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  • Notes from the Field
  • Damon Coletta (bio) and David H. Sacko (bio)

In comparison to prodigious efforts among makers of grand strategy to investigate the meaning and policy implications of hegemony as a goal for great nations, far less attention has gone to the potential for technology transfer as a crucial instrument of power in international affairs. It is not that the idea has never occurred to foreign-policy officials. One of the first questions the United States government had to consider in the aftermath of World War II was whether to transfer technology to other countries—or perhaps to an international directorate under the United Nations—in a bid to avert unbridled competition for more and bigger nuclear weapons.

Mikael Nilsson's account of international exchanges in guided-missile technology mirrors that for manufacturing nuclear warheads. U.S. initiatives to cooperate with allies, including in Western Europe, always struggled against disagreements about how allied weapons would be controlled, especially in the event of a crisis with the Soviet Union, and against the potential for leaks to third parties. At the same time, Nilsson's vignette provides a vivid example of how a hegemon, without resorting to military force, brings order to the international system. [End Page 149]

In focusing on uses of force, hegemonic theories traditionally neglect the full scope of a leading state's foreign policy. Histories of the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century and the United States during the postwar era frequently recognize military actions, while the hegemon's political activities go underappreciated (Kennedy, 1987). In the summer of 2002, the U.S. state department provided crucial assistance in avoiding a full (potentially nuclear) war between India and Pakistan, but most observers recall the use of force in Afghanistan as the climactic moment associated with hegemonic power that year. Main theories of hegemony do not address the precise mechanics of how a hegemon governs the system. If hegemonic stability theory is correct, then how does a strong hegemon induce stability between wars and govern day-to-day?

The basic dynamics of hegemonic stability theory (Gilpin, 1981; Kindleberger, 1981; Wallerstein, 1984) are consistent with the essential ideas of political organization within states. The state is fundamentally predicated on its ability to impose hierarchy. Similarly, the hegemon attempts to impose a pseudo-state on the international system. While the hegemon regulates areas of the international system and imposes order, other agents that possess coercive force may "revolt" against the hegemon's national interests, in the process threatening the system itself.

In this last case, when an actor disputes the organization of power and domination, the system undergoes a crisis of legitimacy. Equally in the domestic analogy, the governmental system is in greatest peril during a sustained challenge to its legitimacy. During this period, individuals maintain the ability to use coercive force against each other or against government agents via assassination or rebellion, even if they rarely bring about regime change. Just as states must maintain legitimacy before their societies to survive over the long run, sustained hegemonic governance is only possible if the hegemon elicits a minimum level of international acceptance.

A hegemonic state must concern itself with more than the high politics of deterring war and the low politics of maintaining order in the world economy (Morgenthau, 1967); in particular, the hegemonic governance's vital task is to keep its partners satisfied. Robert Gilpin (1981) curiously omits the "levers and pulleys" of how a lead state convinces key subordinates to accept its preferences. It is here that Nilsson rises to the task and presents a cogent account of the give-and-take of the postwar security bargain between the United States and its key European allies, where the former cements a foundational element of hegemonic governance.

What makes governance so intriguing is that technology transfer for the hegemon is no panacea. In his study of guided missiles, Nilsson actually captures a half-cycle in what turns out to be a complex pattern of vacillation [End Page 150] between restrictions and technology releases that applies to prospective partners as well as established allies. First, technology transfer tends to lag rather than lead the coincidence of common interests. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-3404
Print ISSN
1542-0132
Pages
pp. 149-153
Launched on MUSE
2008-12-17
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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