A huge issue with the Left as well, and this could be due to decades of efforts, is a lot of the US Left (at least online and enough thought leaders) seems very interested in purity tests and self purging, and rather resistant to dealing people who aren't 100% ideologically pure.

As much as the Left needs institutions, structures and the ability to pull levers, it also needs to avoid absolute ideological purity which seems to plague leftist spaces, and not fracture at any given moment, factionally.

Now, we might be seeing this with the resurgence of unions in the US to some small degree that they can't purity test every potential ally, but there is a definite issue with factionalism and 'circle firing squad' problems with the US left, especially with the Professional-Managerial Class left, and if you can't address that issue it's hard to see any long term hope to organize to build institutions and control levers, if energy is being wasted on 'Thou Art Not Pure Enough'.

But maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing.

Expand full comment

I agree in total with your analysis.

One argument I often see in response to sentiments like yours (disarmament, winding down American hegemony, letting other countries build resilience and alliances without intervention etc. ) that I have a difficult time thinking about is 'but what about when X country (or organization) starts building up power and starts a process of expansion' where X is Russia, China or whatever bogeyman of choice.

So, for instance, if a few months ago, the US started to decrease intervention, one decision might have been to not send arms to Ukraine (setting aside the fact that an expansionary NATO policy was a major contributor to the whole mess), which would make the outcome worse for the Ukrainian people (ie more citizens would've died). It's sort of a 'we have all of this power to do good (help the people of Ukraine) so we should help out' or even a 'it's better us be the global hegemony than them' style argument. The same could be said for when the US might not intercede when China re-possess Taiwan.

Is the argument against this from your perspective that these casualties/bad things are transient and over time as the US rolls back it's empire more drastically, these regions will be better off with out intervention, despite periods of instability in these regions?

Expand full comment

Thank you for sharing; I hope the essay provokes real discussion and functions as a landmark (not holding my breath though for any real traction among the Blob). I realize that yours is more of a manifesto-type piece that presents a general platform, so I hope you don’t mind if I have a few questions that dig more into the weeds:

(1) Could you think out loud more along the lines of how your discussion of post-war geopolitics is imbricated with world economy / monetary imperialism? For example: What is the role of the Bretton Woods system in the first part of the American Century? How does the imposition of the U.S. dollar on postcolonial areas previously under the British pound play into the vision of the American Century (I’m thinking in particular of the new third edition of Michael Hudson’s Super Imperialism)? How do the long-term effects of the US abandonment of the Bretton Woods system after Nixon and the switch from gold to the dollar standard play out in the realm of international relations over the final half of the American Century? is there any organic link between the decline of American prestige (lower-case p, of course!) abroad and the increasing domestic shift to the rentier economies of the FIRE sector, based more and more on short-term market gains and stock buy-backs rather than investing in productive capacity (or, conversely, does this growing wealth inequality and the return to rentier vampirism in the domestic sphere not really factor into international relations)? How would you assess the current attempts of Russia, China, and Iran to form a trading standard not tied to the dollar?

(2) Could you similarly think out loud about how energy (everything from oil to mineral extraction for batteries) plays into both the American and the post-American centuries? What would a restrainer vision say about the international race for resource extraction?

(3) Drawing from the oral interview: what are the constraints of working within a nation-state framework? Given the infrastructural weakness (or even non-existence) of the left (certainly an international left), how much action against climate change is possible within a framework of nation-states based either in oligopolist capitalism or state capitalism, both of which displace and defer (rather than resolve) crisis?

(4) What is the role of domestic US politics in your vision of the new post-American century? Do you see any inroads for restraint in the domestic political landscape?

(5) Finally, how do you see mass displacement and forced migration affecting both international relations and US domestic politics? Will we see a shift in the (international and domestic) rentier economies of border policing and the humanitarian-carceral nexus? What would happen if undocumented labor were federally protected (for example under a beefed-up version of the PRO-Act) and fully incorporated into unionization efforts?

Apologies for the scattershot questions but I hope that some of them give you a chance to riff further on some of the policy potentials of restraint not touched upon in the article. Keep fighting the good fight!

Expand full comment

The points made were valid and, damn it , this week I just don't have it in me to cyberbully Danny.

Expand full comment
Jul 1, 2022·edited Jul 1, 2022

Question for Danny:

Imagine that you could orchestrate a hostile take-over of the institutions of the liberal international order. Over night you could pack places like the IMF and World Bank with folks that share your foreign policy worldview. What reforms would you implement? Note, in this thought experiment you cannot completely dismantle any of these organizations, but only use them as a means to achieve your own desired ends. Props to the great Robert Wright for inspiring this question.

Expand full comment

I agreed with your Harpers essay until the very end. Perhaps from my vantage point it seems that the only voices with any power or influence are the liberal interventionists. Those who advocate restraint are, at best mocked and called cowards or stooges, and at worst completely ignored.

How often do these "restraint" people you speak of appear on mainstream media? Are they anywhere near the state or defense departments? One has to watch Democracy Now or listen to obscure platforms like Chapo, Majority Report or the Intecept to hear anyone question US hegemony. These outlets have a tiny audience of educated nerds with no power.

So everything in the piece was accurate until the end. The US is less dominant. China is rising. But US foreign policy is locked into the belief that America must and will dominate and this view has no viable rival. Both political parties support this policy.

Hell's Bells... The entire democratic caucus voted to fund Ukraine. Nobody even blinked. $53 billion and counting.

Expand full comment
Jul 3, 2022·edited Jul 3, 2022

First, this article, as the cover feature of *Harper's* (particularly the page turning effect)...well let's just say, "It's not nothing". Dr Bessner your analysis is most excellent. Your carefully crafted writing means every sentence packs a punch. Everything is there, quite plain as day.

However, having this appear in *Harper's* makes for quite the warning shot across the bow of the IR crowd. Normally I think there would be a passive oxygen deprivation defense, but I do not think they can let this one go because it is the cover feature of such a high profile publication - just as your Soros Article was picked up and responded to.

I sprang for the digital issue on Barnes and Noble, plan to purchase subsequent issues to see responses, have put you on google alert, and plan to watch for responses because this article may finally bring us into the "Game On" phase that is so desperately needed.

I have long awaited the return of the historians to the battlefield where they can unpack the nuances of foreign policy instead of these silly one size fits all McPolicies that consistently prevail and fail. Thank you.

Expand full comment