The arrival of America on the world stage begs the question of was the United States thrust onto the world stage before it was ready?
The debacle of the U.S. foreign policy in recent times, with its mood swings from “let’s pretend that everyone likes us and will accept American democracy because it is the morally right form of governance” to “let’s cut ourselves off from the rest of the world”, made me seriously think about the question above.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain was the world’s policeman and owned three-quarters of the world’s land mass and governed about three-quarters of all the people on earth. The British Empire covered most of the globe and the catch-phrase of “The sun never sets on the British empire” was true. As the century progressed, and the power of the United States economy grew, it was generally accepted that the U.S. was the heir-apparent to eventually take over the role of world’s policeman, albeit reluctantly. The key word here is eventually, since such a role requires experience and time.
Experience and time were criteria not granted to the heir apparent.
World War I virtually wiped out an entire generation of Britain’s male population and, a few years later, World War II destroyed the British economy. From being the most powerful nation on earth with a navy that controlled virtually all global shipping routes, and therefore controlled much of the world’s trade, Britain emerged from two world wars impoverished and largely impotent.
Conversely, the U.S. emerged from those two wars as a major economic force and a major military power. It was inevitable that America moved into the vacated place of world leader almost before it realized it was happening, and without understanding what that elevated status actually meant. I submit that the country was not ready to assume its destiny. Recent history could indicate that it’s still not ready.
Everyone emigrating to the United States, and immigrants form the vast majority of the U.S. population today, was trying to get away from something: religious persecution, economic deprivation, political persecution or just looking for the chance of a better life. As a result, they tended to look inwards not outwards, and that understandable, isolationist, mentality became part of the national psyche. It was, and is, hardly a positive attribute for world leadership.
Lately, the situation has become considerably worse. Donald Trump’s total inability to understand that the role of the President of the United States. Simply stated, that role is protecting national interest, helping to shape the nation’s purpose, in the broadest sense, and always putting the nation before himself. America on the world stage carries responsibilities, understanding and knowledge of the international environment.
John Bolton’s recent book states that, during his White House tenure, he cannot recall a single decision by Trump that was not driven by its effect on his re-election. That is petty, naïve, pathetic and extremely dangerous to America’s role in the world. It actively encourages other countries to take full advantage of the United States dereliction of its world duty.
Subversion of U.S. politics, industrial espionage, infiltration of U.S communications networks to not only steal information but use it for expansionist goals, are only the tip of the iceberg we can expect from China and Russia.
The U.S. needs to redefine national purpose, and have the guts and structures in place to pursue it. Denying or ignoring this responsibility hastens the demise of the U.S. as a significant world power, and the inevitable chaos created by the lack of a world policeman.
It’s time to grow up, and quickly.