Against Spheres of Influence

twitter threads, cold war

monroe doctrine

It is not uncommon to see anti-imperialism framed in such a way that it naturalizes something akin to spheres of influence.” These spheres might be geographic, or they might be defined in terms of language and ethnicity, but the basic idea is the same.

(Link to Twitter thread.)

The argument goes that it is natural for China or Russia to have a vested interest in Ukraine or Taiwan (etc.) and that the US and NATO really have no business messing around in their backyards. The linguistic/ethnic argument just serves to highlight this.

But let’s think about it for a second. None of these anti-imperialists would feel that it is justified for America to be messing around with Cuba just because it is in America’s backyard. So the argument can’t be that there are some kind of natural spheres of influence.

The argument turns out to be purely negative. It only serves to highlight how out of place American interests are in those regions. But here’s the thing. Russian and Chinese interests are just as out of place! Just as America has no business telling Cubans what to do,

Russia and China have no business telling Ukrainians or Taiwanese what to do, even if they can speak the same language. By all means, let’s oppose imperialism, but let’s not pretend like geographic or linguistic proximity makes it any less of a problem.

If we want to move beyond cold war” thinking, we also need to move beyond the concept of spheres of influence. Regional hegemons are no answer to global hegemons, especially as those most threatened by regional hegemons will always turn to those farther away for protection.

If anything, we need to think of resistance in more global terms, and find ways to forge alliances that cut across these regional divisions, just as Taiwan is doing with Lithuania. Let’s take no cold war” seriously, and not just as an excuse to reinvigorate cold war thinking.