The Cop on the Beat

From time to time Cernig of The Newshoggers and I bicker about the U. S. role in the world. Recently, for example, Cernig asked:

Is a single cop who bullies with a big stick, plays favorites when applying the law and takes bribes really so much better than no cop at all or a bunch of crooked cops with balancing competing interests?

My general answers are “Yes” and si monumentum requiris circumspice.

This morning I’ve received a little support from Moisés Naím, editor in chief of Foreign Policy, writing in the Washington Post:

Consider what happened last March, when President Bush traveled to Latin America, a region he has largely ignored. To many, it seemed that the trip was bound to be inconsequential, as Bush had nothing concrete to offer. Yet all the Latin American presidents who were asked to host this lame-duck, empty-handed and politically radioactive guest agreed to do so; some even lobbied not to be left off his itinerary. What was in it for them? The hope of getting the superpower to do something for them. Leftist Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, for example, a personal friend and staunch supporter of Bush’s nemesis Hugo Chávez, wanted help with his country’s ethanol industry.

In Turkey, much like in Brazil, the population is deeply critical of the United States. Yet, much like his Brazilian counterpart, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly courted the Bush administration. The Turkish prime minister knows that the United States is his country’s best ally in the effort to get Turkey into the European Union.

Lula and Erdogan are just two in a long list of world leaders who understand that while the United States may sometimes use a heavy hand, the alternatives are much worse. Few want to see the world’s stage led by autocratic regimes such as those in Russia or China.

Even if the cop on the beat is fat, lazy, sometimes unfair, and even occasionally corrupt, he’s better than turning the city over to the criminals.

As for the “many cops” that Cernig longs for I don’t think there’s anything standing in the way of France, Germany, and Britain stepping up to the plate other than the French, Germans, and Britons who, prudently, are quite willing to spend their money on something other than their militaries as long as we’re willing to spend ours on our own. I’ve advocated the European in particular taking responsibility of pounding their own beat for decades and changes in U. S. policies to encourage them to do so. We’re sufficiently insecure and they’re sufficiently venal that it hasn’t happened.

Naim also writes:

Of course, the America that the world wants back is not the one that preemptively invades potential enemies, bullies allies or disdains international law. The demand is for an America that rallies other nations prone to sitting on the fence while international crises are boiling out of control; for a superpower that comes up with innovative initiatives to tackle the great challenges of the day, such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and violent Islamist fundamentalism. The demand is for an America that enforces the rules that facilitate international commerce and works effectively to stabilize an accident-prone global economy. Naturally, the world also wants a superpower willing to foot the bill with a largess that no other nation can match.

Me, too, except, perhaps, for that last bit. Unfortunately for all of us, we must learn to deal with the superpower we have, warts and all, rather than the superpower we might want. No superpower at all or a bipolar or tripolar world are not improvements and if you want evidence for it just look back to the world of 1978. Was it really better than today?

4 comments… add one
  • Fletcher Christian Link

    Speaking for the Brits, we had two hundred years on duty. There’s been a shift change. Good luck with your turn.

  • B.Poster Link

    Speaking of shift changes it is very likely there is about to be another one. Due to a massive national debt, a hollowed out industrial base, and a military that has been stretched almost to the breaking point the Americans will be incapable of continuing in the role of global policeman much longer. In addition to this, the American people are fed up with this role and no longer want it. They will punish any politician who advocates a continuation of this role at election time. America’s role as global policeman will probably be over by 2010.

    It is highly likely that Russia, China, or both Russia and China will step in to fill this role. Hopefully they can do a beter job than the United States has.

  • William Link

    The American public may well be presently fed up, but there is far too much of a missionary impulse for this to last. I don’t know that I’d call it a hollowed out industiral base. Manufacturing jobs are down and wil stay that way, but consider what the U.S. does manufacture: high-end electronics and capital goods, those things used in building an industrial base.

    “Hopefully they can do a better job than the United States has” – really? I’m sorry to be arch, but how many Ukranians, Tibetans or Georgians would think that hope areasonable one? And beyond that, with what navies would they police anything?

  • B.Poster Link


    “Missonary impulse.” I’m not sure where you got that one. In all honesy, it demostrates a complete misunderstanding understanding of America. A “missionary” is someone who spreads their religous beliefs with enthusiasm. It has been used to describe Christians who spread the Christian message around the world. The United States has largely abandoned its Judeo-Christian heritage. As such, missionaries have very little influence over American foreign or domestic policy. There is no missionary impulse among the American people. Politicians who have such impulses will find themselves out of office very quickly.

    If the Ukranians, Tibetians, and Georgians you mention really want the US to continue as world policeman, they should begin paying part of the bill and they should take a stand against anti-Americanism. Whether they think it reasonable or not the American role as world policeman will be ending very soon. As the Americans withdraw, the Russians and Chinese will likely move in. As a General once said, when describing military strategy, “once we are firmly entrenched, it will be very difficult to get us out.” I pray it works out. If it does not work out, the nations who longed for America to withdraw or disappear from the earth will rue the day they wished for these things. Hopefully the Russians and the Chinese can do a better job than the US has. The job will likely be theirs very soon.

    “With what Navies would they police anything?” Russia and China have very large and capable Mercahnt Marines. Russia has a very large and higly capable fleet of nuclear submarines. With the money they have made from the high price of oil they have upgraded their battleships and air craft carriers. The price of oil is unlikely to decrease in the next few decades. Also, Russia has the largest and most advanced nuclear arsenal in the world. With this arsenal they can easily target any thing on earth. Finally, China has huge man power. Russia and China are quite capable of policing the earth. Will they do as well as the US has? How benelovent will they be? These are unknowns. I’m inclined to believe they will be far more brutal and cruel than the US ever thought about being.

    While it is true the US does manufacture high-end electronis and capital goods, the components such as the steel and the plastic used in these goods is likely manufactured in China. For the most part, the US no longer manufactures basic things like shoes, shirts, and other basic necessaties. At least, they generally are not manufactured in the US.

    The US miliary has been worn down from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and there seems to be no will among the politicians or the electorate to fix it. Instad of a missionary impulse the exact opposite prevails. The Ameican public is, for the most part, demoralized and generally lacks confidence in their country.

    Finally with the massive national debt combined with the other factors listed above it is diffiicult to envision a scenario where the US can actually prevail against Russia, China, or both of them I pray Russia and China will do well on their shift as global cop. Whether anyone likes it or not the job will likely be theirs very soon. The US no longer wants the job nor is it currently capable of carrying it out.

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