Posted by: Gregoryno6 | July 31, 2014

Consider the alternative to a strong US.

(Brazenly nicked from The Australian, where the article is paywalled)

By Greg Sheridan.

FOR 50 years, since quite early in the Vietnam War, the Left side of politics all over the world has been united in the desire for a weaker America. There were pockets of similar sentiment on the Right, ­elements of which had nativist ­objections to America’s power, cultural objections to its ­immigrant openness or a general jealousy of its shining success.

But it was on the Left that a whole theory of international ­relations grew up which put US power at the heart of all global evils. Why was there Third World poverty? Because of American economic neo-imperialism. Why did people die in war? American militarism. Why was the planet’s environment being ravaged? American capitalism.

This theoretical paradigm was and remains adaptable for all circumstances. Thus, some Australian commentators, albeit of surpassing fatuousness, blame China’s recent aggressiveness on an alleged US failure to provide “space” for China’s naturally ­expanded strategic presence.

This is too appealing a framework for its adherents to abandon. It was always barking mad. Third World countries which traded most with the US were much wealthier than those which shunned the US. The US was likewise a leader in setting environmental standards and today China’s carbon emissions vastly exceed those of the US.

But now, if you want to know what a world free of US power might look like, you need only examine the chaos abroad today.

The US is not in absolute decline. In many areas of defence technology, it has never been further ahead. But undoubtedly it is less powerful relatively than has been the case in recent decades, less able to impose, subsidise, wheedle or even sanction its way to the outcomes it wants.

Look at today’s four big crises. In the Middle East there is the combination of the Sunni/Shia ­hatred in Iraq and Syria, the civil war in other Arab nations between authoritarian regimes and Sunni insurgencies, the internal Sunni Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among others. ­Crisis two is the Russian territorial conquest in Ukraine and other former Soviet Bloc states on or near the Russian border.

Crisis three is the doubt that China’s aggression in the East and South China seas has brought over how it will behave internationally as it grows stronger.

And crisis four is the extraordinary resurgence of terrorist recruitment, capability and threat over much of North Africa and the Middle East.

None of these crises is remotely caused by an excess of American power. Each would benefit from greater American power, or at least more effective American ­involvement.

For here is the underlying, hard and unfashionable truth of the way the world works. In so far as there is order in global affairs, it is underpinned by US power.

The UN is certainly an essential part of the international system, despite its profound failings. At times Australia can use the UN system to its advantage as we did with the Security Council resolution on the downed MH17. Being on the Security Council for two years, with a very effective ambassador in Gary Quinlan, who has served governments of both persuasions well, has been of more use to Australia than I thought it would be.

But the UN remains really the lesser part of the international system. By far the larger part is American power. This is for many people an unpalatable truth.

If the US is sidelined in the Middle East, as it is now, the Middle East is in chaos. If Vladimir Putin believes the US will lead an effort of crippling sanctions against Russia, he may refrain from trying to conquer his neighbours’ territories. If the US marshals a sufficient international effort, it may persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons.

All over Asia, Chinese diplomats tell their interlocutors that US power is unreliable, that its economic power is on the wane and its military alliances can no longer be counted on.

The syndrome is essentially the same all over the world. Those actors who want to revolutionise a regional status quo, by means which violate international norms, see US power as the main obstacle to their ambitions.

There is absolutely no candidate to substitute for the US as a source of global order. None.

So intelligent national leaderships from Paris to Tokyo to Southeast Asia to Canberra are doing what they can to reinforce the US position.

Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Australia’s Tony Abbott are good examples. Abe has redefined the Japanese constitution so that Japan can come to the US’s aid if its forces are attacked, as well as receiving US military help. He has also increased the Japanese defence budget. Both these actions give the Americans some comfort. They make the US position stronger and they commit Japan to sharing slightly more of the Asian security burden with the US.

Abbott has increased US military engagement in Australia and also increased our defence budget. This helps Washington diversify and decentralise its regional forces, making them less vulnerable. It is also a sign of Australia being willing to share a little more of the security burden.

Other nations are taking comparable actions. Singapore has welcomed the deployment of US littoral ships in its waters. The Philippines has concluded an agreement with Washington for a greater US military presence.

Yesterday, in a feature article in The Australian, I reported on senior American officials outlining Washington’s Asia strategy. This strategy includes the greatest possible constructive engagement and dialogue with China, refurbishing US military alliances, greater US diplomatic people-to-people involvement in Asia, and a trade liberalisation pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is designed not only to liberalise and stimulate trade, but to provide the rules of road for how trade should be conducted in coming decades.

Australia has an enormous stake in the success of US policy in Asia. To acknowledge that American power underwrites global order is not to issue Washington a blank cheque. It is bound by the same moral considerations as anyone else. Nor are individual Americans necessarily more or less virtuous than anyone else. But it is the case that the American polity has been willing to undertake great efforts for the benefit of others. Of course, this involves enlightened self-interest as well. America, with its genuinely global economic and other interests, prospers when others prosper.

But for a host of reasons the US is struggling with global leadership. Enlightened self-interest for nations like Australia is to lend a hand at a time of difficulty.

The alternative, a weak America and a world without order, would be very dark.


  1. Pulitzer Prize worthy, it is, Mr. Sheridan!

    We, ‘Mericans could not have accomplished, without fellow English speaking nations by our side, and having our back. With hope, together again, may sanity return.

    Below is A fly in the ointment.

    Our exiting ‘stage LEFT’ going on 7 years with a coupla’ more years to go, is due to a fellow that equates and despises anything and everything WHITE, or ANY color, except Black, because his Daddy who did convert to Islam, wrote that WE are ALL “colonizers” and a Mommy that had Communist genes coursing her system. The ‘fly’ had a “dream”, you see.

    The surprise is the Japanese, considering that the only use of atomic weapons in warfare, occurred twice upon their nation due to their savagery.

  2. Reblogged this on et cetera* and commented:
    Spot On, Mate!

    • I for one hope that America’s strength has not reached its peak. Rome held its place for a few centuries…
      One thing you can be sure of. Those who cheer the decline of the US will be demanding its help when the mob kicks down their door.

      • Of course. Then the demonization by the Left will be, the ‘English speakers don’t give a damn’..

        The Left will never end its dream of global conflict. Why gosh, much like exists, today.

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