by Bill O’Grady
In Part I, we examined the basic role of the hegemon and the unique model the U.S. has created, which we dubbed the “Benevolent Hegemon.” This week, we discuss why many Americans have become disenchanted with this model, which is pressuring policymakers to either jettison the superpower role or significantly redefine it. Next week, we will conclude the series by discussing the emergence of a new hegemonic model we call the “Malevolent Hegemon.”
The Costs of Benevolence
The U.S. did not naturally aspire to hegemony. From a geographic perspective, the U.S. lives in splendid isolation; neither Mexico nor Canada is a major military threat. As Otto Von Bismarck noted, the U.S. is “surrounded by weak powers and fish.” Unlike many nations, the U.S. can choose whether or not it wants to be involved in the world. Paradoxically, this also means the U.S. is an ideal superpower because it faces no local threats and doesn’t need to devote resources to protect against nearby threats.
Americans did view the threat of communism as significant enough to accept the substantial costs of hegemony. Here are some of the changes entailed in accepting the superpower role: