Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Neoliberal Cosmopolitanism

Here's one for the miserable half-witted fuckfaces on the pro-imperialist Left (good afternoon to you, by the way).

I re-read this article by Peter Gowan recently and just thought I'd cut and paste a few sections from it. Basically, Gowan pulls apart the notion that powerful western states, and particularly the US, have, in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War, somehow broken with cynical power politics and that we've entered a fluffy new world order in which the heroic Marine Corps are tasked with a mission to liberate the world's oppressed. This seems to be the idea which, beneath all the hot air and bollocks, animates Cohen, Aaranovitch and etc.

Viewed historically, the new doctrine [neoliberal cosmopolitanism] is a radicalization of the Anglo-American tradition that has conceived itself as upholding a liberal internationalism, based on visions of a single human race peacefully united by free trade and common legal norms, led by states featuring civic liberties and representative institutions. Such liberal internationalism sought to create a global order that could enforce a code of conduct on the external relations between states. But it still essentially accepted the Westphalian system that granted states jurisdiction over their own territories.

The new liberal cosmopolitanism, by contrast, seeks to overcome the limits of national sovereignty by constructing a global order that will govern important political as well as economic aspects of both the internal and external behaviour of states. This is not a conception advocating any world government empowered to decide the great international issues of the day. Rather, it proposes a set of disciplinary regimes—characteristically dubbed, in the oleaginous jargon of the period, ‘global governance’—reaching deep into the economic, social and political life of the states subject to it, while safeguarding international flows of finance and trade. In this system, sovereignty is reconceived as a partial and conditional licence, granted by the ‘international community’, which can be withdrawn should any state fail to meet the domestic or foreign standards laid down by the requirements of liberal governance.


Crucial to the NLC version of today’s world is the claim... [that members of the 'Pacific Union' - the NLCs' imaginary benevolent alliance of world powers] have broken with power politics as their governing impulse. What this, of course, represses is the central fact of contemporary international relations: one single member of the Pacific Union—the United States—has acquired absolute military dominance over every other state or combination of states on the entire planet, a development without precedent in world history. The US government, moreover, has shown no sign whatever that it is ready to relinquish its global dominance. American defence spending, as high today as it was in the early 1980s, is increasing, and a consensus across the Clinton and Bush administrations has developed in favour of scrapping the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The underlying reality of the Pacific Union is a set of bilateral, hub-and-spokes military alliances under US leadership. In the past liberal theorists usually explained the forging of these alliances as responses to powerful Communist and Soviet threats to democratic values and regimes. Yet, though liberalism and democracy are now widely held to be a prevailing norm, and the Warsaw Pact has vanished, these ‘defensive’ alliances have not quit the stage. On the contrary, Washington has worked vigorously to reorganize and expand them during the 1990s.

NLC theorists protest that the United States has, nevertheless, abandoned egoistic national interest as its strategic guideline. After all, are not liberal democratic values tirelessly lauded and expounded in the speeches of US leaders—most imperishably, by the late President Clinton? Such declarations are no novelty—ringing proclamations of disinterested liberal principle go back to the days of classical nineteenth-century power politics and Lord Palmerston. If, on the other hand, we turn to actual policy guidelines for US diplomacy in the 1990s, we find them wholly dedicated to the calculations of power politics. Where such documents refer to the icons of free trade and liberal democracy, they are presented as conditions for the advancement of US power and prosperity.


[R]ealist accounts of the nineties are clearly superior to the prospectuses of the new liberal cosmopolitans. Zbigniew Brzezinski has summed up the actual nature [of US power] with characteristic bluntness, remarking that compared to the British Empire of the nineteenth century,

"the scope and pervasiveness of American global power today are unique . . . Its military legions are firmly perched on the western and eastern extremities of Eurasia, and they also control the Persian Gulf. American vassals and tributaries, some yearning to be embraced by even more formal ties to Washington, dot the entire Eurasian continent."

Read the rest. It's good. Have a look at The Global Gamble, too. Perhaps Cohen and Hitchens should get themselves a copy - it's only £11.34 on Amazon. Small change for those two - probably a small fraction of what they spend on Tennant's Superstrength every day.

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