I’m back… at least until my DSL service cuts out again. Or I leave for APSA. Whichever comes first.

I’ve been able to get online long enough to read, among other things, Timothy Garton Ashs’ essay, “Stagger on, weary Titan” (via Anne-Marie Slaughter).

In the American case, it’s a result of the unexpectedly protracted, bloody and costly Iraq war, in which a small group of foreign insurgents defies the mightiest military the world has seen; concern about the rising economic power of China and India; and a combination of imperial overstretch with socio-economic problems at home.

Ash’s essay is definitely interesting, but I do wish smart people would stop asserting that the US is suffering from “hegemonic imperial overextension.” As I noted early in the history of the Duck, the US is not in any danger of experiencing conventional military or imperial overextension.

What the US faces is, rather, political overextension. We lack the political will to adequately meet the challenges of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our ruling political party prefers tax cuts to sound fiscal policy. Our President seems to think that asking Americans to “sacrifice” involves putting plastic yellow magnets on the rear of their cars. Or, perhaps, taking a few minutes out of their busy shopping schedules to pray for members of the All Volunteer Force, the National Guard, and the families left behind.

I suppose one could say that most examples of imperial overextension involve political overextension. For instance, rebellions – in the Netherlands and, later, in Catalonia and Portugal – had a lot to do with the collapse of the Habsburg bid for European hegemony. My impression, however, is that the US is well below the threshold of domestic “pain” typical of hegemonic overextension. The US simply doesn’t, as of yet, divert that large a proportion of resources to its external commitments.

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