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The End of Whatever Hegemony Was?

[ 0 ] January 29, 2008 |

This last Sunday, Parag Khanna published a long excerpt of a new book in the New York Times Magazine. Dan Nexon at Duck of Minerva loved it. Dan Drezner didn’t. I’m pretty much in the camp of the latter Dan, who opined:

I will heap praise on Khanna’s agent for getting the excerpt placed into the Magazine. There’s less demand than there used to be for prose stylings that read like Benjamin Barber after a three-day coke bender in Macao.

For my part, I didn’t really see anything here that hasn’t been better expressed in a dozen other places. Khanna argues that US hegemony has essentially ended, and that the future will see a three way competition between Europe, China, and the US for influence in the “second world,” the definition of which is a trifle nebulous. That’s true as far as it goes, but of course depends a lot on how we define hegemony; Khanna wants to define it in more or less the same way as the most aggressive of neoconservatives define it, which helpfully allows him to declare that America’s hegemonic moment is decisively over. There are, however, more sophisticated conceptions of hegemony that do not carry the implication that hegemonic states can do whatever they want whenever they want. As Kenneth Waltz wrote:

To say that militarily strong states are feeble because they cannot easily bring order to minor states is like saying that a pneumatic hammer is weak because it is not suitable for drilling decayed teeth.

Another way of putting this is that yes, to some extent it’s reasonable to argue that the 21st century will see competition for influence between the United States, China, and the European Union. However, that doesn’t get us very far; each of the three players brings a different set of tools to the competition, and the tools of the United States (outsized military power along with economic competitiveness) determine the rules of the game and the structure of the competition.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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But Does It Work?

[ 25 ] January 29, 2008 |

I thought this passage from the Times story about Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama was interesting:

In a 20-minute address, Mr. Kennedy hailed Mr. Obama’s ability to transcend racial divisions. Mr. Kennedy, who associates said had become furious by the tone of the Democratic campaign, including the words and actions of former President Bill Clinton, said Mr. Obama would usher in a new era of politics.

The strongest case to be made for Clinton is that her willingness to fight hard if not dirty will make her the strongest candidate against the GOP in the fall. And I don’t think this is a frivolous argument by any means. Although Obama has shown some ability to fight back (cf. his reply to John Howard, and he did a good job of replying-to-without-naming the Clintons on Saturday) at times he can seem unnecessarily defensive in response to even mild attacks. On the other hand, while I like the idea of having a street fighter as a candidate in the abstract I think one also has to question whether the specific tough tactics being used by Clinton have actually been effective. Given the complete blowout in South Carolina and the recent rash of Obama endorsements, it’s hard to make the case that Bill Clinton going on the offensive has been particularly helpful to Clinton’s campaign. The odious Jesse Jackson invocation was additionally dismaying because it seemed to reflect a very dim view of 2008 Democratic primary voters, and it’s one that I don’t think is terribly well justified. I think Clinton does have some very real political skills, and she may well be the strongest candidate in the general election, but her primary campaign hasn’t been terribly effective given the large advantages she started the race with.

And one can say the same thing about some of her policy panders. I can maybe see it in the immediate aftermath of Texas v. Johnson when such silliness briefly became a salient issue, but at this late date does anyone think that sponsoring Constitution flag-burning legislation is going to convince anyone to vote for her? I actually am inclined to think that her vote on the war represents a sincere conviction that the war was right, but for those who think that it was political positioning her judgment has quite clearly been erroneous — her position on the war bot would deprive her of a crucial issue in the general but also could quite possibly cost her the Democratic nomination. I’m all for politics being the art of the possible, but Clinton’s political instincts don’t always seem especially sound to me.

Or, to put it another way, not only does Mark Penn make me worry a little bit about the policy direction of a Clinton administration (compared to the other major Dems), I see little reason to believe that he’s any great shakes as a political tactician either.

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The Pro-War Candidate

[ 35 ] January 29, 2008 |

Hillary Clinton, who has supported the war from the beginning, applauds the surge. Maybe this doesn’t disqualify her from the Democratic nomination, but being consistently wrong on the most important issue of the Bush era has to create a presumption against your candidacy when you’re running against two credible, electable progressive candidates. In the cheap pandering category, she uses claims that she will deport illegal aliens accused of crimes with “no legal process.”

…Relatedly, Clinton “wins” the Berman/Dershowitz/O’Hanlon primary. (via) This gives me another excuse to link to Stephen Holmes on Berman.

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Distinction Without A Difference

[ 22 ] January 29, 2008 |

Brad Plumer, writing about John McCain’s stated intention to delegate his judicial nomination decisions to Sam Brownback, correctly notes that liberals who expect a secret socially liberal McCain to emerge from behind a mask of 0% NARAL ratings, votes for Robert Bork, support for complete bans on abortion, etc. are people you definitely want to invite to your next poker game.

To add to the amusement, Brad notes the apparent conservative consternation over McCain’s alleged statement that he would appoint justices like John Roberts but not like Sam Alito. So, in other words, instead of appointing justices who will reach conservative results in 24 out of 24 5-4 cases he’ll appoint…justices who will reach conservative results in 24 out of 24 5-4 cases. To call the distinction between them “paltry” may overstate it; they’re remarkably similar judges, wrapping wholly doctrinaire reactionary positions behind a meaningless veneer of formal minimalism. If you switched the names on their opinions at random I don’t think anyone could tell the difference. I’d love for a reporter to have McCain explain the distinction, but at any rate what we’ve learned is that if John McCain was president by the end of his term Antonin Scalia would probably be the median vote on the Court.

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Why I am not a member of NOW-NY

[ 36 ] January 29, 2008 |

‘Nuff said.

(via)

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Dear Jonah: I Am Not Serious, Either

[ 81 ] January 28, 2008 |

The admiring letter.

And a screenshot of my Gmail account, from whence it came:

Fully realizing that explaining the joke makes it significantly less funny, I’ll briefly note that the point of this exercise was two-fold:

First, to demonstrate that Jonah Goldberg will literally re-print almost anything he’s sent, provided that it makes some positive, vacuous observation about his book.

Second, to distill the essence of much of the rest of his fan mail, best summarized as a credulous game of “spot the swastika.” This letter, for example, compares the Supreme Court’s 1992 Casey decision to a passage from Mussolini’s La Dottrino del Fascismo (which Goldberg himself admits he hasn’t read in three years). And this fellow discovered that liberal fascists were everywhere, not only at the University of Wisconsin (natch), but also at Robert La Follette High School — which was of course named for the progressive fascist Republican who once vowed to make Wisconsin a “laboratory for democracy fascism.”

As Jonah himself is fond of saying, “I could quite literally go on like this all day.” But I won’t.

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Good News, Shockingly

[ 0 ] January 28, 2008 |

It’s not often that I get to write about good news with regard to the American criminal (in)justice system. But today is one of those rare days.

Late last week, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Missouri District Court’s holding that the state prison system is required to provide transportation for pregnant incarcerated women who want abortions. The decision overturns Governor Matt Blunt’s policy of denying pregnant inmates access to abortion services by refusing to transport them to St. Louis for the procedure. (About 7% of incarcerated women are pregnant at the time of their sentencing; many more become pregnant during their incarceration by guards who sexually assault and rape them or by intimate partners who visit.)

While the 8th Circuit rejected the district court’s finding that the policy amounted to cruel & unusual punishment, the court affirmed the district court’s holding that Gov. Blunt’s policy violated the constitutional rights of women inmates by placing an undue burden on their right to abortion. As the lawyer who represented the pseudonymous plaintiff (together with the ACLU) explained, “abortion is not a right that is lost at the jailhouse door.”

How true. My challenge to so-called pro-life governors like Gov. Blunt who don’t like having to provide access to abortion for their incarcerated women: show us you actually have a modicum of concern about life (and not just the politics of it) and ban the use of shackles on pregnant and laboring women.

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Um….

[ 9 ] January 28, 2008 |

72%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Assuming this is all a zero-sum game, I suppose this means I’m only 28% addicted to the rest of my life. I don’t necessarily accept that premise, but the fact that I’m typing this while trying to sing the ABC’s with my daughter means, at the very least, that I’m not a good person.

The good news is that by my crude calculations, I’m only 54% addicted to this Asthmaboy album.

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"Close Your Eyes. It Won’t Hurt None."

[ 30 ] January 28, 2008 |

Discuss the final scene of episode four of the season five of the Wire. This is apt to be a spoiler rich environment, so those waiting for the DVDs should be careful.

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But He Said He Wanted To Bring A New Tone To Washington!

[ 0 ] January 28, 2008 |

Apparently, there really were journalists who took George W. Bush’s transparently meaningless boilerplate about bipartisanship seriously, and thought that someone who sometimes cut deals with one of the most reactionary legislatures in the country would be a moderate in national terms. Huh. It’s doubly surprising that people would be willing to admit it 7 years later, though. Indeed, Wesiberg still seems to think not that he got Bush wrong but that Bush mysteriously changed after roughly his second month in office. Sad.

Let’s just hope we avoid the inevitable Weisberg editorial in 2013: “I can’t believe John McCain turned out to be a conservative!

…Yglesias has more. Another why of putting it is that when politicians start running on a platform of “keeping everything the same in Washington” and “doing everything I can to destroy cooperation and prevent Congress from solving our problems,” then politicians using bromides about bipartisanship can actually be used to infer something about how they’ll act in office.

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Cowboys’ #1 Fan Reacts To Their Loss

[ 11 ] January 28, 2008 |

He is looking forward to Yankees spring training opening in less than 20 days, but I worry about the purges when they lose Game 5 to the Anegls after Jeter’s third clutch GIDP of the game.

[Via Kissing Suzy Kolber via spackerman.]

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More, Please

[ 4 ] January 28, 2008 |

Clinton and Obama to vote against cloture on the awful FISA legislation. Good. The two presidential candidates have the potential to be a serious counterwieght to the terrible job Reid has been doing on this issue, and I’m happy that they’ve taken responsibility.

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