The United States is reaching a new crossroads. We have seen this before. Our country was formed at a crossroads. We had the choice to remain allied to Great Britain or to forge our own destiny. We had the choice to split apart or remain unified during the Civil War. During the two World Wars we had the choice to stand and remain neutral or join the fight. After World War II we could have remained aloof to aggression in the world or we could defend those who could not defend themselves. In the early 1990’s, a ruthless man invaded a foreign country. America rose up and convinced the world to defend against that aggression. We drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. At that time Pres. George H.W. Bush made a decision not to invade Iraq and topple Hussein. It was an act of restraint that is rare in history. The American public needs to learn that lesson. It is that restraint that stops the worldview that America is out to conquer countries for the resources we need. As other countries rise economically, we will be held accountable if we do not act with restraint.
Much has been said of the rise of China in the world. It has been suggested that this is bad for the United States. I heard a brilliant piece of analysis today that contradicted that. On the weekend edition of NPR’s “All Things Considered” host Guy Raz spoke to former Pentagon official P.M. Barnett. He said we shouldn’t be afraid of the rise of China, India, or European countries. As he explained, in the first fifty years of the 20th century, countries like China, Japan, India, Korea, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia, among others, engaged in wars that killed 100 million people. After World War II, the global community came together and developed the U.N. The United States took the lead in establishing free trade. Together we set up a system that allowed for all countries to rise in power and wealth, without global wars. When the Cold War ended we saw the last major threat of world war. Now people in the U.S. are scared because other countries are gaining power, influence and economic strength. We are scared because the system we worked to put in place was wildly successful.
The U.S. cannot hope to be the sole superpower in the world. We shouldn’t want to be. We should increasingly try to see all people in the world as one. Instead of being afraid of the Chinese we should be excited about their strengths. We have enjoyed our status at the top of power, but we must admit that we cannot be at the top forever. If the Earth is to survive humanity, it will be through the cooperation of nations. Pres. Obama’s new economic advisor, Gene Sperling, said in a speech that “a rising tide should raise all boats.” He was only talking about the U.S. economy. At some point that will need to be true of the world economy.
China tested the prototype of their first stealth aircraft. It was huge news in this country, but why? We have dozens of stealth aircraft. I saw the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter in person when I was a kid. Our B-2 Stealth Bombers conduct bombing raids in Afghanistan from Whiteman Air Force Base. Whiteman is in Missouri. We can fly a plane around the world, drop a bomb on something and fly it home. The U.S. doesn’t spend more on its military than any other country. We spend more money on our military than every other country combined.
In a time of economic need, we need to look at our desire for world power. Other nations have had unprecedented world power and after they lost it, they have endured. Is it really necessary to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in the Defense Department. John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House, said that he would consider cutting the defense budget. We will see if that is true. In the end we need to ask ourselves only one question. What are we truly afraid of?