Wednesday, June 28, 2006


More Yglesias

I recently upbraided Yglesias (I hope he's recovered) for sloppily implying that the expansion of US military spending following World War Two was due to "the plausible (though perhaps mistaken) view that it needed to be very high because of superpower rivalry with the Soviet Union", and not, thus, anything to do with the military-industrial complex, military-Keynesianism or anythng like that. The reason I had the charity to think it sloppy rather than foolish was because I presumed a clever boy like him would acknowledge, if he gave it a second thought, that the reality was more complicated than Cold War orthodoxy would have it. But, to adapt Wilde, once being careless, twice is, well, worse:
it's simply a myth -- a giant one -- that "pork" projects are an important cause of "big government." Overwhelmingly, money is getting spent on big popular programs like Social Security and the Navy.

My point, of course, is that the proposition that US military spending is not, in fact, "pork" is a dubious one indeed.

While I'm quibbling with him, I'll also draw attention to Yglesias' analogy between Star Wars and US foreign policy, in which, it seems, Bush is Darth Vader, Cheney is the emperor, Iraq (or the Saddam regime) is Alderaan - Luke's home planet which is destroyed pour encourager les autres - and the hegemonic US military is the Death Star. For Yglesias the neoconservative hostility to international institutions and multilateral processes, its faith in "hard", and contempt for "soft" power contrasts with the model pursued by the US after World War II, specifically to
set up what Ikenberry calls a "constitutional" order, where interactions between countries are governed by institutions and political processes that you try to get the secondary members of the system to buy into more-or-less voluntarily.

There's a lot of truth here, but for me such an analogy might equally cast Hiroshima/Nagasaki as Alderaan, which wouldn't be quite so supportive of a clear-cut distinction between a post-1945 "constitutional order" and a Bush II pursuit of hegemony.

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