home > archive > 2005 > this article
The once and future superpower
By Bruce Walker
When Russia conducts massive military exercises with China, when France and Germany fail in their moral and legal duty to provide America with the same protection that it has provided them for two generations, when even reasonably loyal allies like South Korea, Poland and Italy rethink their commitment to our efforts in Iraq, when India emerges as a great unknown with unknown aims, can Pax Americana continue?
Yes, and it can continue forever. There are unique advantages which America possesses which no other nation seeking global superpower hegemony has even possessed. The first, is the most obvious for Americans to understand and the hardest for envious powers to grasp: America is a consensual nation; it is a nation content with what it has; it harbors no grand design for world rule; it seeks to grant other peoples the blessings of liberty.
Our goal in Iraq and Afghanistan is not so much to make those nations America as to give the peoples of those nations the same chance for ordered liberty and domestic peace and tolerance that America, Sweden, Costa Rico, Switzerland, Japan and Ireland have. We want a world of contented, not angry, people.
It is easy to be jealous of America and to pretend that one's own people do not, as all people do, hold the keys to their own destiny. There is no reason at all why, say, Iran, should not be as free and prosperous as America. Choice and malice keep the mullahs in power. But leaders who enemies are their own people, with the attempt to transfer popular discontent to America, works in the hothouse of police states but not in the real world. Iraqis and Iranians flock to America and not the other way around.
The second reason that America is the once and future superpower is that Americans, as natural pioneers, conquer every sort of frontier. Oceans, airspace, outer space, cyberspace -- all these ultimate frontiers are dominated by Americans. Past superpowers confronted natural borders that stayed the extension of power projection -- the Kamikaze and the English Channel kept England and Japan free from invasion; Siberia stayed German aggression; Soviets had a woeful transportation system in a polyglot of nationalities.
America has no such natural obstacles. It can find, conquer, and possess any place on the globe, if that is necessary. Afghanistan, the quagmire of Russian and British and Indian and Persian power showed that. America, alone in human history, has been able to gain and hold that land with incredible ease.
This has multiple consequences. It means that we are creating allies out of enemy governments. The Afghan and Iraqi governments will not always agree with us or even like us, but we are to them what we were to Germany and Japan after the Second World War. They will be fundamental allies in the future and fundamental enemies not only of terrorism but of that animus against humanity which powers terrorism.
What is true in Iraq and Afghanistan is now true in Ukraine. When these nations become states desiring only peaceful, friendly relations with other nations, our work is done. Very quickly, this is becoming reality. Poland is free. The Czech Republic is free. East Germany is free. The cup is not full: it is only nine-tenths full, but that it enough.
It also means that no overlord feels safe today. If American forces, with little help, can protect decisive power with minimal combat casualties against hardened and ruthless enemies defending familiar territories in some of the most inhospitable places on the planet halfway around the world, then America can project its power anywhere, anytime, against anyone. Because these enemies love only power, the threat of losing power is an incredible deterrent. Hating America is still allowed, but acting on that hatred has become very dangerous.
But what about the "us against the world" that Americans sometimes feel now? Are we not hopelessly outnumbered? Not really. Most free, educated people in democracies are either pro-American or inclined to a lukewarm disdain, nothing dangerous. Elections change policies in democracies, and the constellation of power in anti-American politics is losing its cache as we prove them wrong and people tired of bad government.
The most significant factor, perhaps, is less theoretical and less ideological than politics and popular sentiment. America is battle tested. American military forces are battle-hardened. Except for a long, failed guerilla war in Afghanistan, the Russian military has not fought a war in sixty years. Communist Chinese forces have not engaged in conflict, save a brief battle with Vietnam, in fifty years. France and Germany, by declining to fight the good fight lose the practical benefits of fighting. German and Japanese military forces have fought no wars in sixty years. France has fought very little.
Americans, like the British and Australians, are the most experienced and successful military forces in the world. We accept as normal that American forces in Desert Storm incurred losses one thousand times smaller than the tough, well-armed Iraqi Army. It was not normal. It was extraordinary.
Those who fight wars for moral purposes have morale that increases as evil loses and they win. The best military force in the history of the world is a volunteer military force acting, as it must, as policeman of a lawless world. It is savvy; it is noble; it is brave. Thank God.
Bruce Walker is a contributing editor with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2013, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.