Consequently, it is important to note what those good things are. In addition to ensuring the security of the United States and its allies, American primacy within the international system causes many positive outcomes for Washington and the world. The first has been a more peaceful world. During the Cold War, U.S. leadership reduced friction among many states that were historical antagonists, most notably France and West Germany. Today, American primacy helps keep a number of complicated relationships aligned-between Greece and Turkey, Israel and Egypt, South Korea and Japan, India and Pakistan, Indonesia and Australia. This is not to say it fulfills Woodrow Wilson's vision of ending all war. Wars still occur where Washington's interests are not seriously threatened, such as in Darfur, but a Pax Americana does reduce war's likelihood, particularly war's worst form: great power wars.
Second, American power gives the United States the ability to spread democracy and other elements of its ideology of liberalism. Doing so is a source of much good for the countries concerned as well as the United States because, as John Owen noted on these pages in the Spring 2006 issue, liberal democracies are more likely to align with the United States and be sympathetic to the American worldview.3 So, spreading democracy helps maintain U.S. primacy. In addition, once states are governed democratically, the likelihood of any type of conflict is significantly reduced. This is not because democracies do not have clashing interests. Indeed they do. Rather, it is because they are more open, more transparent and more likely to want to resolve things amicably in concurrence with U.S. leadership. And so, in general, democratic states are good for their citizens as well as for advancing the interests of the United States.
Critics have faulted the Bush Administration for attempting to spread democracy in the Middle East, labeling such an effort a modern form of tilting at windmills. It is the obligation of Bush's critics to explain why democracy is good enough for Western states but not for the rest, and, one gathers from the argument, should not even be attempted.
Of course, whether democracy in the Middle East will have a peaceful or stabilizing influence on America's interests in the short run is open to question. Perhaps democratic Arab states would be more opposed to Israel, but nonetheless, their people would be better off. The United States has brought democracy to Afghanistan, where 8.5 million Afghans, 40 percent of them women, voted in a critical October 2004 election, even though remnant Taliban forces threatened them. The first free elections were held in Iraq in January 2005. It was the military power of the United States that put Iraq on the path to democracy. Washington fostered democratic governments in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Caucasus. Now even the Middle East is increasingly democratic. They may not yet look like Western-style democracies, but democratic progress has been made in Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. By all accounts, the march of democracy has been impressive.
Third, along with the growth in the number of democratic states around the world has been the growth of the global economy. With its allies, the United States has labored to create an economically liberal worldwide network characterized by free trade and commerce, respect for international property rights, and mobility of capital and labor markets. The economic stability and prosperity that stems from this economic order is a global public good from which all states benefit, particularly the poorest states in the Third World. The United States created this network not out of altruism but for the benefit and the economic well-being of America. This economic order forces American industries to be competitive, maximizes efficiencies and growth, and benefits defense as well because the size of the economy makes the defense burden manageable. Economic spin-offs foster the development of military technology, helping to ensure military prowess.
Perhaps the greatest testament to the benefits of the economic network comes from Deepak Lal, a former Indian foreign service diplomat and researcher at the World Bank, who started his career confident in the socialist ideology of post-independence India. Abandoning the positions of his youth, Lal now recognizes that the only way to bring relief to desperately poor countries of the Third World is through the adoption of free market economic policies and globalization, which are facilitated through American primacy.4 As a witness to the failed alternative economic systems, Lal is one of the strongest academic proponents of American primacy due to the economic prosperity it provides.
Fourth and finally, the United States, in seeking primacy, has been willing to use its power not only to advance its interests but to promote the welfare of people all over the globe. The United States is the earth's leading source of positive externalities for the world. The U.S. military has participated in over fifty operations since the end of the Cold War-and most of those missions have been humanitarian in nature. Indeed, the U.S. military is the earth's "911 force"-it serves, de facto, as the world's police, the global paramedic and the planet's fire department. Whenever there is a natural disaster, earthquake, flood, drought, volcanic eruption, typhoon or tsunami, the United States assists the countries in need. On the day after Christmas in 2004, a tremendous earthquake and tsunami occurred in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra, killing some 300,000 people. The United States was the first to respond with aid. Washington followed up with a large contribution of aid and deployed the U.S. military to South and Southeast Asia for many months to help with the aftermath of the disaster. About 20,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines responded by providing water, food, medical aid, disease treatment and prevention as well as forensic assistance to help identify the bodies of those killed. Only the U.S. military could have accomplished this Herculean effort. No other force possesses the communications capabilities or global logistical reach of the U.S. military. In fact, un peacekeeping operations depend on the United States to supply UN forces.
American generosity has done more to help the United States fight the War on Terror than almost any other measure. Before the tsunami, 80 percent of Indonesian public opinion was opposed to the United States; after it, 80 percent had a favorable opinion of America. Two years after the disaster, and in poll after poll, Indonesians still have overwhelmingly positive views of the United States. In October 2005, an enormous earthquake struck Kashmir, killing about 74,000 people and leaving three million homeless. The U.S. military responded immediately, diverting helicopters fighting the War on Terror in nearby Afghanistan to bring relief as soon as possible. To help those in need, the United States also provided financial aid to Pakistan; and, as one might expect from those witnessing the munificence of the United States, it left a lasting impression about America. For the first time since 9/11, polls of Pakistani opinion have found that more people are favorable toward the United States than unfavorable, while support for Al-Qaeda dropped to its lowest level. Whether in Indonesia or Kashmir, the money was well-spent because it helped people in the wake of disasters, but it also had a real impact on the War on Terror. When people in the Muslim world witness the U.S. military conducting a humanitarian mission, there is a clearly positive impact on Muslim opinion of the United States. As the War on Terror is a war of ideas and opinion as much as military action, for the United States humanitarian missions are the equivalent of a blitzkrieg.
There is no other state, group of states or international organization that can provide these global benefits. None even comes close. The United Nations cannot because it is riven with conflicts and major cleavages that divide the international body time and again on matters great and trivial. Thus it lacks the ability to speak with one voice on salient issues and to act as a unified force once a decision is reached. The eu has similar problems. Does anyone expect Russia or China to take up these responsibilities? They may have the desire, but they do not have the capabilities. Let's face it: for the time being, American primacy remains humanity's only practical hope of solving the world's ills.
While the benefits of American primacy are considerable, no country can ever escape from the iron law of Economics 101-there is no free lunch. American primacy is no exception. Leadership requires that the United States incur costs and run risks not borne by other countries. These costs can be stark and brutal, and they have to be faced directly by proponents of primacy. It means that some Americans will die in the service of their country. These are the costs, and they are significant. Americans should be conscious of them and use them in their contemplation of the value of primacy. Additionally, the costs of primacy must impose upon American policy-makers a sharp focus and prudence concerning how they wield American power. Equally, all Americans should be aware of the benefits that flow from primacy and that they enjoy.Essay Types: Essay