TCS Daily

The Benefits of Hegemony

By Arnold Kling - February 4, 2008 12:00 AM

"He carried a golden paiza just as his father and uncle had done on their journeys on behalf of the Mongol empire. This object was a foot long and three inches across...Possessing it meant that Marco was designated as a very important person in the Mongol realm, and was able to make full use of the khan's extensive network of hostels, horses, and roads."
--Laurence Bergreen, Marco Polo, p. 167

Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle, were merchants. They were able to trade throughout Asia because of the protection of Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Kahn. These rulers created a Mongol hegemony in Asia.

Trade flourishes under hegemony. That is the lesson I took from Power and Plenty, a dense, arduous survey of economic history written by Ronald Findlay and Kevin H. O'Rourke. In addition to the Mongol empire, they describe the increased trade under the hegemonies of the Romans, the Muslim Caliphate, and various dynasties in China and Latin America during the first millenium. Of course, the most recent example of trade under hegemony has been what Walter Russell Mead in God and Gold calls the maritime powers of Great Britain and the United States.

It makes sense once you think about it. Disparate peoples can coexist in three ways: in isolation, under hegemony, or at war. In the absence of hegemony, peaceful intercourse is an elusive ideal.

Squalid Isolation

Geographical isolation has been a factor for most of human history. For millenia, inhabitants of what we now call the "new world" were unaware of the existence of the "old world," and vice-versa. Geographical isolation was overcome by transportation technology, from ocean-going ships to railroads to automobiles and airplanes. Another important technological development was communications, from the telegraph to the telephone to the Internet.

Political and military factors also have produced isolation. In medieval times, when castles were the dominant military technology, this tended to promote isolation. More recently, during the Cold War, the capitalist countries were isolated from the Communist countries, by such means as the Berlin Wall and the refusal by the United States to have any relations with Communist China.

Today, many Americans long for isolation, especially from the Islamic world. Such a desire is reflected in the political popularity of "energy independence," in spite of the impracticality of this notion.

Historically, isolation correlates with economic backwardness. The most underdeveloped societies are those that have been cut off from trade--remote islands in the ocean or villages in Africa and Latin America located far from water transport.

Squalid isolation has also been observed in the West. The fall of the Roman Empire produced isolation and decline in Europe. The two decades following World War I saw trade curtailed and living standards reduced.

The Golden Passport

In the absence of hegemony, trade is impaired. If Marco Polo wants to buy goods in Afghanistan and sell them in China, he has to be able to avoid having his goods stolen, either by bandits along the route or by criminals or government rulers at his destination. Without protection from a hegemon, he is unlikely to be able to complete his trade mission.

Marco Polo carried with him a Golden Passport, which signified Kublai Khan's protection. Every trader needs the equivalent of such a Golden Passport.

The United States Constitution was in part a contract for hegemony. The separate states were given wide latitude for setting policies within their borders. However, the "commerce clause" stated that states could not introduce tariffs or other impediments to interstate commerce.

The "commerce clause" effectively gave American traders their Golden Passport within the United States. As Walter Russell Mead points out, the British and American navies helped give Anglo-American traders a Golden Passport throughout the world.

Discomfort with Hegemony

Many liberals, of both the classical and modern varieties, are uncomfortable with hegemony. Hegemony suggests militarism and the potential for dictatorship.

Some libertarians envision a government-free world, with people too dependent on trade with one another to engage in war. However, I am more sympathetic to the Hobbesian view that in the absence of government, disputes will escalate to violence.

Some liberals envision a world government, something like the European Union or the United Nations. These model governments enjoy apparently unlimited scope to make rules but ultimately no power to enforce them.

Many historians view hegemony as unstable. Inevitably, challengers arise. When they become sufficiently powerful relative to the hegemon, war breaks out. War destroys the hegemon, leading to chaos and squalid isolation.

The unpopularity of the Iraq war shows that Americans are not eager practitioners of hegemony. That is probably a good thing. However, we also should not be eager to give up hegemony. In theory, there are better alternatives. In practice, there are alternatives that are much worse.

Appendix: The Production/Plunder Ratio

Has hegemony always promoted a market economy, or is the market economy only a phenomenon that emerged over the past 500 years? Many archaeologists and historians take the view that thriving markets existed in the Roman Empire, the Muslim Caliphate, and the Mongolian Empire.

Karl Polanyi took a different view. He held that the market economy was a relatively recent phenomenon. I lean toward Polanyi's view. I do not believe that historically there were enough people with the intelligence, discipline, and capacity for trust to create a market economy.

The archaelogists can find markets in the ruins of great empires. But that does not mean that people routinely operated in a market economy. Those markets may have existed to allow imperialists to exchange goods plundered during conquests.

In a modern economy, people produce with the intent of selling into a market. Most of what you consume are goods and services that you could never make for yourself.

In older economies, people produced mostly within the household, growing their own food, making their own clothing, etc. They also exchanged and shared some goods and services within small villages. However, I am skeptical that there were many people regularly producing goods and services for trade as we do today.

If I am correct, then the markets in ancient Rome were filled whenever the legions came home with loads of plunder. Otherwise, the markets would have been relatively empty.

What I suspect is that over the past several hundred years, the production/plunder ratio has increased dramatically. That is, in a typical ancient market, most of the goods for sale were plundered by the imperial armies. Only a few goods for sale were produced voluntarily by citizens. In a modern economy, the ratio of production to plunder is far higher.

A phenomenon that challenges my point of view is urbanization. To the extent that there were large cities in the ancient or medieval world, it would appear that modern trade existed. In a large city, you are more likely to consume goods produced by others than goods produced by your household.

I suspect that historical cities were not very large for very long. A city might get very crowded when the plunder is ample. But when the armies are having a slow time, urban population drops as people have to revert to self-sufficiency.

As Gregory Clark points out in A Farewell to Alms, until recently most people were terribly innumerate. Steven Pinker says that our innate notion of arithmetic is "1...2...a lot," meaning that we are not naturally inclined to count large numbers of objects with care.

This makes contemporaneous estimates of population highly suspect. When Marco Polo reports on seeing a celebration involving 40,000 people, my guess is that he is reporting "a lot," with no concept of even rough approximation, much less precision.

The land area of an ancient city could be sufficient to hold 50,000 people, but that does not mean it held 50,000 people at one time. It could be that as houses filled with human waste, people simply abandoned them and moved to houses next door. A city with houses for 50,000 might never have held more than a few thousand.

The question of whether there were market economies in ancient times is not going to be settled here. For me, the key question is the production/plunder ratio. If it was as low under the Roman, Islamic, Incan or Mongol empires as I believe it to be, then there was no modern market economy during those times. On the other hand, if the production/plunder ratio was fairly high, then it is reasonable to interpret those hegemonies as market economies.



Giving fascism a philosophic basis
Arnold, let's reduce your argument to its basic form. If you and I are free and equal, you might pull a gun on me and rob me. But if I can put you in chains, I am free. Do I have that just right?

Therefore from my point of view, hegemony is good. And from your point of view... well, that doesn't matter.

Your example of the US Constitution doesn't hold up with even the slightest examination. That is a binding contract between equals, to regulate their affairs. But if New York, say, were to exercise absolute dominion over all the others-- that would be hegemony.

So hegemony's fine-- if you are the hegemon. But if you're not, the only means you have of fighting back are to engage in asymmetrical warfare. No doubt we will want o cloak our greed with self serving phrases, saying for instance that other than our illustrious selves, there simply aren't "enough people with the intelligence, discipline, and capacity for trust to create a market economy."

Only we enlightened Americans are fit to rule the Mud People. We are, when you think about it, a Master Race, destined to lead the world into a new future... for us and our servants.

This makes everything you've written appear in a fresh light.

WORDS MEAN THINGS (to different people).
To people who do not know the meaning of words, hegemony also means imperialism. And to much of that group, imperialism is viewed as immoral and anathema of what the American republic is supposed to be. And being a hegemon also stirs resentment, even violent reactions, from those who feel they are being oppressed by the hegemon.
When Prof. Kling brought up how most people produced for themselves in ancient times, that got me thinking of how they is a downside to broader global trade. We do become too dependent on what is produced by people further away, and that can be unstable for them. We have seen this with such events as last year's issues with Chinese made products. They only comprise a small amount of the billions of Chinese goods that are imported her anually. But to individuals who dislike free global trade, even seeing it as selling out our sovereignty, this is just part of the problem. Also, the citizens of a hegemonic society can also view being less self-sufficient economically as adding to their own discomfort. This is shown of course in the criticisms with our energy situation, among other things I would think. But from what little I know of Adam Smith's work, when he spoke of nations specializing in what they produce and trade, he could also have been telling us that self-sufficiency has its limits.
There are other words and topics that we brought up here that I could get into, including all that about production/plunder ratios. I cannot however because I may not be smart enough to discuss them. But I hope we remember that the same word can mean the same things to different people. Especially where the health of a society is concerned.

The US Constitution is a binding contract between equals?
Who those equals may be Roy?

The meaning of hegemony
Here are some definitions from two on-line dictionaries:

1 : preponderant influence or authority over others : domination
2 : the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group

1. leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others, as in a confederation.
2. leadership; predominance.
3. (esp. among smaller nations) aggression or expansionism by large nations in an effort to achieve world domination.

The key dividing the two meanings of the word is willingness. If a nation or people willingly asks another to come and rule over them, fine. If not, that's a problem having to do with the use of raw force.

In the first instance, perhaps Poland is a good example. They have willingly sought our influence and protection. In the second, Iraq would be the example. They never asked us to rule over them, and a majority there would like us to leave.

To which category would we put Colombia? One sector of society desires our hegemony over them, so they can use our might to dominate another segment of society.

My notion of a healthy world would be one where every nation would be free to declare its independence whenever it no longer agreed with the hegemon's leadership-- and every people would enjoy that same right over its own government.

I would suggest that this follows a different definition than the one favored by our leaders.

Seems obvious to me
The Constitution is an article of federalization between states. Those states are all equal partners. Name one that enjoys hegemony over the others.

