Issue 8 - Winter 2004
The Hegemonist Challenge to Globalism (page 1 of 2)
By Jerry Harris

“Power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Mao Tse-tung

The Bush administration has made a sharp break with the globalist policies developed after the break-up of the Soviet Union. This ruling class rift centers on differences over whether the U.S. should act as the world’s sole superpower or leader of a multilateral empire of capital. The debate has been growing for some time and Bush has built his support primarily among international hegemonists within the military/industrial class fraction (MICF). This fraction remains split among a number of influential wings, the most important being globalists and hegemonists. The globalists support a multinational approach to security, civic engagements for nation building and cross-border integration of production. The hegemonists advocate unilateral U.S. leadership, using the armed forces aggressively but only for vital national interests and a rebuilt military based on information technologies.

Globalization and the MICF

Over the past twenty years powerful transformational forces have affected capitalism creating new strategies among ruling class economic, political and military networks. Two of the most important changes were the disintegration of the USSR and the revolution in information technology. Each section of the class was affected to a different extent by these emerging opportunities and pressures. Certainly CEOs and managers of transnational corporations (TNCs) and financial institutions were the most completely transformed, their accumulation strategies totally immersed in global production and speculation. Arguments for non-globalist economic strategies are virtually non-existent inside TNCs. Political parties also saw the rise of transnational advocates to leadership, but they still contend with anti-globalist fractions inside their organizations and are subject to populist mass politics from outside.

Debates also erupted over the role of the armed forces in a post-Soviet world. When the Soviet bloc dissolved the 40-year strategic outlook and mission of the MICF also ended. Containment, nuclear confrontation and support for Third World dictatorships gave way to a new globalist strategy of world “democratization and economic liberalization.” (1) This approach began to consolidate under George Bush and then turned into a controversially full-blown globalism under Clinton. Analyzing the move away from an exclusive focus on military threats the Naval War College observed, “Human rights …and commercial interests are used to justify maintaining and using military forces. The U.S. Army, for example, now trains for peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and humanitarian operations as it once prepared to battle Warsaw Pact armies. ” (2) Although the globalist strategy downplayed the threat of a major war, it pushed extensive engagement and “ ‘enlarging’ the community of secure free-market and democratic nations.” (3) In fact, under these new policies Clinton deployed troops more often than any previous president. As General Reimer explained, the Army was a “rapid reaction force for the global village.” (4)

Charles Hasskamp from the Air War College sums-up the globalist approach nicely, “without a military threat to the nation’s survival on the horizon, it is now more critical to have the capability to deter war and exercise preventive diplomacy than to have a force unable to react to anything but war. Unfortunately, there are still many who oppose having the military do anything but prepare for total war…Global security now requires efforts on the part of international governmental agencies, private volunteer organizations, private organizations, and other instruments of power from around the world…helping to stabilize the world, promoting social and economic equity, and minimizing or containing the disastrous effects of failed states. Let us not merely pay lip service to warrior diplomacy.” (5)

Under this policy unilateralism is a dangerous self-isolating strategy. Writing for the National Defense University, Richard Kugler states that “any attempt by the United States to act unilaterally would both overstretch its resources and brand it as an unwelcome hegemonic superpower.” (6) Another study at the Army’s War College warns that “Third World perceptions that the United States wants to retain its hegemony by enforcing the status quo at all costs (will encourage) much cynicism about American ideals at home and abroad.” (7) Military strategist at both these institutes argue the strongest guarantee for world stability is multilateral civic and military engagement. As Kugler explains, “the best hope for the future is a global partnership between (the E.U. and U.S.) acting as leaders of the democratic community.” (8)

These globalist policies were never fully supported within the military, and yet no one else seemed to offer a more comprehensive or convincing vision. One alternative was even positively titled “muddling through.” (ibid, 20) Those opposed to nation building advocated less military involvement limited to traditional roles. As Samuel Huntington wrote, “A military force is fundamentally antihumanitarian: its purpose is to kill people in the most efficient way possible.” (9)

By Clinton’s last years in office many in the military felt globalization had drawn the armed forces too deeply into civilian affairs. In a precautionary prize-winning essay for the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Lt. Colonel Charles Dunlap he creates a scenario in which a politicized military stages a coup in 2012. In a second essay Dunlap argues that the “armed forces (should) focus exclusively on indisputable military duties” and “not diffuse our energies away from our fundamental responsibilities for war fighting.” (10) Others, like Doug Bandow protested that “it is not right to expect 18-year-old Americans to be guardians of a de facto global empire, risking their lives when their own nation’s security is not at stake.” (11) But hegemonists faced a major problem; in their anti-globalist reaction they were caught advocating a cautious defensive position that lacked a serious superpower threat. On the otherhand, globalists put forward a dynamic and proactive engagement policy set inside a new grand strategy for capitalist global penetration and stability.

