chapter  1
16 Pages

Hyper-power or hype-power? The USA after Kandahar, Karbala, and Katrina


This brief critique explores the hollowness of today’s pre-eminent sovereign power, or even hyper-power-the United States of America. With its various associated coalitions of the willing from other nation-states, the USA allegedly still stands tall during an era in which sovereignty is less certain, territoriality is contested, power is unclear, and preeminence is resisted by misunderstood and ill-named jihadists of multiple stripes. The misadventures of Kandahar, Karbala, and Katrina, however, are exposing some all too common mistakes: the vehicles of international affairs are driven across the landscape of world events at high rates of speed, their drivers glancing occasionally out of the windshield as they stare into the rearview mirror at images and ideas long since past, believing somehow that they will guide them through what lies ahead. Not knowing where they are, not certain where they are going, they believe that they remember where they, or at least their precursors, have been. Memories and myths of the Cold War, World War II or Victorian imperialism pop up in the rearview mirrors or on the passing terrain, but the troubled travel across it should never be guided by the cloudy refl ections in the mirror or on the windows. Disaster ensues.