I can name two...
Iowa and New Hampshire. :)

They never asked us to rule over them, and a majority there would like us to leave.
ALL occupied populations want their occupiers to leave, Roy. The Germans felt the same way after the war. But today, they fight tooth and nail when the US announces a base closing over there.

I see. How about the people within each STATE? and all the non-GOVAGs in the US?
Do you care to argue that NO ONE enjoys any hegemony over others? How about GOVAGs and Non-GOVAGs? Do the latter have the same life and death power (a power you want to be unconstrained by any principles save what they (the GOVAGs that is) think the majority of non-GOVAGs want) on anybody that the former have?

Loving one's occupiers
The difference between Germany and Iraq is that Iraqis feel we are perpetuating a bloody and intractable stalemate between the forces of tripartite division and the forces of unity, and that the nation can't progress until we and our influence are gone.

The reason we don't go is because a unified Iraq would be able to resolve differences between the Shiite majority and the various minority groups in some power sharing relationship. Such a formula is impossible to achieve with our continuing to put our thumb on the scale.

In the mean time the Kurds are very happy with our presence. It allows them to oppress and often murder their own minority Yazidis, Turkomans, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Arabs.

Without America's presence, Iraqis would not be likely to miss such income as they might earn from our super bases there. They would always have the income stream from their oil-- uncut by the American bite on it.

Achieving independence
You need to go independent, so you no longer have to put up with all these government agents. I would suggest Somalia. They haven't had a government since Siad Barre left. You should like it just fine.

Kosovo is another wise choice.

Pax Romana et Pax Americana
Your discussion of hegemony was fine. When you get into ancient history you fell into the deep end. Ugh.
The market places were vast and vital in the Roman Empire. Trade throughout the empire was widespread whether by caravan or by ship. Archeology has found far more than ships stores on sunken vessels.
Every great empire I can think of in the ancient world traded extensively and to think that these ancient hegemonies were somehow inferior because they used tiny wooden ships and caravans reveals an unwarranted vanity and fails to grasp how these ancient hegemonies managed to hold such vast empires together using the technology at their disposal.
Trade was the glue. As long as it was in the interest of the vast majority to keep the hegemony in place, the armies had a relatively easy job. When the hegemony became unbearable, it didn't matter the size or power of the armies. The people resisted them and the empire disintegrated.

The Evil American Empire
And what exactly do you base this dribble on?

Production/Plunder and the destruction of Hegemonies
First let me say that in most cases, stable hegemonies rise when the production/plunder ratio is weighted heavily on the side of production. The first hegemonies arose is fertile river valleys, and while Rome might have been awash in booty... without stable sources of food it could not have existed. Luxuries may have played a significant role in the Roman economy; however I suspect that it was relatively small when compared to the demand for staples like grain, grapes, olives and olive oil. Long term shifts away from production and toward plunder can not be sustained, and the pendulum must swing back the other way or any hegemony is doomed. It is one thing to conquer Egypt and seize massive amounts of grain; however what is really needed is a steady reliable supply.

Which brings me to my second point, plunder and steady production are not necessary at opposite ends of the spectrum. Hegemonies seem to exist to support the needs of the few, those with the military might over the needs of the many (those lacking military might.) When wealth is extracted/created from a region, and the real benefits of that wealth are not available to the average man and woman of that region, are they not being plundered? I firmly believe that a great percentage of the wealth and affluence we enjoy is still derived from plunder, even if it would seem to be (and we would prefer to call it) production. Products made with child labor, resources extracted from countries ruled by a tiny elite, ect… Despite all that, our current hegemony could almost be classified as benevolent, especially when compared with the horrors perpetrated by past hegemonies. Given this, how to we transform a system which is perhaps the least of all evils into one that is not evil at all? Can the current hegemony be transformed in such a way in which no people; region, nation or person is exploited or abused for the benefits of others?

I'm with you - good article but flawed on history
Even in the basic village farmer X who was good with fruit no doubt traded with farmer Y who was good with grain; and both of them surely traded with the blacksmith who was the only one able to make or mend a knife, and with the potter who was the only one able to make large amphora which were essential when the olives were pressed.

Going beyond the village to imagine that several hundred thousand people of all classes in Rome supplied themselves with the necessities and the little luxuries soley on the periodic results of plunder is ridiculous.

Ironically, the author started out well by noting that the golden passport greatly eased trade for Marco Polo. And then he went off the rails by forgetting how the single rule of Rome had to greatly ease both short and long distance trade around the Mediterranean. And even then he seems to have forgotten that spices made their way to Europe in trade by passing hand to hand during long intervals when the road was all but impossible to travel from end to end. Similarly, for long intervals the sea had no hegemon and yet trade still occurred by the expedient of each ship being armed well enough to give it a reasonable percentage chance of safe passage.

Even when jungle rules are in effect there are still advantages to trade, although it is no doubt a lot less efficient.

When were the Iraqis polled on their preference?
You asserted that a majority of the Iraqis would like us to leave.
When were they polled on the subject? And what questions were asked?

