Empire Watch

Op-Ed Contributor – The Default Power – NYTimes.com:

“Another aspect of national power is a warrior culture. The United States still has one, as does Britain. But Europe — although it bests or equals the United States in terms of population, economic size, and military might — no longer has the mindset that once made it the master of the world.”

“The United States is the default power because there is nobody else with the requisite power and purpose. The default power does what others cannot or will not do. It underwrites Europe’s security against a resurgent Russia. It chastises whoever reaches for mastery over the Middle East. Only the default power has the power to harness a coalition against Iran. It guarantees the survival of Israel, but at the same time, the Palestinians and the Saudis look to the United States for leverage against Jerusalem. Is it possible to imagine China, Europe or Russia as a more persuasive mediator? No, because only the United States can insure both the Arabs and the Israelis against the consequences of misplaced credulity.”

“Gainsayers will still dramatize China’s growth rates as a harbinger of a grand power shift. But as the 21st century unfolds, the United States will be younger and more dynamic than its competitors.”

Excellent op-ed… but just because there may be no other state with the ‘requisite power and purpose’ to take up the mantle of the U.S. as a default power, does not mean that the United States does not face decline on some level. I’m not suggesting that the U.S. is in immediate decline, but clearly the path we have chosen over the past eight years has led to the manifestation of conditions that will place limits on that power, and our ability to sustain ourselves as a default power. Just look at growing Chinese and Russian influence in our own backyard… South America – the Monroe Doctrine is no longer applicable there. The Bush administration waged two wars in the Middle East at the expense of devoting any sort of significant attention to Latin America. See the latest Economist for an article on this. All I’m saying is that our options are now far more limited as far as courses of action we may pick as the default power. The undermining of the Iranian regime’s credibility and legitimacy over the election there is certainly no small success for U.S. ambitions, but it doesn’t do much to change the situation we’ve become embroiled in in the Middle East.


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