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In this chapter, Alexander Cooley details how Central Asian countries use the competing and overlapping infrastructure of external powers to consolidate their own domestic political standing. In the 2000s, after 9/11 and a string of “Color Revolutions,” Russia and China established themselves as alternative providers of public goods in a region hitherto seen as consisting in countries in “democratic transition” under US influence. Consequently, with alternative goods providers available, Central Asian countries themselves leveraged their relationship to the West to achieve political and economic aims and to push back against criticism about human rights abuses and authoritarian policies. Cooley’s example of how Russia deploys and supports alternative election observers to post-Soviet countries drives home the point that the rise of alternative providers and goods substitution has undermined US hegemony and eroded the policies, norms, and institutions of the US-led liberal international order. As the chapter demonstrates, these dynamics escalated very quickly in a region, originally categorized as “post-Communist,” at the outer boundary of the US-led Western sphere of influence.
This introductory chapter first reviews the major categories of goods: private, public, common-pool, and club, and discusses the concept of good specificity – essentially, the number of possible suppliers – which matters to the politics of substitution. It then turns toward a discussion of how this volume defines and understands international order: An important feature of international order is its “goods ecology” – that is, patterns in the production, supply, quality, and nature of international goods. The next major section elaborates the logic of goods substitution, which serves as the common framework for the chapters in the book, before illustrating how many of the goods in international politics are cultural or symbolic in character and having performative dimensions. The chapter concludes by laying out the plan of the volume and the contents of each of the chapters.
Advancing a new approach to the study of international order, this book highlights the stakes disguised by traditional theoretical languages of power transitions and hegemonic wars. Rather than direct challenges to US military power, the most consequential undermining of hegemony is routine, bottom-up processes of international goods substitution: a slow hollowing out of the existing order through competition to seek or offer alternative sources for economic, military, or social goods. Studying how actors gain access to alternative suppliers of these public goods, this volume shows how states consequently move away from the liberal international order. Examining unfamiliar – but crucial – cases, it takes the reader on a journey from local Faroese politics, to Russian election observers in Central Asia, to South American drug lords. Broadening the debate about the role of public goods in international politics, this book offers a new perspective of one of the key issues of our time.
In this chapter, Cooley and Nexon argue that instead of operating with a continuum from “revisionist” to “status quo” powers, we should rather focus on the broader strategic environment in which power political maneuvers take place. This is an international goods ecology, comprising types of goods and their distribution. The key advantage of studying power politics as operating within such an asset ecology is how order itself then becomes something different from polarity or hegemony. This makes it possible to distinguish between challenges to the power position of the hegemon and challenges to the architecture of the international order itself. Cooley and Nexon therefore develop an alternate typology of how international orders are challenged to show how acts of substitution are themselves potentially order transforming. They argue that US-led hegemonic order may be undermined before any overt challenge to the power position of the United States emerges. The main benefit of studying the logic of asset substitution is that it gives us a tool to assess how seemingly unimportant acts of substitution, bit by bit and regardless of a lack of revisionist intent, can shape and transform the international order.
Unimensional accounts of revisionism – those that align states along a single continuum from supporting the status quo to seeking a complete overhaul of the international system – miss important variation between a desire to alter the balance of military power and a desire to alter other elements of international order. We propose a two-dimensional property space that generates four ideal types: status-quo actors, who are satisfied with both order and the distribution of power; reformist actors, who are fine with the current distribution of power but seek to change elements of order; positionalist actors, who see no reason to alter the international order but do aim to shift the distribution of power; and revolutionary actors, who want to overturn both international order and the distribution of capabilities. This framework helps make sense of a number of important debates about hegemony and international order, such as the possibility of revisionist hegemonic powers, controversies over the concept of ‘soft balancing’, and broader dynamics of international goods substitution during power transitions.
We present a new, more transnational, networked perspective on corruption. It is premised on the importance of professional intermediaries who constitute networks facilitating cross-border illicit finance, the blurring of legal and illegal capital flows, and the globalization of the individual via multiple claims of residence and citizenship. This perspective contrasts with notions of corruption as epitomized by direct, unmediated transfers between bribe-givers and bribe-takers, disproportionately a problem of the developing world, and as bounded within national units. We argue that the professionals in major financial centers serve to lower the transaction costs of transnational corruption by senior foreign officials. Wealthy, politically powerful individuals on the margins of the law are increasingly globalized as they secure financial access, physical residence, and citizenship rights in major OECD countries. These trends are evidenced by an analysis of the main components of the relevant transnational networks: banks, shell companies, foreign real estate, and investor citizenship programs, based on extensive interviews with key informants across multiple sites.
Commentators and scholars routinely refer to the vast global network of US military bases and security installations as a contemporary American ‘empire’. They view American commanders as modern proconsuls, make comparisons to Roman military power, express concerns about the militarization of US foreign policy and draw attention to US interference in the domestic affairs of its base hosts (Kinzer 2006). But viewing the US basing network as an actual modern imperial system poses significant theoretical challenges. As Christopher Sandars suggests, since World War II the governing arrangements of US overseas military facilities have resembled more of an informal or ‘leasehold empire’, relying on the legal consent of hosts, security contracts and quid pro quo to maintain the American presence (Sandars 2000). Further, with some important exceptions, the United States in the Cold War and post-Cold War era has not exercised the degree of political control over its base hosts as a colonial power would, rendering it vulnerable to unilateral renegotiations, growing domestic political opposition, exit threats and even evictions from base hosts.
There is, however, a more fundamental and formal connection between US empire and the overseas military basing presence that is often neglected in the so-called American empire debate: many of the USA's most important overseas basing relationships are themselves imperial legacies, legally originating in the transition of an overseas base host from an imperial periphery or occupied polity to an independent, nominally sovereign state.