There have been several polls on this subject.
What partisans like roy never tell you though, is that when the Iraqis are questioned on how soon they would like the Americans to leave, the answers are in the 5 to 10 year range.

No Subject
"Iraqis feel we are perpetuating a bloody and intractable stalemate between the forces of tripartite division and the forces of unity, and that the nation can't progress until we and our influence are gone."

Can you PROVE that? Because, it sounds more like western press brainwashing of Roy to me.

"The reason we don't go is because a unified Iraq would be able to resolve differences between the Shiite majority and the various minority groups in some power sharing relationship."

Hahahahahahahha! You trying to do a Neville Chamberlain impression, Roy?

"They would always have the income stream from their oil-- uncut by the American bite on it"

Another liberal myth grounded in non-reality. Prove that we are taking their oil, Roy.

Back on Planet Earth, I repeat: Nobody likes a foreign occupier, no matter what the reason. Nobody likes foreign soldiers in their streets (even when things are calm). NOBODY. So, 'duh' on the topic of 'the Iraqis want us to leave'.

No Subject
"Can the current hegemony be transformed in such a way in which no people; region, nation or person is exploited or abused for the benefits of others?"

Well, given the historical answer to that question as it applies to economics, the answer is 'no'. Imagine anarchy as the natural state of things. That is the state of existence that the world nation-states live in when there is no hegemon in place.

Sometimes Kling is just plain whacked
...he writes really good stuff, then destroys his credibility by saying some really whacked things. He makes Paul Krugman seem a paragon of rationality by comparison.

Lately, I've been wondering if he's just been playing with us. (seriously)

Some points on Roy's blab
"But if New York, say, were to exercise absolute dominion over all the others-- that would be hegemony.
So hegemony's fine-- if you are the hegemon. But if you're not, the only means you have of fighting back are to engage in asymmetrical warfare."

What if New York didn't exercise absolute control over others, but just in one area...say the shipping lanes between New England and the Florida? Is that hegemony?

And hegemony's fine even if you are NOT the hegamon. The US is the world's hegamon with respect to all sea trade. All the world's navies combined don't even match the US Navy, for example. It is the US Navy that has the power to keep the shipping lanes open and maintain the free trade system. It is the US taxpayer that pays for that maintenance. Japan -- which is wholly dependent upon importing raw materials and exporting its products over the sea -- has long enjoyed the benefits of this, for example. In fact, it got a way better deal than its own navy could give it in the century prior. The golden passports in our system are called 'dollars', too.

Yes, even compared to an example like Japan, the US still benefits more than any other specific individual nation from the arrangement. But as to the aggregate total of all the non-hegemons together? They benefit more than the US does, technically. Even would-be challengers like China need to seriously weigh the very big cons of bucking the system if it means even a slight impairment of those benefits.

So, therefore I would submit to you that hegemonic systems do not automatically mean parasitical ones. Rather, they are more symbiotic than you think and even if parasiticsm exists, the blood suckers might not be who you think they are just on your first look of the situation.

Thankfully history doesn't limmit humanites potential.

You see anarchy and see some sort of hegemon as a preferable alternative to anarchy, that's perfectly reasonable... what if the hegemon included everyone. If we insisted that our government stop looking out only for our best interests and instead struggled to do what was best for all mankind.

Then again maybe I just watched too much Star Trek growing up.

too much Star Trek
In other words, we'd have to create a true world federal government. The author brushes this topic in reference to how useless the UN is (and it is purposely that way).

And someday that just might happen, when the US gives up its hegemony. But it is far more likely that another hegemon will just take its place.

Strengthening the philosophic basis to rob EVEN more from Peter
We have gone through this ad homeninem attack from you many times over. Get back to me if you have any phisophical argument to make for robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Say Roy, since you are not satisfied with the (direct and indirect) amount robbed from Peter to pay Paul, why don't YOU go and settle in one of those Old Europe countries where more robbed from the Peters to pay Pauls?

New York does influence the USA economy
Wall Street, WTC, and nearly all world money transactions occur through NYC.

That only means NYC is enjoying its geographic good fortune to be a wonderful port, just as SF,CA.

A port is not worth much if there is nothing to trade.

The freedom within the USA borders to transport goods without tariffs is a great hegemony.

I have a history book that suggests that Europe did not begin to prosper until roads were hacked out of the forests to facilitate trade.

Force is required to protect trade routes. For economies to prosper, they need to find the most cost effective way to accomplish this.
Mutual agreement is best. We all agree not to steal each other's stuff.
But, the more security measures are required, the more expensive the goods become.

Those who want isolationism instead of free trade and comparative advantage know that raising the costs of imported goods will spur domestic sources. But it will not create more wealth.

What is wrong with a world federal government?
Especially if they all followed the US Constitution?

On control
It would be fine if New York were to control the shipping lanes along the East Coast-- so long as others were able to get a chance to work there. It would even be okay-- in fact, legitimate-- for NY to charge a fee for their protection. After all, someone has to pay for the coast guard.

It's not okay if NY uses their power to enforce a monopoly, and to keep others out of the market by force.

