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Happy Days Aren’t Here Again

The need for a return to Pax Americana—and why we're unlikely to get one.

by
Stephen Green

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March 24, 2014 - 12:02 am
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Imperialism, Robert Kaplan argues, has gotten a bad rap, “despite empires’ having offered the most benign form of order for thousands of years, keeping the anarchy of ethnic, tribal, and sectarian war bands to a reasonable minimum.” He concludes:

This by no means obliges the American military to repair complex and populous Islamic countries that lack critical components of civil society. America must roam the world with its ships and planes, but be very wary of where it gets involved on the ground. And it must initiate military hostilities only when an overwhelming national interest is threatened. Otherwise, it should limit its involvement to economic inducements and robust diplomacy—diplomacy that exerts every possible pressure in order to prevent widespread atrocities in parts of the world, such as central Africa, that are not, in the orthodox sense, strategic.

That, I submit, would be a policy direction that internalizes both the drawbacks and the benefits of imperialism, not as it has been conventionally thought of, but as it has actually been practiced throughout history.

In practical terms, it seems that what he’s arguing for is military spending levels and an energetic foreign policy consistent with the period extending from the start of the Pax Americana during the first Gulf War, up to the initiation of the second Gulf War. New to the mix — and this is me interjecting — would be increased black ops to counter the increase in terrorist acts against us, our friends, and our interests.

The Cold War was one of history’s aberrations, brought to an end by the Soviet Union collapsing under the weight of its inherent contradictions and a big push from President Ronald Reagan. Minus a great ideological foe, the first George Bush and Bill Clinton got things more or less right. We can quibble over this initiative or those cuts or that program — but that’s how democracies lurch towards policy decisions, foreign or domestic, in the first place.

Broadly speaking, though, Bush and Clinton helped bring a lot of peace to the world (Kuwait, Ireland, the Balkans) or tried in good faith to (Israel/the Palestinians), at a price the country could afford (5-7% of GDP). They managed all this while also managing to help our former rival decline quietly. That was no mean feat, given the stew of ethnic hatreds, historical grievances, ill-drawn borders, first-world weaponry, and nuclear bombs, stretching from the former intra-German border in Central Europe, all the way to Vladivostok in the North Pacific.

I would add that it’s probably no coincidence that with the exception of a brief recession in 1991, the Bush/Clinton years were also remarkably prosperous ones.

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Top Rated Comments   
Ah, a fresh Monday dose of "why in heck did I get out of bed?"
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
today we buy access to the space station from Russia. China will be on the moon before we return. NASA has as a primary mission muslim outreach. in the long run, these things will prove to be every bit as bad as the downsizing of the army. assuming that we survive the downsizing of the army in the short run.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Quagmire" is the term used immediately by the Left (aka the media) for describing our attempt to defend ourselves against the terrorists. Almost from day 1.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (41)
All Comments   (41)
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My goodness, what a depressing blurb. That glass isn't half full or half empty, it's a Klein bottle with no inside and no outside, but still holds a liquid. Everybody reading and commenting on this article seems to buy into the idea we are a weak nation with a failing economy and a greatly reduced military. Pf-f-f-f-f-f-t! My version of a raspberry

It is interesting that freedom is percolating through the middle east as never before. The military needs a rest, so we need to avoid wars and other military excursions. The author has presented a negative picture of where the nation has been and where it's headed along with the military and economic. My take is much more positive.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"It’s enough to make you wonder if the world will ever again enjoy the tempered empire of a Pax America, or if instead we’ll become the unhappy subjects of a less benevolent empire."

As is often the case, I find history potentially instructive - in this case, the multi-decade fall of the Roman Republic. Which is why my next book will be called AFTER THE FALL: AMERICAN CAESAR.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The ME and the world will be safer if we ever strike Iran. Israel will be hit. So, in a way, to worry about the impact of Israel doing what the US should and apparently will not do sounds like vodka-laced whining.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is the problem that the Air Force is building 'gold-plated' fighters, or that they've lost the ability to build anything on time and on budget? I think the latter.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Much can be explained simply by looking at the PJ Media main page today and noticing the story above this one. "Aborted Babies Incinerated to heat British Hospitals." Most Christians believe that God is mightily P.O.'ed about things like this.
The good Clinton/Bush times you refer to had their foundation laid in the Reagan/Thatcher/Pope John Paul years. Yes, strategic thinking is important, and secular analysis is important. But the spiritual side is equally important. Without JPII working in concert with Reagan and Thacher, the outcome likely would have been much different. Today we are in a spiritual desert, especially in Europe. All the strategic thinking in the world is not going to make up for that deficit.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, that silly story about hospital incinerators again!