So when MICF hegemonists seized upon terrorism to redefine political and military strategy they found a solid base of support. As Rumsfeld notes “In just one year – 2001- we adopted a new defense strategy. We replaced the decade-old two-major-theater-of war construct with an approach more appropriate for the twenty-first century.” (12) This new strategy advocates extensive engagement but on the traditional grounds of warfare, not nation building humanitarianism. Hegemonists had tied themselves to a self-limiting strategy with a narrow set of interests, but terrorism provided a worldwide threat that let them out of their anti-globalist box and created the long sought post Cold War enemy. As noted by one study, “from the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 until the attacks on the heart of the American republic on September 11, 2001, the transnational progressives were on the offensive…(but) clearly, in the post-September 11 milieu there is a window of opportunity for those who favor a reaffirmation of the traditional norms of …partriotism.” (13)

Harvey Sicherman, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, also points to the sharp turn in policy after 9-11. “The Clinton administration believed that just as economic globalization would transcend borders, so security could be lifted out of the rut of geopolitics…this powerful idea needed as its corollary an international military force (but) globalization had begun to falter even before September 11 when the destruction of the World Trade Center ended the era. Today geopolitics is back with a vengeance …American military forces are waging a war today in defense of U.S. national security, not to secure the freedoms of Afghanis. Humanitarian warfare is a doctrine come and gone.” (14)

Rise of the Hegemonists

The terrorist attacks created the opportunity for anti-globalists to construct a new ruling class bloc and challenge the globalists from within the MICF. The globalist base was weakest in the MICF while the military’s patriotic/nationalist ideology and the national character of military manufacturing allowed the hegemonists to maintain a strong overall position and contend successfully for leadership. This acted as a catalyst for anti-globalist forces within broader circles of the ruling class whose political outlook is tied to an older imperialist model which developed in the international era of industrial production linked to a mission of world leadership and national greatness.

The hegemonist camp is composed of two major wings, the geopolitical realists and neoconservatives. Neoconservatives have advocated aggressive unilateral engagement for many years, maintain a strong ideological basis for their policy views and criticize the realists for their pragmatism. As Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon’s number two man has stated, “nothing could be less realistic than the version of the realist view of foreign policy that dismisses human rights as an important tool of American foreign policy.” (15) For neoconservatives ideas still matter and they seek to enshrine foreign policy in the assumed superiority of Western civilization. Like imperialists of the industrial age they carry the “white man’s burden” of civilizing a Hobbesian world.

Neoconservative influence can be seen in the Bush administration’s support for a military solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In part this stems from the Christian right who see Israeli as a buffer for Western civilization against the Arab and Muslim challenge. Christian activists are a powerful social base for Bush and he personally identifies with the movement. But there is also a long history between neoconservatives and the U.S. Zionist movement linked by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and Center for Security Policy (CSP). These think tanks have been a haven for right-wing defense intellectuals, many now in influential government positions. For example, JINSA advisors include Richard Perle, head of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, Douglas Feith, third ranking executive in the Pentagon, and Vice President Cheney. In addition, another 22 CSP advisors are in key posts in the national security establishment. (16)

Many in the JINSA/CSP circle have long advocated regime change throughout the Middle East, and opposed the Oslo political process favored by globalists. Michael Ledeen, a leading JINSA member and Oliver North’s Iran/contra liaison with Israel, calls for “total war” to sweep away governments throughout the region. Speaking to the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Perle stated: “Those who think Iraq should not be next may want to think about Syria or Iran or Sudan or Yemen or Somalia or North Korea or Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority...if we do it right with respect to one or two…we could deliver a short message, a two-word message. ‘Your next.’ ” (17)

Although neoconservatives are influential in the White House, realists dominate the Bush cabinet. Traditionally they have been more reluctant to engage in operations considered outside vital national interests. As Bush stated in his debate with Al Gore, “I don’t think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we’ve got to be careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win wars.” (18) But realists also maintain a classic imperialist vision of the nation/state achieving hegemony by dominating a dangerous and competitive world system through political and military power. This became pronounced after 9-11 because a war to defend vital national interest was now possible. All of this is evident in the unilaterialists and naked hegemonic policies of the Bush administration. The refusal to sign important international agreements, the “with us or against us” bravado and threats of preemptive military strikes are all fundamental weapons in the hegemonist arsenal. It is this approach that establishes a powerful common political bond for both hegemonist wings.

