Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch takes an international relations look at the recent sniping at Jay-Z by LA-based rapper The Game (dis track here--warning: offensive and not safe for work). As hip-hop's closest thing to a hegemon since the (not so) Cold War between rap superpowers Biggie and Tupac, Jay-Z faces the same problem that's confronted the USA since the Soviet Union collapsed: as a hegemon, how do you respond to sniping from lesser powers? Being on top increases the number of attackers and, as Lynch notes, decreases the marginal utility of hitting back. If Jay-Z (or the U.S.) hits back at every hater with hate missiles his own, he exhausts resources, elevates The Game to his level, and lends publicity to his opponent. If the hegemon responds, it must do so in away that preserves alliances and its own structural power.
It's a microcosm of America's geopolitical situation.
But there might not be an apt analogy here in current U.S. politics: in fact, Lynch's analogy reminds us that sniping from lesser foreign adversaries is something President Obama has yet to face, except for the predictable, reactionary accusations of Iran's Supreme Leader amid his own country's turmoil, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for an apology soon after Obama came to power (so soon, in fact, that it mostly got ignored).