes may vary but the concoction doesn’t. Mix severely deflated soft power, lingering still, with equally diminished hard power. Induce ‘buy in’ from the BRICs and other rising contenders in some version of the post-war world order. (Non-state actors in this agenda — from the post-Al Queda boogymen to Anon, etc. – more tricky).
All assumes the pot is worth the ante to others. Recent events underscore how even Europe remains ambivalent in many ways. For now, without Germany, Anglo-French designs on projecting power over Libya remain action without traction. The Gallic mind today no longer hyperventilates over US ‘hyperpower’ as in the past. Sometimes a harebrained scheme to intervene in Libya is just a harebrained scheme to paraphrase Freud – however unwise.
The US promulgated globilization memes post 1991 devolved into celebrating mindless casino capitalism. The old national and tribal (and other) isms remained, ignored. Even the meanest (in all sense) ad hoc conceptualism must account for US inability to understanding actual ground truths around the world due to provincial insularity.
When you look out at the world, what do you see? A purposeful foreign policy fast break in the making? Or something else?
One more reason we look at Libya and see a strategic diversion — at best. To bring matters full circle: if you’re still thinking about a fast break, Kobe has one advantage over all of us. He knows — without thinking — everyone on his team knows their united purpose is to make a basket. Isn’t the very notion of binding rules and referees anti-thetical to
Waltzian anarchy the international order today?
Re Libya, perhaps Bismarck is right. The One Upstairs truly loves fools, drunks and the United States. We sure push our luck.