To relate this back to the US, it has always been the case that the US defends the ability of some small elite to take over a country under our umbrella, and to allow that elite to monopolize export-oriented business there. Currently this goes under the name of globalization.

But the system creates millions of losers, against mere thousands of winners. Rich landowners have historically ended up with all the land, pushing people off their subsistence plots to raise cattle or grow export-oriented coffee, bananas, etc.

When the people object (as they must or die) they are murdered in the thousands by local militaries the US has trained and armed. That kind of hegemony I have to apply a value-laden term to, and consider it "bad".

But that was back in the 70s and 80s. Then in the 90s, after NAFTA, a few of those people got to work in the maquiladoras... doing the jobs Americans used to do, only without the pay and protections we used to have. The rest of them, jobless, came to the US in search of work.

We are now trying to find and detain them, to send them back to no future. Better than outright massacre perhaps, but still not great. They'd have been happier to have been left in place, to grow corn and live quiet lives.

So if we were to rank hegemonic systems it would be in terms of how well they benefitted the people living under them. If all are working, healthy and well fed, the system is fine. Singapore is just such a system. It's a tightly controlled police state, but one with happy people.

Honduras, on the other hand, is a hell hole. Totally dominated by the Americans, it offers nothing to any of its citizens. The only job opportunities available, other than the manufacture of T-shirts at subminimum wage, are to become MS-13, and live by theft, murder and extortion.

So I would agree with you. It's all in how much the system benefits the people living under it. For those of us who value people.

Read something
If you weren't so busy getting all your information from The American Thinker, you'd find that opinion polls are routinely being taken of the Iraqi public. And that around 70% of them think they won't be able to begin working on a solution until after the Americans leave. The only people who are firmly in our corner are the Kurds.

We are not there to help them get on their feet. We are there to make money off them. So we flood the area with guns instead of jobs, and assume desperate people can just work it out for themselves while we stand guard over them.

But it may be too much to expect that you will search out this body of information. It's not in American-think.

Good and bad occupations
I had not realized how ignorant you are when we get off your subject of choice. No, there's no way I'll be able to draw you a picture of how all this works. You're totally resistant.

I would make one slight correction to your impression of what I wrote. The intent was to control Iraqi oil... only that part of the plan has never come to fruition. Sabotage has kept the wells and pipelines largely off-line since the occupation. And even in a government dominated by the sorts we find in charge, they've never been able to pass the kind of oil legislation we want for them. So it's a stalemate.

I believe it was Don Rumsfeld who said "Don't worry. Any money we need for reconstruction will come out of the oil proceeds."

Oh wait... there's one more thing. When we occupied Germany, after 1945, it had been destroyed after years of war. And we began rebuilding it immediately.

In Iraq, things were working fairly well... until we flattened the place, destroyed the government and all industry, created conditions of near-total unemployment and fired the army, allowing them to leave with their guns to make a living in a lawless land. And since then we've been unable to get anything started again.

Tell me-- which occupation has been the more popular?

Badly flawed on history
Marco Polo's Golden Passport was issued by the Mongol Empire under Kublai Khan. That empire was created only as the result of millions of dead in a series of wars lasting over a century. They were so destructive, that the Mongol period may be the only time in human recorded history in which global human population actually declined on a year-over-year basis. It was anything but stable, as the Mongols fell out among themselves every five to 10 years over succession, resulting in a three to five year war across much of central Asia while the contenders sorted themselves out, and trade through the region came to a complete standstill.

More millions would die in the 15th and 16th C as various heirs and pretenders such as Timur would try to recreate it. Through all of these wars, trade ground to a halt. The precise fatalities of these wars from Genghis to Timur will never be known, but the populations of China, India, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and the 'Stans, were all heavily reduced, both urban and rural, not to mention the vast slaughters in Poland, Hungary and Germany in 1241. Only one nation managed to resist the Mongols in their heyday, Japan, and that was only with huge losses on both sides, with total military fatalities from the two invasions running to about half a million. Iran alone lost something approaching a quarter of its arable land permanently, as a result of Timur the Great. The Mongols are arguably the greatest disaster to civilization in recorded history in terms of loss of life and cultural destruction.

No the Golden Passport did not ease trade with the far East, it was far too transitory. In the wake of the Mongols after the death of Kublai, the Mongol empire largely fell apart, and real banditry on a large scale did result as a consequence of the power vacuum that the Mongol conquests had created. That's why there was no followup from the Polos. Venetian trade remained confined to the Mediterranean, and would soon shrink as a result of the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

Moreover, Kling fails to understand. The obstacle to overland trade with China was not bandits. The Tang and early Sung Dynasties in China and the Islamic monarchies in Persia kept a tight clamp on bandits and local warlords. The economic problem was massive tariffs by all the various jurisdictions. The Mongol cure for trade barriers was far worse than the disease.

So is Arnold seriously suggesting that the death of millions is an acceptable way to reduce tariffs?

Living in a fog
I'm glad you asked that question, Sully. It indicates you haven't been following events, and have no sources of information.

Iraqis get polled all the time. We have continuous reports on what they're thinking, what questions they were asked and what their reponses were. The plethora of polls act as a gauge on each others' accuracy.

