Is America the Greatest Force for Good in the World?


In a recent CNN article, veteran foreign policy commentator and Brookings senior fellow Robert Kagan argues that America has made the world freer, safer, and wealthier.

Kagan is a prominent neoconservative columnist for the Washington Post, as well as the co-founder (along with fellow neocon William Kristol) of the Foreign Policy Initiative, an adviser to the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and he serves on the board of the U.S. Committee on NATO. 

Kagan lashes out against some American intellectuals who "insist that a "Post-American" world need not look very different from the American world and that all we need to do is "manage" American decline." Instead, he says that if the world order shifts to other countries, the world will change for the worse. 

Kagan calls America the reason for "the widespread freedom, the unprecendented global prosperity, and the absence of war among great powers." He says the rise of China and Russia would usher in the demise of the free market, free trade economic order, and the decline of democracy.

"In a genuinely post-American world, the balance would shift toward the great power autocracies. Both China and Russia already protect dictators like Syria's Bashar al-Assad. If they gain greater relative influence in the future, we will see fewer democratic transitions and more autocrats hanging on to power.

What about the free market, free trade economic order? ... China's form of capitalism is heavily dominated by the state, with the ultimate goal being preservation of the ruling party... they could end up undermining [the international economic order] simply because, as an autocratic society, their priority is to preserve the state's control of wealth and the power it brings."

Kagan also makes the case that America as the lone superpower is better for global peace. He writes: 

"The era of American predominance has shown that there is no better recipe for great-power peace than certainty about who holds the upper hand. ... International order is not an evolution; it is an imposition. It is the domination of one vision over others -- in America's case, the domination of liberal free market principles of economics, democratic principles of politics, and a peaceful international system that supports these, over other visions that other nations and peoples may have. The present order will last only as long as those who favor it and benefit from it retain the will and capacity to defend it."

Weigh in: Do you agree with Kagan's conclusion that American power is key to maintaining world peace and economic stability? Will the decline of America result in more global crises?

Photo Credit: Miller_Center