Hospital incinerators' primary purpose is to safely dispose of various biological materials (all the way from bloodstained bandages to diseased/damaged organs removed during surgery and, yes, aborted foetuses) by fire, fire being one of the best ways to ensure biological and viral contamination is destroyed. (Incidentally, cremation has a similar purpose.) Such incinerators use far more energy, to get the temperature high enough to do the job, than is recovered from the burning of the materials.

That being so, it makes sense to recover some of the energy used for the primary purpose (incineration) by using it to, for example, heat the hospital. Assuming the cost of the plant to do it isn't excessive, IMHO the hospital administration would be derelict in its duty if it didn't arrange for this to happen.

The fact that aborted foetuses are a part of the material being burned is completely irrelevant to this. Anti-abortionists' shrieking notwithstanding.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah, a fresh Monday dose of "why in heck did I get out of bed?"
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Since we not longer have moral authority and have stopped being an economic dynamo, we should just pack it in. Under Obama, the world has adopted his worldview that the US is no worse or better than any other power. An era of everyone for himself is reasserting itself and the totalitarians are much better at this than the "free" west.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't agree that America's intervention in foreign affairs is necessarily tied to our exceptionalism. Moreover, I think it's dangerous to conflate the two.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Imperialism, Robert Kaplan argues, has gotten a bad rap, “despite empires’ having offered the most benign form of order for thousands of years, keeping the anarchy of ethnic, tribal, and sectarian war bands to a reasonable minimum.”

But the problem, Stephen, is that he's not really talking about Imperialism, and you know it. Imperialism is the catch-phrase of Soviet dis-information latched onto the American statists/popular democracy crowd. You can see it, too, in Libertarian circles.

Foreign intervention is not equal to Imperialism. We can debate the usefulness/Constitutionality/wisdom of any particular intervention.

For Constitutionalists, I think intervention can come in one of several forms:

1. Diplomatic - here we try to influence our allies and enemies at the highest level, by being polite yet insistent.
2. Covert - here we try to influence our allies and subvert our enemies through support (monetary, material, intelligence, etc)
3. Military - here we kill people and blow things up

On their face I have no problem, Constitutionally, with the first two methods. That is, I expect we will debate specific circumstances either publicly or within committees in Congress. On the last item, the President must go to Congress and get a declaration of war. Anything short of that should be an impeachable offense.
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18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
So Thomas Jefferson should have been impeached? How in the world is Congressional permission short of a declaration not Constitutional. And since they gave the permission, shouldn't they remove themselves from office first?

This whole thing is a straw-man argument. If people understood it to be necessary, Bush I could have got a declaration against Iraq, and Bush II against Afghanistan. He wouldn't have needed a new one for Iraq; it was the same war. In fact, he probably would have been forced to attack Iraq (since he wouldn't need a declaration), and probably Libya would still have WMD's.

PS - I really liked the first part.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...Anything short of that should be an impeachable offense". Good luck with that...I've been saying that since Vietnam.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Gulf of Tonkin was not enough of a declaration?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
today we buy access to the space station from Russia. China will be on the moon before we return. NASA has as a primary mission muslim outreach. in the long run, these things will prove to be every bit as bad as the downsizing of the army. assuming that we survive the downsizing of the army in the short run.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Assuming that we survive the downsizing of the army in the short run". Perhaps we can get the Mexican Army to help us, seems a small favor to ask, since we are supporting so many of their citizens. They seem like good sports, didn't they help us during Katrina ?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Regular Mexican army troops came through Texas (first time in over 100 yrs I think) and on to New Orleans La. I saw them on camped out on Loyola Campus. It seems strange. How much help they actually provided is questionable...There was a huge mess everywhere and they had little impact one way or the other...It was just a gesture...I guess it was a good thing.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The trouble with allowing the Mexican army to help us is they may desert and join their relatives in the 50 states and wait for amnesty: followed by family reunification plus happily joining the welare state of the gringos who stole the southwest illegally 150 years ago.

What could go wrong.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Intervening in Bosnia was not the right thing to do.

We sat by the 2 week war when Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia. We sat down with popcorn, when Croatia and Serbia slugged it out over Osijek & Vukovar. Only after the fighting began in Bosnia did any one in power give a "care".

Almost any course of action other than the action Clinton actually took would have been better.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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