Since 1946, and the end of the Second World War in the Far East, America has been the dominant force in global politics. Although she sparred with the Soviet Union for overall dominance, America emerged victorious from this ‘bout’ that never was. The United States became the new Super Power of the twentieth century. She inherited that title from the British, who in turn inherited it from the Spanish and so forth. Like the previous great powers, America has established an empire that spans the globe in many shapes and forms.
Although the American empire of the twentieth and twenty first centuries has not taken the same guise as those of the vast imperial possessions of Great Britain and Spain, she is as powerful, if not more so than the great imposing empires of the past. The post Second World War era and the reverberating effects of that conflict put an end to imperial conquests, and the process of self determination, started by Woodrow Wilson in 1919, was finally being put into effect. Because of this America could not possibly have the same sort of influence and dominance as the empires of Europe and Japan who caused thee bloodiest conflict known to man. However, a new form of domination was to take place.
America imposed herself on the world, as the great beacon of democracy and hope for those who had suffered at the hands of imperial regimes. She became a liberator in one sense. But in another, she simply took up the mantle of imperialist. The United States managed to do this because of the threat of Communism. America was able to impose her economic, social, religious, idealistic and militaristic views upon sovereign nations under the pre-text of defeating Communism.
It worked. Communism was defeated with the fall of the Soviet Union, and the raising of the Iron Curtain. For over forty years, America had fought an ideological war with the forces of Communism. The end of this stand off America had asserted America as the sole superpower of world politics. Her military might was unchallenged; a massive well-trained standing army could reach all points across the globe. A Navy and Air force unparalleled in history. Dominance over the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America and a new form of ‘protectorship’ over Europe strengthened the so-called ‘American Empire’. Military bases were popping up across the world in far-flung places, and the American led NATO alliance was creeping ever eastwards into the old backyard of the USSR, to add to expanding strength of the United States across the world.
However, as the history books have taught us, Empires do not last forever. And the Bush years have highlighted that maybe this is the beginning of the end for the American Empire. The next President will inherit a massive budget deficit that will ultimately tie his hands in many ways, both domestically and internationally. He will find that his armed forces are stretched to breaking point, with over 150,000 soldiers still in Iraq and tens of thousands in Afghanistan.
Iran will pose the 44th US President with a huge problem too. Should diplomacy and sanctions fail, the harsh reality is that conflict with the Islamic Republic may turn out to be a foregone conclusion if they continue down the path of producing a nuclear weapon, as the Americans and Israelis accuse them of. But for all the might of the US, they are in no position to successfully launch a ground attack on Iran. This would be worrying, especially to John McCain, who of the two candidates vying for the White House is most aggressive towards Iran.
Russia is posing The United States with problems as well. The threat of conflict between the Western backed Ukraine and Russia will emerge sooner rather than later. Is America really in a position to guarantee the security of the Ukraine and for that matter is she even in a position to defend NATO allies Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia?
The emergence of China as the financier of the world also undermines American strength, especially when you consider that there is so much American money invested in Chinese banks. If the problem of Taiwanese independence was to resurface under Obama or McCain, confrontation with China could be very embarrassing to America as they could either be forced into a humiliating climb down and fail to back up their ally Taiwan or they could be overrun by the vast Chinese military machine if any conflict emerged between the two nations.
Europe too is becoming stronger than America in terms of their economy. One day Europe will realise how strong she can be as a collective group, and will become more organised that reliance on American military assistance could soon become a thing of the past as well. Relations between Europe and America are not going to deteriorate but my point is that Europe is beginning to break free from the parental control of America. Maybe we saw the first signs of this during the Iraq War where Europe was so divided regarding support for President Bush’s war. Europe found a voice, and former great powers such as Germany and France would not be bullied by America into a needless conflict.
These are the problems, which will affect Obama or McCain whoever gets to the White House in January. American hegemony in the world is no longer a sure thing. Whoever wins next weeks momentous election will become a very powerful man, but he shall most likely also be overseeing the decline of the modern American Empire. Unless (and I am sorry, but I couldn’t resist)...the Empire Strikes Back? (Oh dear.)
By Stewart Munn