The world benefits hugely from America's global dominance. Long may their involvement last.
Is America still the world’s policeman? Yes, but it’s also a lot more than that. The US occupies an unparalleled place in the international order as, in effect, the alternative to world government. There exists no supranational organisation that exercises sovereignty, and there is highly unlikely to be one in our lifetimes. Democratic nation-states, by virtue of being democratic and therefore responsive to national mores, will not cede the sovereignty necessary for the UN to be able to impose its will on miscreant states. In the absence of world government, the US fills the gap as the provider of global public goods. This role has been cogently analysed by Michael Mandelbaum, the International Relations scholar, in his book The Case for Goliath.
Despite the current ructions in the international financial system, these public goods encompass the economic sphere. They include the provision of an international reserve currency and the principal support for an open trading system. In diplomacy, they include the role of mediator for intractable conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. (America’s role as honest broker in bitter conflicts long predates the much overestimated Jimmy Carter at Camp David. Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation efforts in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.) But the most important global public good is collective security.
The US has been the guarantor of Western European defence since the founding of Nato in 1949. But its role in providing security is geographically far wider. It is not because of the existence of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been broadly contained. It is because the US is internationally engaged and extends its protection to its allies. It is far from fanciful to suppose that, if the US were to draw in on itself and become an isolationist power, even so pacific an ally as Japan might seek an independent nuclear deterrent against the aggressive unpredictability of North Korea.
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