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US Hegemony

US hegemony

Up till 1st World War, USA focused on its internal developments. USA did not involve itself in world affairs. But USA continued integration with world economy.

USA is a self sufficient state. USA has all the features of a hegemon. Practically speaking, USA is a island. 1_Canada is not a threat to USA, there are lakes and forests in Canada which prevent the possibility of any attack from Canada.  2_Canadian Arctic border is like a shield for USA. Similarly Mexico acted as a buffer zone and no South American country can be expected to challenge US hegemony. The potential challenger can be Brazil, but it can do so only when Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and other northern countries are integrated.  3_USA controls the two oceans. Pacific as well as Atlantic. USA has largest number of ports. Both the seas not only protect USA from external threat, it provides USA the medium to trade with the world. In comparison to USA, Russia is almost land locked.

It is the protection of the seas that USA could develop a vibrant democracy which itself built its cultural power. Which itself is a source of rational, strategic thinking. The security of USA is itself a factor that USA can continue to have free market economy. There is no need to control.

USA has the most well developed inland waterways. It makes the transportation cost extremely cheap. It makes USA a favourite destination for investment from around the world. USA is also a favourite market for investment because of the stability, security and fundamentally strong features of US economy.

USA is located in the ideal temperate zone, hence in terms of food security USA is always a secure country.

USA’s self image is ‘Land of Manifest Destiny’. USA considers that it has the divine mission to expand the institutions of liberal democracy.

Thomas Paine was the view that the American Revolution gives indication of God to expand the virtues of the new world to the old world.

How USA has built its hegemony?

Besides the internal strengths of USA, USA could take the advantage of the crisis in the world to build its hegemony.
1] USA entered in the world wars when the two parties completely exhausted each other so that the victory can be easily achieved.
2] USA took the advantage of the situation prevailing in Europe. European situations allowed USA to make dollar the global currency. How? 1_USA provided dollar aid for reconstruction and development. 2_USA emerged as the major market for European exports which also made dollar global currency. At that time, no other country could offer the market to the world. USA is a largest consumerist nation in the world. It has adverse balance of payment with all countries but it does not affect because the dollars which USA pays comes back.  3_USA through Bretton Woods system made dollar the global currency. The first monetary system as per the Bretton Woods system, the price of the dollar was pegged against gold and the price of all currencies was pegged against dollar. Since Europeans lacked Cash, they exchanged the gold for dollar. Thus USA came to acquire one of the largest reserves of the gold of the world.
3] USA also built its hegemony by securing its economic interest through its powerful navy. 2nd WW gave an opportunity to USA to establish its naval and military bases around the world.
4] Through treaty alliances.
1_NATO. It checked Russia’s outlet in Atlantic.
2_South East Asia Treaty Org. Asso (SEATO or Manilla Pact) to check Russia, China in Asia Pacific.
3_Middle east defence organization (CENTO).

Mackinder Mahan Debate.

Alfred T Mahan.

USA’s foreign policy is guided by geopolitics. One of the earliest influence is of Alfred T Mahan. (THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON HISTORY, 1890 ).
1_The country which controls oceans can control the world. He also held that Indian ocean is a key to seven seas.
2_He held that countries should look at oceans as an opportunity rather than liability.
3_However he was against USA following the isolationist policy. He even believed that democracies are unable to think strategically. He was extremely critical of liberal utopianism. He suggested that USA should actively develop ‘offensive marine power’.  It will constrain the expansion of any land power on sea and it will allow USA to expand its power.

Halford Mackinder.

Mackinder has challenged the theory of Alfred T Mahan and held that ultimately the world will come under the hegemony of land power.
The source of sea power is also land. Hence the land power getting access to sea can end USA’s hegemony. He called Europe, Asia, North Africa together as a world island. It has more human and material resources than the rest of the world together. Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Mongolia, Tibet, Eastern Europe constitute the heartland of world island. He called USA, Australia, Britain, Japan as offshore islands or continent. The advantage of sea power will go once land based transport and communication links consolidate. He also believed that democracies are not inclined to think strategically. He warned USA about the rise of authoritarian powers in the heartland. e.g. Communism in Russia, Fascism in Germany, Authoritarianism in Iran, Communism in China – all needs to be contained.

Contribution of Spykman.

(GEOGRAPHY OF PEACE, 1944s)
To Mackinder’s theory, he added the concept of rimland states, the amphibians states. And in case of these states neither purely naval approach nor land based approach will work. Rimland includes France, Germany, Middle East, India, China. What should be USA’s approach? Proactive containment of the rise of continental power or the possibility of the integration of Eurasia. What is happening now? As suggested by Robert D Kaplan, instead of divisions, Eurasia is cohering. (Eurasian Integration). OBOR is going to integrate Eurasia. China is also following the policies of USA like establishing the global financial center around China. In his recent book MARCOPOLO’S WORLD, he reminds USA of 13th century Mongol empire. The power from Central Asia which established its influence in Europe. Europeans or Atlantic century is over. Now Asian power will dominate. There was a time when western European states could dominate the countries of Asia but now history is going to repeat.

Which states are challenger to US hegemony?

Russia, China, Iran.
If any western power – France or Germany could expand,
Turkey also may adversely impact US interest if it joins hands with China, Russia or Iran,
Mexico – USA’s overlooking the potential threat which arise at its own borders because of almost a failed state, inability of USA to check immigration. The easiest way for non state actors to enter.
These are the main countries at present where US is focusing its foreign policy.

India – However India is not a challenge. India does not have strategic culture, India is not expansionist. India’s strategic culture is absorptive, defensive and inward looking. India has always been the land meant for invasions. South Asia can be called as ‘self contained region. Indians always lacked ‘grand design’. In comparison to India, Pakistanis are more confident. India is a ideal swing state, the best strategic use of India was done by the British. India was know as ‘jewel in the crown.’ India’s location was of vital to safeguard British colonial interest from Suez to Singapore. India is having strategic location in Indian ocean, a significant continental power. India can be utilized to contain China. e.g. in Tibet.  According to them India should play the role of net security provider in Indian ocean region like British India.

Posted in PSIR 2A

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