Ohio State University & Cato Institute (US)
The only country to become a ‘hegemon’ in recent centuries is said to be the United States, which is held to have ‘dominated’ its hemisphere for a century or two. China, it is feared, may be able to achieve that status in its neighborhood if it continues to grow economically and to expand its military sufficiently. In this highly readable and well-researched book, Sean Mirski assesses the American experience with ‘hegemony’ between 1865 and 1945. It can be taken to suggest that China might best avoid the condition. The book catalogues dozens of misadventures designed to keep the unruly Latins under control – a mission to Haiti in 1915, for example, led to a costly and chaotic occupation that lasted twenty years. Mirski argues, however, that the interventions did manage to succeed at one hegemonic task: keeping other great or potentially great powers out of the hemisphere. To do so, the US became obsessed with Latin disorderliness because that condition might allow for the reentry of one European rival or another. But he also finds that ‘time and again’ the ‘interventions would miscarry, leading to greater instability’. It seems plausible that, despite the chaos exacerbated by the ‘dominating’ US, the rivals never got around to reinserting themselves not because of American ‘hegemony’ but because they were fully consumed with tasks like colonizing Africa and Asia and misdealing with each other in a manner that led to two massive wars.
For a longer version of this review, see: John Mueller (2023) The Perils of the Hegemon, Cato at Liberty, 10 November. Available at: www.cato.org/blog/perils-hegemon.