Is it good for the world to have the U.S. as the sole superpower?
Overview/BackgroundWith the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States has become the one remaining superpower. Our GDP has surpassed 10.5 trillion dollars per year, dwarfing all other countries. Our annual military budget roughly equals all other countries in the world combined. We clearly have more power and influence than any nation in history. However, while this is probably good for us, is it good for the rest of the world? Having this much power creates a lot of responsibility. Is the world better off with us as the sole superpower or would the world be better off with multiple world powers such as was the case during the Cold War, when the U.S. and Soviet Union shared superpower status?
- Resources from countries can be diverted into feeding the world and improving civilizations rather than building up defense capabilities. The U.S. is around to protect the world from rogue regimes. Thus, countries such as France and Germany can divert money that would have been spent on the military and instead use it for social programs. With one protector like the U.S., military funds from virtually all countries can be diverted to education, farming, technology-enhancement, housing programs, etc. Secondly, since you don't have several countries of roughly equal power competing to be the strongest, you avoid the inevitable arms races that drain national treasuries.
- No society in the world is as advanced and diverse as the U.S. There is no other nation in the world that has such a mix of races, religions, nationalities, and political parties. Women & minorities are provided with more rights and opportunity in this country than any other. Our technology is the best, our population is the best fed, and our human rights record is second to none. Coming to America is the dream of immigrants all over the world. We are what every nation would like to be and should be. Because the U.S. is the sole superpower, other nations copy us in an attempt to duplicate our success. It's much better to have the U.S. as the gold standard of nations than communist human-rights disaster China or other such nation.
- Public opinion, the 1st Amendment, and checks & balances on government power are there to curb abuses. The common fear among the rest of the countries in the world is that we will abuse our power. Conventional wisdom is that absolute power will eventually corrupt anyone. However, in the case of the United States, this abuse of power hasn't taken place. Since the Soviets fell from power, we haven't colonized anyone, we've used our military only to preserve the safety of us and the world, we've donated massive amounts of aid, and we've worked through world organizations such as the U.N. as much as possible. Some would argue with these statements, but think what we could have done with our power if we really wanted to. There is no more of a humanitarian nation in this world than the U.S. The truth is, we have plenty of internal controls on our power. The 1st Amendment freedoms allow citizens to constantly criticize unpopular government actions. Our democratic structure allows us to vote politicians out of office for doing morally repugnant things. We have an elaborate system of checks and balances that prevents any branch of government from abusing its power. No other nation is as susceptible to the tides of world public opinion than the U.S., as evidenced by the Iraq War fiasco.
- The international community is very integrated commercially and otherwise; thus, if we hurt the success of others, we also hurt ourselves. Commerce has become increasingly integrated in the last few decades. We have become a true world economy. Anytime one nation suffers a setback it affects the rest of the world. When the 9/11 attacks caused a downturn in the U.S. economy, it cascaded to downturns in the economies of Asia, Europe, Africa, and the rest of the world. When the Chavez-strike incident occurred in Venezuela, oil prices around the world increased, leading to further economic problems. One of the reasons so many nations are concerned with Middle East stability is its effect on the world's economy. Clearly, it's better for everyone to have a peaceful, stable, prosperous world. Thus, it is in America's interest to promote world peace and prosperity. It is also in America's interest to improve and maintain diplomatic relations with all other countries. The U.S. cannot abuse it's power without destroying its own economy.
- Western values are arguably the best, as evidenced by our diversity and success. Think about the values that define much of Western society--free speech, free press, free religion, freedom to protest, doing good things for others, education, equal rights for all, protection of minorities, opportunity, hard work, family, tolerance, etc. Is it such a bad thing to want other nations to adopt these same values? Maybe we should adopt the Arab values where women are treated as 2nd-class citizens, only one religion is accepted, and justice is doled out arbitrarily according to Islamic law. Maybe more nations should adopt the culture of hate, anger, and revenge prevalent throughout the Arab world. Maybe we should adopt the ruthless communist values of North Korea, where people are starved into submission, or China, where pregnancies are forcibly ended by the state as a means of population control. Maybe we should adopt the welfare-state socialist policies of Canada, where it takes 6 months to get certain doctor's appointments, or France, where the economy has been at double-digit unemployment for years. The truth is, we should be proud of what America stands for. We wouldn't be as diverse, successful, and stable if we weren't on the right track. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but we shouldn't be ashamed of our values and culture, which are second to none.
- Absolute power inevitably corrupts. Throughout history, virtually every nation that has acquired an unopposed level of power has abused it. Greek, Roman, Mongolian, French, Spanish, and German empires have demonstrated this. The U.S. is already starting to demonstrate an abuse of power. They've arbitrarily taken out the Taliban and Iraqi regimes. Who knows who it will decide is a threat next. The U.S. has pulled out of the Kyoto treaty, refused admission to the International Criminal Court, and invaded Iraq without definitive U.N. approval. Even if you trust the Bush administration, who knows what future administrations will do. It is never healthy for the world when one nation can do whatever it wants.
- Jealousy and envy lead to anti-Americanism & hate no matter what we do. Anti-Americanism around the world is at an all-time high. Most of the hate felt towards the U.S. however, is probably unjustified. Being #1 means you are the first to be criticized and attacked no matter what you do. We are what most nations want to be. Jealousy and envy feed the hate more than policies towards Israel or any other lame reasons others use to explain their anti-Americanism. President Clinton ran a rather benign, non-confrontational foreign policy and managed to make seemingly great strides in improving Israeli-Arab relations. He also signed the Kyoto treaty, passed NAFTA, and did virtually whatever the rest of the world wanted. Yet, terrorism grew throughout his presidency and climaxed in the 9/11 attacks shortly after he left office. Even though we fought one of the most despicable dictators in history, many nations and citizens have chosen to take the side of Saddam. Even though there is no one who needed to lose power more than Saddam, all people see is a bully beating up on a weaker nation. Thus, no matter how moral our cause, we will always be seen as an "evil aggressor".
- The rest of the world disagreeing with an action isn't necessarily enough to stop the U.S. As was the case with Iraq, even if most or all of the rest of the world disagrees with the U.S., it isn't necessarily enough to stop us. Chances are that if everyone else disagrees with us, it's highly likely we're making the wrong decision.
- World organizations such as the U.N. and International Criminal Court, which should be used to ensure world peace and prosperity, are instead turning into vehicles to thwart America. By working together, nations can virtually eliminate poverty, wars, terrorism, environmental deterioration, and other problems plaguing the world. Almost all nations recognize this, which is why such international organizations as the World Bank, U.N., and International Criminal Court have been created. The purposes of such humanitarian organizations is very noble. Unfortunately, these organizations have turned into tools to thwart America rather than those to accomplish the mission they were set up to do. For example, the main purpose of the U.N. is to ensure world peace by controlling rogue regimes. In the case of Iraq, 17 U.N. resolutions were passed against it, supported by 12 years of U.N. inspections. All were ignored by a brutal murderer who has one of the worst human rights record in history. There has never been a better case for the U.N. to take action than Iraq, yet France, Germany, Russia, and other countries were so blinded by their fear of what they perceived as rising American power, that they thwarted everything the U.S. tried to do. Thus, the prospect of one superpower gaining prestige caused the U.N. to fail miserably in its mission. Other world organizations aren't much different. Ironically, the country that can provide the most credibility to these world organizations is quickly losing all faith in them. After the Iraq fiasco, are any U.S. presidents going to trust the U.N?
Written by: Joe Messerli
Page Last Updated: 10/15/2006