STATE OF THE UNION: Now Is the Perfect Time for the US to Withdraw from Korea. Having Shown Its Power in Iraq, It Can Abdicate without Revealing Weakness

Management Today, May 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

STATE OF THE UNION: Now Is the Perfect Time for the US to Withdraw from Korea. Having Shown Its Power in Iraq, It Can Abdicate without Revealing Weakness


I trust in the inexorable advance of liberal capitalism, hold the US to be the foremost force for good, see multiculturalists as apologists for backwardness, supported the expedition to Iraq and dream of executing every tyrant from Riyadh to Pyongyang. I am, to all intents, a hawk. So why does the prospect of an American empire bother me?

Some still question the premise that the US is intent on Pax Americana After all, the idea of reordering the entire Middle East holds sway only in a few neo-conservative think-tanks, and their Pentagon branches. There is no serious expectation that the US will march on Damascus and Tehran. And the Bush administration has been circumspect in its response to the sabre-rattling of the North Korean dictator.

Yet the vulnerability of the US to terrorist attacks and the overwhelming strength of the superpower's military combine to make a powerful case for intervention. And a growing number of political thinkers scheme to fix the world on a grand scale, from Syria to North Korea. In the Weekly Standard, required reading for administration conservatives, Max Boot took the discussion to its natural conclusion. 'The most realistic response to terrorism is for America to embrace its imperial role,' he wrote.

The word imperial is enough to bring out Washington's domestic and foreign critics in a spluttering rage: US motives are impure, it's all about oil, the US system is no more valid than any other, intervention never works ...

Most of these points are tired and empty, but there is a deeper flaw in the imperial project: moral hazard. A guarantor, whether an insurance company or a central bank, typically encourages perverse behaviour. Countries borrow too much and their banks lend too freely - both in the expectation of a bailout by the International Monetary Fund.

By assuming the role of global guarantor, the US runs an analogous risk. Guaranteeing the security of Israel ensures that no Israeli government will make a settlement with the Palestinians. Guaranteeing the global order encourages the caprice of a country such as France. By supporting the Mubarak regime in Egypt, the US removes the pressure for democratization. With an external power guaranteeing stability, the people of Egypt and other puppet states can never take ownership of their own predicament. As bankers say, the road to hell is paved with guarantees.

The smartest individual I met in Tunisia, one of the few at the time who acknowledged that Arabs rather than Mossad might have attacked the Twin Towers, railed against the regime. …

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