Here's the latest, from USA Today:

Here's one from this past year:

Here's one from 2006:

And here's one from 2004, from USA Today, CNN and Gallup:

If you would like to look over a great many more polls, find the search engine on your computer and enter "polls iraq". There you will find all you can read.

Pay special attention to the question "when do they want us to leave".

Some rubbish here
"And hegemony's fine even if you are NOT the hegamon."

See my note on the Mongols below and then tell me if this stands as a universal principle.

Fine, the US is a hegemon now, and even arguably a beneficent one now.

Is anyone here prepared to argue that the US will be as highminded in the future as it is today? Is anyone here prepared to argue that the US will continue in the future as strong as it is today?

I thought not.

"So, therefore I would submit to you that hegemonic systems do not automatically mean parasitical ones."

Perhaps, but they are the exception to the rule, not the norm, and based on at most two examples highly limited in time, namely the current US, and the past British Empire. These are not representative samples, I would argue, of the course of human history. They are exceptions, wonderful ones, but still aberrations.

I apologize for the tone of my reply. You offered a fair question and I should have answered more civilly. I'm pretty familiar with the content of these polls, and assumed that everyone else would be too.

My suggestion would be that any time you have a question, you'll find that Google has a lot of good answers. Read everything, and don't rely on what any one person says. A good poll will tell you what thousands of people are saying.

stop with the ad hominem and PROVE your positions
" The intent was to control Iraqi oil... only that part of the plan has never come to fruition."

PROVE that too, while you're at it.

And, we did NOT begin rebuilding Germany 'immediately'. There was great debate over that for a number of years before we decided to do so. In the end, the Soviets forced us to.

And what you describe of present day Iraq was EXACTLY how Germany was. Just like you venerate FDR despite the actual historical facts of the matter, you do the same for postwar Germany.

The occupation of Germany was not popular -- unless you consider the West Germans being happier that it was us and not the Soviets. That's hardly a distinction.

World Federalism
Every once in a while you'll ask a question worth answering.

World Federalism would be a very good idea, for every nation that wanted to join. That in fact has been the idea behind all those trade agreements-- to create something like a European Union slash Free Trade Area around the world.

Only the legal structure of the trade deals we've been promoting don't sound anything like our own Constitution. And implicit in our whole approach to world government, whether it be the World Bank, the UN or any other supranational body, is that WE will be the government and WE will set the rules. The US is the hegemon, and anyone who doesn't like it is the enemy.

That's a very different kettle of fish than thirteen colonies, deciding amongst themselves how equals will order their relations with one another.

Obviously I prefer the American 1789 model over the America 2008 model.

The behavior of the conqueror
You're in one of your contentious moods. Can I "prove" we sought to control Iraq's oil? Let's look at history.

Since oil was discovered, Britain has sought control of the oil of the Middle East. And we have taken over directly from them. That is obvious to anyone reading anything. In both Iraq and Iran there's no other reading of events possible.

Then we have the testimony of everyone involved. Read the Project for a New American Century. That group was exactly the same people who came to power in the 2000 elections. And as soon as 9-11 happened, they sought to distract us from Al Qaeda and draw in Iraq. If you can't see this, you're preferring not to look.

2. "And, we did NOT begin rebuilding Germany 'immediately'. There was great debate over that for a number of years before we decided to do so. In the end, the Soviets forced us to."

Two years, to be precise. Germany fell in May, 1945. The Marshall Plan was adopted in June, 1947.

Then in June, 1948 the Soviet blockade begins. They didn't force us to adopt the Marshall Plan.

"And what you describe of present day Iraq was EXACTLY how Germany was. Just like you venerate FDR despite the actual historical facts of the matter, you do the same for postwar Germany."

Germany was destroyed during a war Germany instigated. Then they were grateful we allowed them to get back on their feet. They expected the usual treatment of the conquered, by the conqueror.

Iraq was flattened by a one sided war we imposed on them without adequate cause. And that war was over in April, 2003. Nearly five years later, we haven't allowed them to get on their feet yet. The conqueror won't leave and he won't let anything get better.

Henry the K
For that matter, let's try to count the dead that have ensued from America's adventure in world dominance.

Just since the end of WW Two, there are the dead of Latin America. We backed the rich against the poor. And although there were more of the poor, they didn't prevail. A quarter of a million Guatemalans, countless Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Panamanians, Colombians, and then there are the people of Brazil, Uruguay and the southern cone. We taught them how to kill their dissidents in our military schools, and then gave them guns.

Probably three million in Indochina, counting the dead of the bombing of Cambodia and the near-total destruction of Laos.

A million or so in Indonesia, and another quarter million in East Timor.

Lots of ugly doings in black Africa, from the Congo to Angola and beyond. But we were hardly paying attention there.

And now Iraq.

But the goal was a noble one: to reduce tariffs across the new Empire. And, of course, Free Trade Agreements.

Stopping the Mongols
"Only one nation managed to resist the Mongols in their heyday, Japan, and that was only with huge losses on both sides..."

