The Case of Goliath

Reading The Case for Goliath after two previous books, I find the book is much more similar to the Huntley’s Pax Democratica. Both writers hold that the end of the Cold War marked an important change in the international order and relation. Huntley optimistically views the end of the Cold War as the end of the bloody history of humankind and celebrates it as the end of the dark night and the dawn of the hopeful future (Huntley, 1998: 13). Similarly, Mandelbaum begins his work with associating the end of the Cold War as the end of political, military, economic, and ideological conflict. Neglecting the fact that the number of bloody conflict remains as high as during the Cold War,[1] they believe that the world has been going better afterward.

Mandelbaum is a liberal who build his theory on the idealism. In the previous book, The Ideas that Conquer the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Market in the Twentieth Century (2002), Mandelbaum argues for the triumphant of this triad in the 21st century. Goliath, compared to The Ideas, is basically based on the same argument from the different angle: the Actor who plays the ideas. Therefore, I would argue without any doubt that Mandelbaum travels in the same boat with Huntley. Huntley, after all, devotes Pax Democratica (the Peace of Democracy) to argue that democracy is the only strategy for the 21st century when the world will be peaceful because democracies do not fight each other. Instead of war, the states would focus on strengthening their internal economy where free trade or free market as the other strategy accompanying democracy — even though he does not much talk about free market, he does devote few pages to defend this system.

In contrast to amoral world of Mearsheimer, both Huntley and Mandelbaum also live in the same “black and white” world where there are “good and bad” guys. Though there are bed guys challenging world order, Huntley optimistically boasts, “It is for the first time in the history, ‘might’ and ‘right’ are so wholly on the same side”, (Huntley, 1998: 12) and quotes Edmund Burke words, “When bad men combine, the good must associate…” (Huntley, 1998: 184). In the more or less similar tone, Mandelbaum makes the case for the good giant, “If America is a Goliath, it is the benign one.”

Even though they build their work on the same basis of idealism, still they present it in rather different way. Huntley’s work is more prescriptive than Mandelbaum’s is. Huntley employs so many words of should and must throughout his book, while Mandelbaum writes in a more argumentative way: presents a thesis and brings forth the argument and proof. To some extent, with this different style of writing, Mandelbaum’s book sound more convincing.

Another different is the way they describe the relation among the states in the post the Cold War’s international affairs. They do believe in the peace, democracy, and free market as dominant features of the new order, but they imagine different form of relation. Huntley, published the book in 1998, deliberately does not talk a single dominant state in the new order. He instead argues for a democratic world where the states deal each other equally in a club of likeminded states. He emphasizes, therefore, more on the international institutions (NATO, Europe, OECD, and so on) as key players in the new order. His world is administrated by “intergovernmental” institutions where the United States is a mere member of those institutions. In what he proposes as the International Community of Democracies (ICD), national interests will be replaced by common interests.

Mandelbaum, by contrast, thinks in different way. For him, the club will not work without someone or a kind of body running the club. It just makes sense that the club has “a government”. Hence, there must be a government in the world order; and the most appropriate one is the United States, the benign Goliath. Why? Because, in his account, it has sufficient power, as no other country does, for this role (Mandelbaum, 2005: 10). According to Mandelbaum, the word “government” is also apt to describing this role instead of “empire” — the more frequently used by America’s critics.

It is surely not an easy-used term though, and it may sound less apt than “empire”. The word “government” has been identified with what the world lacks: a state. A state has three defining features: (i) it has delineated territory; (ii) it has specialized apparatus; and (iii) it is sovereign. Government is the instrument of the state acting on behalf of it. When the world has not state, the world must has no government. But, Mandelbaum invites us to see government not from this way, rather from the services it provides for the society. If we assume that individual sovereign states as independent individual members of a society, then we can, by analogy, see the world as a society of states. In this society, what America does is what a government does for society.

This framework is better describing the United States relation with the rest of the world than “empire”. Empire is unequal relation imposed by a polity over other supposedly sovereign state. It is a relation of exploitation that the ruling polity benefits alone or much more than the ruled. Empire is a form of dictatorship by a foreigner. The United States, after all, does not rule directly or indirectly the politics and economics of other societies, as empires have always done (Mandelbaum, 2005: 5). In addition, unlike empires pursuing domination, the United States has this role in a happenstance when it defends itself against the Soviet Union and international communism. While empires were glorified, Americans generally find its position as a burden. Mandelbaum observes, “No American holiday or monument, or even a commemorative postage stamp, is devoted to celebrating the the position of international primacy that the United States occupies” (Mandelbaum, 2005:xxi).

At this point of describing the United States role, I think Mandelbaum becomes closer to Mearsheimer. Basically they both assume the distinctive power that the United States has and others not. However, they both do not want to put the United States in the position where empires occupied, the position that now becomes identical with the evil of “imperialism” (Mearsheimer, I am sure, would deny my such “bad and good” approach). To put it in another way, they both justify the United States’s role in actually similar way: eliminating negative side of its superiority.

Mearsheimer argument just implies that the United States is not bad [this is the main message, and then] neither good, because to justify its superiority, all the great powers will do as the US do. So, don’t blame what the United States do. If there is any hegemony, he would argue, the United States’s role is merely a geographically limited hegemon, the regional hegemon of western Hemisphere.

Mandelbaum also acknowledges the dominant role of the United States and its comparable military and economic power. His message is delivered to those who coined the US as “empire” for this position. Therefore, while acknowledging many similarities between roles empires had in the past and what the US does today, he, like Mearsheimer, proposes another term, the “neutral” one (see p. 6) to cover negative side of the US’s role in the world.

Thus, they both try to portray the role the United States plays in the world in a “neutral” way. Mandelbaum did it in through language by using neutral word of “government”, while Mearsheimer used “approach” to neutralize the state behaviors. I would admiringly say they both have well ably defend their country in a seemingly contrast ideas.

Drawing on these findings, I think it is appropriate to propose a provoking thesis: intellectuals of even different and contrast schools in a nation unconsciously would defend the common interest of the nation. Whether they are idealist or realists, defensive or offensive, they talk about a shared common interest.

[1] Detailed account for this data, see Nilles Petter Gleditsch, Peter Wallensteen, Mikael Eriksson, Margareta Sollenberg, Havard Stand, Journal of Peace Research, 39.5 (Sep., 2002), p. 615-637, where they show the increasing number of conflict immediately after the Cold War (1992 – 1994), and in 1994 – 2001 the number backs to the level similar to the one pf the Cold War.

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