What a difference a great nation makes

The world is not in an all-out shooting war, for which we can all be thankful. But why is this? Is it because nations are less violent than they used to be? Hardly. Is it because they have become more reasonable? Doubtful. Is it because the awful consequences of modern weaponry are too terrible to contemplate? Possible, but not necessarily. I submit that the reason that the world has been spared World War III (meaning a war on the scale of the world wars in the last century) is the character and power of the United States of America. This is our gift to the world, not to be foolishly squandered.

Pax Americana may not sit well with either aggressive despotisms restrained by our dominance or utopian dreamers offended that "hard" power can be credited with bringing peace, but it is an undeniable fact of our age. Just as Pax Romana held barbarians in check for centuries, so has our turn at the helm for most of the last century–and Great Britain before that.

Given the stance of our enemies and the prejudices of our own ideologues, it is not easy to demonstrate the truth of the proposition that domination by great nations brings relative peace. But we know that our entry in both world wars was decisive and we haven’t had a world war since the United States rose to the status of a super power in 1945.

True, the Soviet Union also rose to a powerful position, and the two super powers, as they were called, waged "cold war" against each other for more than four decades. While fear of the horrors of nuclear warfare clearly played a part in discouraging hot war, the more telling reason was that we had the power to deter a Soviet strike.

The collapse of the Soviet regime led some to believe, as Francis Fukayama so famously declared, that "history had come to an end" with the triumph of liberal democracy and free markets. But that glorious new age was "delayed" by the rise of Islamist terrorism. Once again, the responsibility of keeping the peace has fallen to us.

Imagine the world in the absence of the United States or, what amounts to the same thing, its decline to minor power status. Is there any doubt that the Islamists would ratchet up their efforts to subdue the Infidels, limited only by their own ambitions and resources, and the feeble efforts of their intended victims?

And that’s not all. Russia may be a shadow of its former self, having demonstrated an inability to produce armaments under the failed communist system. But none of its weak neighbors would be a match for what remains of its nuclear force. Then there’s China, chastened too by the shortcomings of communism, but shrewd enough to move to a fascist system that permits private ownership but actually controls production.

None of these forces would be sufficient to dominate the world, so their leaders would gain territory and/or resources when they could, sign only temporary peace agreements with each other, and generally keep the world in pretty constant turmoil. Perhaps world wars would be avoided, but recall that world war was not expected in 1914. World trade would decline, if not collapse altogether.

The vacuum generated by the decline of the United States might be filled by still other nations–perhaps India, with its vast resources and certainly Japan, both of which would have to be very concerned about an expansionist China. Possibly Europe would find a way to unite its forces against pressure from Russia, although between its addiction to "soft" power and its declining birth rates (and Muslim birthrates soaring), that is highly doubtful.

These are not abstract speculations, for we have elected a president and a Congress that are so absorbed in aggrandizing the power and influence of the federal government that they treat the world outside as something to be downplayed, or finessed by "smart" diplomacy in which we offer concessions to our enemies even before we meet them at the negotiating table.

Just in the last week we learn that the Obama Administration is "reaching out" to Hamas in Gaza, to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and to Russia over nearby defenses against Iran’s missiles. This is an administration that conspicuously lacks a strategic vision for the world and is putting our survival as a free nation at risk.

The world will not go away, just as it didn’t in 1914, 1941 or 2001. If we don’t assume the responsibilities that have been thrust upon us, we will pay a fearful price.