US Decline? (No. 14) Bartholomew H. Sparrow: US Policies: Deleterious Domestic and Global Impacts

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Iran Review Exclusive Interview with Bartholomew H. Sparrow
By: Kourosh Ziabari

To get a clear insight of where the US Empire is headed to, one needs to study and explore the viewpoints of different scholars, thinkers, academicians and researchers who have looked into the political, economic, cultural and social aspects of the American life and its prospects.

Why do some people in the developing world think of the United States as a dreamland in which all of their aspirations can be realized, and why do a number of scholars inside the United States believe that Washington has established a rogue police state which does not conform to any of the standards, ambitions and objectives of the Founding Fathers who wanted to make the United States a symbol of democracy and freedom? These are the questions which need profound and intense thinking and investigation.

In order to delve into the viewpoints and ideas of some of the world’s prominent political scientists and scholars about the future of the US Empire and survival of imperialism, Iran Review has conducted a series of interviews with them and asked them questions about the political hegemony of the United States, cultural imperialism and the popularity of the American lifestyle, the US economy and the challenges it faces in the wake of the of the current economic crisis which has engulfed the West.

In the last chapter of our “US decline” series, we did an interview with Prof. Bartholomew H. Sparrow. Sparrow is a political scientist and professor of the University of Texas’s Department of Government. Professor Sparrow studies American political development and, in particular, the conjunction between the American state and the international system. Prof. Sparrow has written and co-authored several books including “The Insular Cases and the Emergence of American Empire” and “Uncertain Guardians: The News Media as a Political Institution.”

Prof. Bartholomew H. Sparrow joined Iran Review in an exclusive interview to present his viewpoints about some of the hypotheses and questions the scholars have raised regarding the future of the U.S. empire, American lifestyle and cultural dominance, the political hegemony of the United States and the capitalist economy.

Q: As you know, the unipolar, hegemonic system of global governance led by the United State constitutes the basis and structure of current international order. In this regard, some people believe that the signs of the decline of the United States and a consequent transformation in the international order have begun to emerge. A change based on the founding of a power balance against the United States has begun to emerge in the global equations of political power. What’s your analysis of this change and the challenges it poses to US hegemony?

A: I’m not sure I agree with the premise of the question. Although my work is more historical than present-policy oriented, I don’t see an emerging balance of power against the United States. Europe is still a US ally, China and Russia are by no means joined against the United States, and the US still has many friends in the Middle East.  In fact, I see a broad international consensus on the desirability and market economies and the superior legitimacy of democratic rule. This is not to say that the United States doesn’t have its enemies and hasn’t squandered its own political capital through its nearly unilateral actions in Iraq, its use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the accompanying deaths and injuries of non-combatants. But I see general acceptance of capitalism and democracy, long the hallmark traits of the United States and its political system.  The key questions to me are of the quality and characteristics of democracy and of the spheres, degrees, locations of regulations on market economies.

Q: So you believe that the principles of the US political power are still accepted and well-received across the world. So, let’s move on to the next question. Some political scientists believe that the United States is voluntarily retreating from its position as a global hegemon, as a result of a remarkable increase in the costs of the unipolar and hegemonic order and the considerable decrease in its utilities. What’s your viewpoint in this regard?

A: I think the United States is becoming savvier, realizing that it has to share its costs as a provider of a certain kind of international order and that, in the absence of any single overwhelming international threat, it can be more flexible in what and where it chooses to intervene.  This marks an obvious contrast to the Cold War and to the immediate environment after September 11, 2001, when the Communists and then Al Qaeda were seen as potential threats throughout the world.

Q: Right. The global capitalistic economy is collapsing and its consequences for the uni-polar and hegemonic order are beginning to appear gradually. What do you think about the impact of the downfall of global economic recession and its effects on the compasses of the US power?

A: The jury is still out as to what happens with the international economy, as I see it. The politics of international relations have not been able to keep up with international finance and capital markets, given the speed, complexity, and scale by which money crosses borders and by which the conditions of national economies are affected by foreign national and international market movements. And while the United States is certainly losing some of its lead relative to other states, we have to remember that it still has the largest economy by a significant degree, an innovative economy and society, and a dominant military.

Q: I think you want to imply that the United States has a robust economy, but faces its own challenges. Let’s pose the next question. It’s widely believed that based on the emergence and intensification of global resistance against capitalism and liberalism, especially resistance on the microphysical level of global power against the lifestyle of imperialist system, the political power and influence of the United States has been diminishing in the recent years. What’s your take on that?

A: I can’t give an answer to this question. I would need to know more about the existence, scale, and aggregate affects of “microphysical resistance.” I would need to know what measures are being used to show the decline of US power and influence. 

Q: According to some studies, the resistance and opposition of the United States’ domestic forces against the interventions of the US government in the other countries and the imperialistic traits of the US political system have been contributing to the weakening of the global position of the United States. Would you please share your perspective on that with us?

A: I am not familiar with these studies. It may be that these studies, as well as the premise of the last question, are entirely correct in their analyses. US policies have had deleterious effects both within the United States and internationally.  The Occupy Wall Street movement and protests against the WT involve real grievances, and as it stands the US political system is almost dysfunctional and unable to restore the legitimacy of Congress and the other institutions of government.

Q: And my final question is that, aside from these propositions which we’ve mentioned as the factors contributing to the decline of the US socioeconomic and political power and the downfall of the imperialism, can you think of other possibilities which may in one way or another further and accelerate the demise of the US Empire?

A: I can think of several possibilities, but none appears eminent.  Ironically, a Washington reoriented to consider and implement reforms that mitigate the economic imbalance within the United States and inclined to mitigate the worst effects of neoliberalism may result in a United States that would in fact enjoy renewed power and legitimacy in the world.

Key Words: US Policies, Domestic-Global Impacts, Unipolar-Hegemonic System, International Order, Capitalistic Economy, US Empire, Sparrow  

US Decline? (No 13) Paul Craig Roberts: Washington Established a Police State in US

US Decline? (No. 12) Paul Atwood: US Faces Challenges that Undermine its Continued Dominance

US Decline? (No. 11) John D. Wilkerson: China Replaces US as World’s Largest Economy

US Decline? (No. 10) Giulio M. Gallarotti: US Presidents Find Industrial-Military Complex Difficult to Tame

US Decline? (No. 9) Peter Rutland: US Trying to Reduce its Global Commitments

US Decline? (No. 8) John Owen: The United States Not completely Controlling its Allies

US Decline? (No. 7) Deepa Kumar: Anti-Imperialist Sentiments Growing across the World

US Decline? (No. 6): Paul Sheldon Foote: America, A Country Controlled by Warmongers

US Decline? (No. 5): Tahir Abbas: American Hegemony Is on the Wane

US Decline? (No. 4) Walter Hixson: Counter-hegemonic forces challenging U.S. global hegemony

US Decline? (No.3): Michael Brenner: American Public’s Appetite for Military Intervention Diminishing

US Decline? (No.2): William Wohlforth: The United States Lost Some Ground over the Past Decade

US Decline? (No.1): Francis Shor: The Us Economy & Military Fading Gradually