America is still the best guarantor of freedom and prosperity … The U.S. still possesses unprecedented power projection capabilities, and just as important, it is armed with the goodwill of countless countries that know the U.S. offers protection from bullies.Much nonsense has been written in recent years about the prospects of American decline and the inevitable rise of China. But it was not a declining power that I saw in recent weeks as I jetted from the Middle East to the Far East through two of America's pivotal geographic commands — Central Command and Pacific Command. The very fact that the entire world is divided up into American military commands is significant. There is no French, Indian or Brazilian equivalent — not yet even a Chinese counterpart. It is simply assumed without much comment that American soldiers will be central players in the affairs of the entire world. It is also taken for granted that a vast network of American bases will stretch from Germany to Japan — more than 700 in all, depending on how you count. They constitute a virtual American empire of Wal-Mart-style PXs, fast-food restaurants, golf courses and gyms. – LA Times, Max Boot
Dominant Social Theme: America the wanted.
Free-Market Analysis: This is an astonishing and forceful statement by Max Boot, "the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing editor to Opinion," according to the brief LA Times bio at the bottom of the article. It is notable for a number of reasons, but mostly because it serves as a restatement of an elite dominant social theme, that America is "the necessary enforcer of the world's democracy."
The timing of the article is interesting in the sense that it is an emphatic statement about America's role in the world but does not seem a response to any particular anti-American argument. There is no one single existential challenge – not even North Korea or Iran (in our opinion), nor any specific argument – to America's sprawling "empire" of 1,000 military bases around the world, nor to its incessant warring and serial confrontations.
The article, therefore, exists in a kind of vacuum, dangles in the air like a piñata, ready to be wacked. It is a resounding statement, well written and purposeful, but psychologically, the positioning is a bit odd. Why did Max Boot feel the need to write editorial? Why did the LA Times feel the need to run it? It is as if Boot is responding to a dialogue in his own head, or perhaps a host of unseen "enemies" that he feels are questioning America's foreign policy – ones that are never mentioned however. Here's some more from the article:
South Korea's eagerness to continue subordinating its armed forces to American control is the ultimate vote of confidence in American leadership. What other country would the South Koreans possibly entrust with the very core of their national existence? Not China, that's for sure.
And yet South Korea is not so unusual in this regard. The Persian Gulf emirates also entrust their continued existence to America's benign power. The Kurds, whom we visited in Irbil, are eager to host an American base, because they know that all of the gains they have made since 1991 have been made possible by American protection. Even Arab Iraqi politicians, who traffic in nationalist slogans while running for office, are quietly talking about renegotiating the accord that would bring the U.S. troop presence in Iraq down to zero by the end of 2011. They know what Kosovars, Kuwaitis and countless others have learned over many decades: American power is the world's best guarantor of freedom and prosperity.
This isn't to deny the prevalence of anti-Americanism even in the Age of Obama. Nor is it to wish away the real threats to American power — from external challenges (Iran, China, Islamist terrorists) to, more worrying, internal weaknesses (rising debt levels, decreasing military spending as a percentage of the federal budget, a shrinking Navy). But if my cross-global jaunt taught me anything, it is that those countries that dismiss the prospects for continuing American leadership do so at their peril. The U.S. still possesses unprecedented power projection capabilities, and, just as important, it is armed with the goodwill of countless countries that know the U.S. offers protection from local bullies. They may resent us, but they fear their neighbors, and that's the ultimate buttress of our status as the world's sole superpower.
Leaving aside the oddly truculent tone, the article might appeal to some on a surface level – either jingoistically or logically. But examine the article's premises closely and the logic begins to break down. One has to be clear about the system that the article is defending. One needs, in fact, to go back to World War II and examine the post-war world to determine exactly what structure America is defending overseas. In fact, the allies that seek America's continued military embrace are mostly countries with sociopolitical systems similar to America's. The system, essentially, is one of regulatory democracy driven by central-banks and large financial institutions and funded through increasingly aggressive taxation.
We would argue that such regulatory democracies ultimately grow unpopular with the very citizenry they are supposed to support. The regulations, taxes and inflation become increasingly intolerable. Thus, we wonder if America's military might is not being projected to defend the system rather than the countries themselves. The LA Times article, for instance, mentions Iraq. It is not at all clear that Iraq would have arrived at its current system of regulatory democracy were it not for a nearly 10-year-old internecine war that has seen considerable American involvement.
The argument is made that despite disgruntlement with American involvement, leading Iraq politicians are not eager to see the American presence diminished. "Even Arab Iraqi politicians, who traffic in nationalist slogans while running for office, are quietly talking about renegotiating the accord that would bring the U.S. troop presence in Iraq down to zero by the end of 2011." Perhaps this is so. The question remains however: Is it because of a secret admiration for America freedoms and free-market economy or because the US military has spent perhaps US$1 trillion establishing a system that Iraqi politicians are now free to exploit.
After World War II, the world, with the exception of the USSR was virtually prostrate. Since the alternative press's retelling of secret history in the 20th century shows us that Wall Street helped fund the beginnings of the USSR, one must assume that even the Soviet Union was in part beholden to the West. The victorious Anglo-American axis in our opinion imposed a certain kind of regulatory democracy after the war, one extant even today. That's what being defended by American military might, not necessarily "freedom."