Now that I’ve got my results back, I thought I’d post this, my final essay, which answered the question: Is America’s global supremacy at an end? It didn’t get an amazing mark, but I still came out of it as a ‘better than normal’ pass. I think my main problem was that my references weren’t fantastic – or hell, I don’t know. Without providing an envelope, the teacher’s not going to give me any feedback. On the other hand, the essay had to have scored something like 75%, so pretty good, y’know?
With the recent turns of the global economy, the United States is poised to lose its formerly unassailable position of supremacy over the governments and operations of other nations. Whether or not decline is inevitable relies at this time on factors such as the rise of a competitor fit to take the United States’ place in international economic markets and whether or not the United States can right its own course through stimulus spending. Further, the question of the power of the US Military as an agent for good in the world, and therefore, as an ambassador for US interests, must be addressed. After consideration of sources, the unfortunate prognosis indicates that the United States is more likely than not set to slide towards second place in a global environment increasingly defined by Chinese manufacturing as its own economy is stagnated around the needs of a redundant, wasteful military.?
Since trade between nations first begun, there has always been a dominant economic power. In most periods of history, this dominance brought with it special treatment, and this has been no different for the story of the United States. In the past, the United States’ authority has allowed it to lead the way in wars of its choosing, determine the foreign and economic policies of other nations. That authority has derived from its global supremacy – a supremacy that has become more and more tenuous as time goes on. In this context, Global Supremacy refers to the special and preferential treatment offered to the United States in both the operation of its government, and in how its government influences other governments. Growth refers to the increased size of an economy over time as infrastructure and expanded abilities allow a nation to produce a surplus and therefore trade. The United States has been on a path that steadily diminishes its global supremacy for the past thirteen years, expending its goodwill and enacting economic policies that have damaged its growth. With the constant growth of the Chinese economy and its increasing importance on the world stage, the United States looks likely to lose its position of global supremacy sometime in the next twenty years. While some reversal of policy could change this, the current political state of the United States makes any action less likely and only increases the chance that things will become more polarised. While one can argue the United States’ military capability leaves it in a position of supremacy, that same military might has become bloated, inefficient and a symbol of oppressive, needless invasion, rather than a powerful force for justice.
While the United States’ global supremacy is still present and lingering, the rising threat of China, with its seemingly unstoppable economy seems poised to take the US’s position of global prominence away from it. The position of the United States has always been a preferential one based on superlatives. That is to say, the US has been given special treatment because it has the biggest military, the strongest economy, the best manufacturing base, and the most respected position in the world. If everyone in the 2009 global financial crisis suffered from a major setback, then surely the United States’ prominence would be unaffected. Someone has to overtake the United States for its global supremacy to truly be at an end. That someone is China. While not possessing a military nearly in the scale of the United States (Lachman, 2011), China’s economy is its true might, and thanks to its population of over 1.5 billion people and enormous established manufacturing base, China’s economy has grown non-stop for the past forty years (Rachman, 2011). Growth is the panacea of global politics; if there’s not enough money for any individual element, overall economic growth allows for more money to be spent on that matter. Countries that grow tend to only stop growing once something catastrophic stops them; Germany, for example, had to suffer through two World Wars and the reunification of Eastern Germany to seriously slow its growth, and even now it is the beating economic heart of the Eurozone. Before 2008, Goldman Sachs predicted that China’s economy would overtake the United States’ by 2027 – and that prediction did not take into account the global economic crisis which failed to stop China’s growth, but seriously damaged the United States’. At the current rate, the Chinese economy has doubled in size every seven years – and it shows no sign of stopping.