Interesting. I had only heard of the one attempt to invade the islands. And that one was stopped the same way the Spanish Armada was: a huge typhoon destroyed the Mongol fleet.

Also there was one other nation that defeated the Mongols, the only one to do so in land battle. That would be the Vietnamese.

Anyone picking a fight with those bad boys had better think twice. They're not big but they're very motivated.

You say, regarding whether nations or persons can be developed without exploitation or abuse, "Well, given the historical answer to that question as it applies to economics, the answer is 'no'. Imagine anarchy as the natural state of things. That is the state of existence that the world nation-states live in when there is no hegemon in place."

You say this as though anarchy was a bad thing. Let's look at my neighborhood.

We all exist co-equally. No neighbor exploits another, or steals his produce for our own. We do have state and local authorities that we support for the purpose of maintaining that order.

But we control them in the sense that we elect them. If we don't like the sheriff, out he goes. What kind of order do you think we would have if we didn't have the power of self government?

A: We would have the same order the people of Iraq have. That's the defining difference.

The day they are able to vote America out of their business, and America complies, will be the date I withdraw all criticism of our approach to hegemony.

Such anarchy means you don't control me and I don't control you. We each enjoy our own hegemony.

Scratch the USA Today poll I cited. That was of Americans. Oddly, the results aren't that far different than the results for Iraqis

Instead, try this one from the UK's Opinion Business Research. They're the go-to guys British business uses for its surveys, and are considered to be very good.

Click on FINALTables.pdf and ChartsMarch07.ppt, at the bottom of the page.

Your Polls are crossed
I went to the first poll site you list,, and see that they seem to be polls of Americans not Iraqis. Where are the Iraqi polls you referenced? It also doesn't seem to have links to the actual data.

The next one you list is a year old. From the height of the violence., It is a typical MSM poll in that no raw data is provided.

The third is very old and only tangentally addresses the question of Iraqis wanting the US out.

16. If Coalition left today, would you feel more safe or less safe?

--------------------- Total.....Baghdad...Shi’ite...Sunni...Kurdish
More safe..............28...........31...............34...........32...........5
Less safe...............53............50...............44...........46..........94
No difference.........12...........16................13............9............*
Don’t know.............8.............3..................10...........13...........1

A closer look at anarchy
Your neighborhood is a good example. Let's look a bit deeper under the surface though... The neighborhood you live in rests on a firm foundation of laws and guaranteed liberties. If you and a neighbor get into a dispute there is a court to settle it in accordance with the law, a sheriff to enforce that decision and peaceful means by which you can effect change should you still believe the law to be unjust. Government may not seem obtrusive, and it might respond very well to the wishes of the local citizenry, however if you don't think you've put it in control your fooling yourself. I suspect your neiborhood is about as far away from anarchy as humans have lived in the past few thousand years.

Remove government and you create a power vacume that someone will eventually fill, the government in Iraq is too weak to fill the power vacume so other players struggle to expoit that void. None of them are strong enough to maintain power so the cycle continues in which one group or faction gains the upper hand only to lose it to another. Most believe that a representative government is the ideal player to fill this void, however the Iraqies are sort of new at this sort of thing and still trying to figure it all out and/or insure that someone friendly to thier interests eventually fills that void.

Ancient Markets
There are some pretty strange claims in the appendix, like the claim that, though the evidence is clear that places like ancient Athens had a population of 100,000 people, that it is more likely to have been just a few thousand, because people didn't have enough sense to clean up after themselves. Never mind the fact that there were running sewers and running water in ancient Athens. I've been to Athens and seen the ancient sewers. It is also well established that the cities were set up as places where people could trade. Perhaps they were founded to sell plunder, but as the cities grew, there became more and more trade. How do we know this? Well, there is substantial textual evidence. Aristophanes complains about how the war is preventing free trade among the cities. I guess the plunder from the war wasn't really enough for him. Odd, if plunder provided more goods than did trade. More, we know that people specialized. If you have specialists, you have people who expect to be able to sell their products so that they can get the products they need but don't produce. Further, there was money and accounting. The alphabet was invented for accounting purposes, showing that people in ancient Mesopotamia traded. Why else would they need to keep track of goods and money? The fact that there were robbers and pirates doesn't mean the economies were based primarily on plunder -- in fact, the fact that the Athenian navy and the Roman navy both worked to get rid of piracy suggest that they were, again, trying to make the Mediterranean Sea safe for trade. Yes, Pinker is right about very primitive people counting "1, 2, many," but the ancient Greeks, Romans, or Marco Polo were not THAT primitive. Numbers were invented a long time ago. There are, for example, Roman numerals. Some pretty advanced mathematics were invented in ancient times. Ever heard of the Pythagorean theorem? Well, Pythagoras was around about 500 B.C. The mathematical precision needed to make such things as the Parthenon and the pyramids should make it more than abundantly clear how mathematically advanced the ancients were.

Polyani was wrong about the ancient world. Precisely, he was 50 years or so behind on his archaeological information. He can be excused, but come on. We have learned a lot about the ancient world since then. Some of it should have been apparent even to him had he given even a cursory reading of the incredible number of ancient texts we have available.

