USA, #1: The Case for American Power

USA, #1: The Case for American Power

“With great power comes great responsibility”. It’s an oft-repeated platitude and, like many phrases that fall victim to overuse, devoid of much meaning upon first glance. If we can abandon our familiarity with this phrase, however, it’s easy to see how well it may apply to the contemporary United States.

Many fall prey to the assumption that the US’s sins (many admittedly grievous) disqualify its otherwise redeeming virtues. This line of thought is fallacious. One can’t examine the relative merits of a country without taking a view that’s just that – relative. And relative to other nations and empires the US has proved itself overwhelmingly more generous and responsible with its military, economic, and industrial might.

Alternatives to US Might: A Bleak Outlook

What arguments could we make for the preservation of American dominance? The most obvious one is that the US remains a bulwark to the expansionist regimes of the world’s next most powerful countries – Russia and China respectively.

It would be in good faith to come out and admit that the US has been, in the past, unapologetically expansionist. Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and other atolls come to mind. The fact remains though that the US’s territorial claims in the 21st century are static – that is, this country does not base its foreign policy upon annexation and suppression of ethnic groups from the platform of state-sponsorship.

It barely requires a cache of political knowledge to understand why almost anyone would rather have the US control global shipping lanes than China. The latter’s tactics of island-building and bullying every neighbor with a historical claim to the South China Sea alone bespeak what could be in store China’s neighbors should the US fall from the perch of military supremacy.

Then there’s Russia. Putin is well known for likely being the world’s richest man. Having taken the nascent Russian Federation through cunning, violence, and subversion Putin went on to grift hundreds of millions dollars via natural resource contracts and the there-for-the-taking resource claims that were newly bereft of their Soviet stewardship.

It’s also worth mentioning that both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are dictators in all but name. Xi had it written into China’s constitution that he may serve as president for life; Putin set up a backwater channel that he could exploit for the eternal presidency as well. These are well-known facts. Hardly anyone would be caught making the claim that China or Russia would do any good for anyone but themselves as dominant global superpowers.

NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, hinged historically on US military dominance. For those who don’t know, NATO was established after World War II as a counterbalance to Soviet power. Though Trump’s recent withdrawal of troops from Germany signals that these countries are past the critical juncture of US military reliance, the fact remains that it was primarily the United States that kept the Soviet threat at bay throughout the existence of the Soviet Union.

The almost unimaginable scale of the US navy serves a similar purpose in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The aforementioned South China Sea is only one small piece in the puzzle of American Naval might. The US maintains large military bases in South Korea and Japan as a result of the wars that took place in or against these countries but does this as a counterpoint to Chinese naval might, which is expanding rapidly and is set to outpace the US in marine fighters (but not aircraft carriers).

China’s unofficial military ports dot the Northern Indian ocean from Australia to Saudi Arabia and Africa. Their militant pushes in the South China Sea would have, by now, been almost wholly successful without intervention by the United States on behalf of global-shipping freedom.

The US doesn’t push back and counter Chinese/Russian interference in foreign democracies with altruism on the mind, that much is for certain. We do it out of our own geopolitical interests, like any nation-state would. That doesn’t negate the pragmatic conclusion that it’s better for the US to have its hands on the levers of power in these regions.

China especially is known for egregiously violating the human rights of its citizens. Many remember the Free Tibet Campaign in the ’90s. In Murder in the High Himalaya, the author explains how some Tibetans caught with pictures of the Dalai Lama would be cattle prodded in their genitals. In Xinjiang today, thousands of Han Chinese can be found living in the homes of Uigur Muslims for a few days every month, making sure that nothing ‘subversive’ is happening on the level of nuclear families.

There’s no better argument for US might then examining its closest alternatives. Checks and balances and fair elections are crucial staples of American democracy, obtaining since the founding. Our record of human rights abuses will always be relevant, but what is more relevant to today’s world are the human rights abuses that run rampant in the world’s other ‘most powerful’ countries, the ones that would almost certainly do their best to fill any power vacuum left by the US.

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