Both wings are also united in their opposition to globalist multilateralism which they feel undermines the central importance of the nation/state. Hegemonists see the key ideological divide “not between globalist and antiglobalist, but instead over the form Western global engagement should take in the coming decades: will it be transnational or internationalist?” (19) Clearly a fundamental struggle within the capitalist class is taking place that goes to different visions of U.S. society, America’s role in the world and its relationship to its most important allies. Key to hegemonist ideology is the cultural purity and political independence of the nation/state. Their rejection of multilateralism abroad is tied to their opposition to multiculturalism at home. They fear the deconstruction of an Euro-centric narrative of U.S. history will create a “post-assimilationist society” that will make “American nationhood obsolete.” (20) For hegemonists “transnationalism is the next stage of multiculturalist ideology – it is multiculturalism with a global face.” (21) The U.S. Patriot Act linked to a unilateral war against Iraq are component parts of a strategic offensive against external and internal foreign threats that globalists fail to confront.

Perle takes-up the nation-centric argument against multilaterialism stating, “An alliance today is really not essential…the price you end-up paying for an alliance is collective decision making. That was a disaster in Kosovo…We’re not going to let the discussions…the manner in which we do it (and) the targets we select to be decided by a show of hands from countries whose interests cannot be identical to our own and who haven't suffered what we have suffered.” Continuing on about an U.S. occupation of Iraq, Perle says, “look at what could be created, what could be organized, what could be made cohesive with the power and authority of the United States.” (22) For hegemonists unilateralism is more than a referred policy, independent political action is a principal pillar of their ideology and foundation of state power.

When Rumsfeld and Cheney advocated rejecting U.N. led inspections in Iraq they were defending the independence of the U.S. state. This strikes at the heart of powerful interests on both sides of the Atlantic, and centrists like Powell still advocate working within the U.N. framework. But others, like former Reagan U.N. represenative Jeanne Kirkpatrick argue that “foreign governments and their leaders, and more than a few activists here at home, seek to constrain and control American power by means of elaborate multilateral processes, global arrangements and U.N. treaties that limit both our capacity to govern ourselves and act abroad.” (23) For hegemonists multilateral cooperation is weakness in a world where, from their viewpoint, competitive international blocs still constitute a major source of conflict. This conflict is given great significance because “transnational progressivism” challenges “traditional American concepts of citizenship, patriotism, assimilation, and at the most basic level, to the meaning of democracy itself.” (24) Samuel Huntington’s thesis on the “clash of civilizations” provides the theoretical basis that ties cultural wars at home to wars with Islam abroad. Western civilization must be defended within and without, something hegemonists believe globalists not only fail to do but actively undermine.

Globalist Hegemonist
Multilaterial Foreign Policy Unilaterialist Foreign Policy
Multicultural National Diversity Euro-Centric and Christian Nation
Nation Building and “Police” Interventions Preemptive and Preventive Warfare
A Mutual and Stable World Empire for Global Capital Geopolitical Competition and Regional Blocs
Transnational Corporate Economic Base Military Industry Complex
Supranational Governmental Institutions and Polycentric Diplomacy Nation Centric State and Unipolar Leadership

From this point-of-view a U.S. war on Iraq is linked to the battle for class power against globalism. Establishing the unilateral use of force and violence, ignoring international law, attacking immigrant rights, and promoting a renewed patriotic cultural narrative are all key elements in a broad counteroffensive. John Fonte, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, offers a definition of the social-base for “transnational progressivism.” Fonte includes transnational corporate executives, Western politicians, the “post-national” intelligentsia, U.N. bureaucrats, E.U. administrators and various NGOs and foundation activists. (25) This is the line of demarcation in what hegemonists see as an “intracivilization conflict” for the soul of the nation/state. More >>


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