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Peter Van Praagh on U.S. Role in the World

  More than 200 years ago the American Revolution sparked a new worldwide consciousness about the potential of the individual human spirit. That American-made optimism that anything was possible was contagious and remains so to this very day. The ideas inherent in the 1776 Revolution — namely that individuals have rights and can and should play a role in determining their future — was followed, in time, by another American-made revolution: the communications revolution. The result is that ideas and technology that were made in the USA have created a world where individual human beings, through their ability to instantly communicate ideas and actions, now have more of an impact on the decisions of their political leaders than ever before. Today’s revolution is currently inspiring and empowering people everywhere to create their own future. However, current conversations on the role of the United States in today’s changing world can be summed up in two opposing views: On one hand, the argument is that the era of a unipolar world dominated by a single American superpower was brief, and is finished. Supporters of this argument declare that the United States is a normal country — albeit a very large one — and has to learn how to get along better with the new emerging powers. On the other hand, it is argued that the United States continues to be, by any significant measure, the world’s most powerful country, and, as such, should take its rightful place as global leader. Since everyone likes a leader, the reasoning goes, other countries will follow. This paper will argue that rather than being contradictory, the two positions can at some level be reconciled. Indeed, taking the best insights from both arguments is the secret to making the 21st century another American century: not only will today’s United States get along better with other countries, by doing so it will create a thirst for strong American leadership of today’s world. Of course, there are substantial reasons for the existence of these opposing positions and they are not to be dismissed lightly. Those who pronounce the United States to be a power on the decline,whose influence around the world will only continue to diminish, argue that America’s problems are real and, what’s more, have been revealed for all to see. American military power did not shock and awe its enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq into automatic defeat. This revealed vulnerability. American economic might was exposed to bad investments by its banks. This revealed further susceptibility. Finally, the moral authority that the world’s only superpower claimed was stained by allegations of torture as Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo became household names. These generated deep disappointment among those who wanted the United States to succeed and warm satisfaction among those who wanted it to fail. And now, the argument goes, it would be best for everyone, America included, if the United States acknowledged, atoned, and apologized for its mistakes, and adopted a more “realistic” posture in its management of global affairs. Although there are merits to such an analysis, the conclusion that American influence has been permanently reduced is flawed. Simply put, the argument does not take into account the fact that the nation lying prone on the commentator’s table is resilient, dynamic, and capable not only of full recovery, but of emerging stronger than before. Indeed, as a patient, the United States has always recuperated well enough to surprise those who predicted its downfall. It will do so again. Read full document here.

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