Error acknowledged
Indeed the first poll I cited was in error. See my "Correction", below. The others I gave dates for, and noted their usefulness was as a baseline.

The Washington Post article is a news summary. It's not a "typical MSM poll", it's a story about the various polls conducted from 2004 through March, 2007. They give you enough info that if you wanted to, you could find every source they cite. You do have to do some leg work yourself.

For a poll that's both reasonably current (March, 2007) and comprehensive for Iraqi opinions on a variety of questions, go straight to this one, from Opinion Business Research:

There's a lot in there, so don't just read the top line.

International law
That's a good perspective. Now let's extrapolate from my neighborhood to the world.

Since 1945 it has been apparent to most nations that what we need to develop is a body of international law that is fair and just to ALL the world's peoples, and that does not just authorize the oppression of some by others.

But we've never gotten there. Why?

Is it not that the sole superpower will not permit it, and in fact is both against the very idea of international law and any treaty leading to a body of international law? Don't we reserve the sovereign right to do anything we damn well please, regardless of anyone else's wishes?

Back around 2002 I used to amuse myself by keeping a list of international treaties that either we would not dign, that we signed but ignored, or that our then-new president "unsigned". It was a very long list.

Without the US throwing sand in the wheels, we would very likely have that international body of law by now. But, unfortunately it's volitional. And it will never be accepted by players like the US, Israel, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar or the DPRK. If we don't get to run things, we're not going to play. (China, Russia, India and Brazil might conceivably go for it.)

Re the Iraqi government, what we have had since the election of al-Maliki is an impasse. They need to get beyond that stage if they are to get anything going as a unified nation. Here's an analysis I think is worth considering:

I think the Sunnis are pulling in a good direction now. Let's see whether sensible heads prevail, and the forces of secularism gain a voice at the table.

Totally dominated by the Americans,
What a load of crap.

...but in the modern era, no hegemon will be allowed who didn't provide at least the same or even more value to everyone as the British and American hegemonies did.

Except for purely regional situations, there's no going back to the the bad old Mongols.

If I am wrong, then we are in trouble.

Still waiting, Roy
" If you can't see this, you're preferring not to look."

No, all you've proven is that certain people wanted to do it. Big deal. That's like saying just because certain people want a preemptive nuclear strike on Iran and that we have nukes to do it means that it will happen -- and if it doesn't, that doesn't matter. In Roy's world it is the 'thought' that counts when arguing about what actually happens or not.

We don't have control over Iraq's oil. The Iraqis do. In fact, they've started distributing profits to the provinces/regions of Iraq!

"Germany fell in May, 1945. The Marshall Plan was adopted in June, 1947...Then in June, 1948 the Soviet blockade begins. They didn't force us to adopt the Marshall Plan."

I just love how you conveniently ignore your own sources. You forgot to mention this little part:

# March 12, 1947

The "Truman Doctrine," outlined in a presidential speech to Congress, makes it U.S. policy to protect nations threatened by communism.

Sounds like it to me it was because the Sovs forced our hand. And it was the ONLY way Truman could get it through Congress, btw. And, it was not 'adopted' in June 47. I was 'proposed' in June 47. The plan was passed in April 48 -- after the Soviet's take over the Czech government in February.

"Germany was destroyed during a war Germany instigated. Then they were grateful we allowed them to get back on their feet. They expected the usual treatment of the conquered, by the conqueror."

WHAT does that first sentence have to do with anything with regards to the topic at hand? As for the second, the Iraqis didn't know what to expect either, given how their world was defined by the brutality of Saddam and (in some cases) the Iranians during their war with them.

"Iraq was flattened by a one sided war "

Yup, I sure hope so!

"we imposed on them without adequate cause."

1) your opinion and 2) has nothing to do with proving your position that we are there to take the oil or that this is any different than most other occupations.

"Nearly five years later, we haven't allowed them to get on their feet yet."

That is a total load of crap. The Iraqis are responsible for 'not getting on on their feet' far, far more than we are.

"The conqueror won't leave and he won't let anything get better."

Something you picked up from, Roy?

Roy has a unique take on what 'responsibility' is
"We taught them how to kill their dissidents in our military schools, and then gave them guns."

And what they decided to do with that was THEIR THING, not ours. I hate to use the old NRA cliche but Roy leaves me no choice: guns don't kill people, people do.

"A million or so in Indonesia, and another quarter million in East Timor."

So, and how is that our fault again?

I think you have a warped sense of what a hegemony is, Roy. It does not mean that the Hegemon is responsible (let alone in any control of) EVERYTHING that happens under its watch. It only cares about protecting its interests and, by extension, those of the trading and security arrangements created to further that goal.

Because historically...
...'global' governments (defined as global to the known world) have tended to be quite anti-innovation and forces against change. The central governments of ancient Rome and China were like that (the Chinese being real static to the point they banned ships from sailing beyond site of the coast after expeditions to Africa and the New World were made).

I like my governments to have some competition, thank you. And since I don't see any Martian government providing that competition, a one-world government of man would mean eventual slavery for the bulk of our population.

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