The United States government is not in any state to enact any legislation to stimulate the economy though. Just as the United States is a nation where a small group of elites exercise the disproportionate majority of the power (Lachmann, 2011), the senate is constructed so a lone Senator can almost completely halt the operation of the body. The crucial components of the Senate’s current inaction are the filibuster and cloture, devices first set in the parliamentary rules in opposition to one another (Sinclair, 2002). The filibuster is a technique to hold debate on a bill. In response to this, there is the option of cloture, a vote that can be placed to limit the time available to filibuster. The US Senate has the option to change its own rules, too, meaning the filibuster and cloture rules at the moment could be replaced. Former filibuster reform, such as the introduction of cloture was a response to external pressure from the President (Sinclair 2012). Currently, support to reform the filibuster is strong outside the Senate, coming from the President, from the political class, and even a majority of the population (Geoghegan, 2010), and yet, no reform seems likely. That this reform has not happened is telling – suggesting that the individual power and fear of its loss, in a political system that is increasingly polarised (Sinclair, 2002), and operates on ideas about governing public perception rather than on the optimal operation of the country (Schickler and Wawro, 2011). This expectation serves well with goals stated by the Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell in the October 23, 2010 issue of the National Journal – “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
Yet, America’s prominence on the global stage has not always been an economic one. The US military is one of the main consumers of its government spending and an opportunity for government employment (de Rugy, 2013), as well as being widely regarded for multinational peacekeeping efforts. Foreign policy experts have spoken negatively about the decline of the US destabilising smaller nations (Brzezinksi, 2012). Unfortunately, the US military’s return to the economy is too small (Frank, 2012), and more tellingly, has a negative reputation internationally. The US military has become a symbol of mismanagement, waste, and American interests in even its own country. If military spending had a meaningfully positive effect on the US economy, the US economy would have never faltered in 2009.
Second, the US Military’s has an international character of dominance, thanks to the invasion of Iraq under false pretences, casting the US leadership as a rough equivalent to the Iraqi dictatorship (Wolpe, 2003). The entire period of the United States operation from 2001 to 2008 was full of demonstrations of US disrespect to the international community. The United States used its position of authority to sweep other international powers into involvement into wars that did not serve those nations’ best interests. As one example, in December 2001, the American political action committee Project for a New American Century (PNAC), headed up by William Kristol published a paper that explicitly called for an Imperialistic approach to foreign policy (Baker, 2001). This approach also called for an increase on military spending, and an interventionist approach to foreign policy. William Kristol went on to write The War Over Iraq: America’s Mission and Saddam’s Tyranny, which was a source cited for the instigation of the Iraq war. Worse, the enormous military budget does not reflect an enormously capable military. During the Iraq war, a military with a budget nearing on a half trillion dollars stretched itself to its limits deploying only 190,000 soldiers, much fewer than historically possible (Lachmann, 2011). Other nations are not welcoming to the United States’ military or interests. Meanwhile, the funding the United States military receives does not seem to have made the military more capable of dealing with large threats.
With the rising power of China as an economic bloc built around manufacturing and not military expansion, the United States seems fit to lose its position of economic prominence in the next twenty years. Furthermore, any chance the United States has to alter this course would require a realignment of political priority and a change in public attitudes towards the operation of government. On the other hand, the United States military is still the most powerful military in the world, and still the most well funded military in the world. Despite this, though, a country cannot rule the world with a military unless it seeks to conquer everyone, and the United States military is not capable of such a thing. The era of American supremacy is not at an end, but the sun is setting on it, with the opportunity to change course growing more and more unlikely.
- Baker, K. 2001, American imperialism, embraced, New York Times Company, New York, United States, New York.
- Brzezinski, Z. 2012, “After America”, Foreign Policy, , no. 191, pp. 26-29,10.
- de Rugy, V. 2013, Six Degrees of Military Spending, Reason Foundation, Los Angeles, United States, Los Angeles.
- Frank, B. 2012, “Cut Defense Spending”, Foreign Policy, , no. 191, pp. 62-63,10.
- Geoghegan, T 2010, ‘Bring on the Filibuster’, Nation, 22 February, Political Science Complete, EBSCO host, viewed 27 May 2013.
- Lachmann, R. 2011, The Roots of American Decline, SAGE PUBLICATIONS, INC, Berkeley, United States, Berkeley.
- Rachman, G. 2011, “Think Again: American Decline”, Foreign Policy, , no. 184, pp. 59-63,10.
- Schickler, Eric, and Gregory J. Wawro. “What the Filibuster Tells Us About the Senate.” GOVERNING 9.4 (2011): 11.
- Sinclair, Barbara. “The’60-Vote Senate’.” US Senate Exceptionalism (2002): 241-61.
- Wolpe, B.C. 2003, An American dissents, respectfully, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, Melbourne, Vic.