The American military is the most powerful in the world. Indeed, we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined. As one might expect, that amount of military spending translates into a lot of influence around the world, far beyond the bases in Germany or the battlefields of Afghanistan. From leading NATO to acting as the last – and in reality the first – line of defense of nations such as Japan, South Korea, Kuwait and many others, the United States exercises more global power than any nation in history, even during times of peace.
What is unique about the United States however is the fact that as powerful as its military might is, that’s never been the sole source of American influence and indeed during most of the last century, the military was not even the most powerful element of that influence. Since the end of World War II, the two biggest drivers of American influence in the world have been economics and ideals.
The march of free markets around the world over the last 50 years has been largely been led by the United States. From a shining showcase of the prosperity free markets can achieve to the spread of specialization, the importation of products and the outsourcing of services, the economic power of the United States has inspired and lifted billions of people around the world out of poverty over the last half century.
At the same time, the ideals of American freedom and democracy have inspired the world for more than two centuries. From the American Revolution inspiring the French to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor inspiring a papier-mâché version in Tiananmen Square to the rainbow of revolutions over the last twenty years, American ideals, despite their sometimes failed execution both at home and abroad, have inspired (and influenced) patriots and freedom loving people around the world for decades on end.
American prosperity, when combined with the ideals of freedom and democracy have done more to lift the spirits and life spans of more people across the planet than any military of any size could ever hope to accomplish. The military certainly helps spread those ideals however, whether it be helping rescue the world from two World Wars or American ships and planes delivering billions of dollars of water and foodstuffs to disaster zones or famine ravaged nations.
At the end of the day American influence is largely the source of three things: The prosperity created by free markets, the ideals of freedom and democracy, and military strength. Sometimes those drivers work together while at other times they work independently of one another. They manifest themselves in small ways such as providing disaster relief to Haiti, the Philippines or countless places in between and big ways such as political and or military support for allies or a burgeoning democracy. At the same time that influence has created a tapestry of relationships around the world from strong allies to bitter enemies. In an almost perfect example the old adage you get what you give, to the degree that America succeeds in cultivating allies and friends in the world, the more prosperity we enjoy and the fewer times our military is called upon to engage in actual shooting.
In 2009 Obama sided with leftist Honduran President Manuel Zelaya as he sought to defy the Honduran Constitution and run for reelection. Eventually Zelaya was forced into exile and as a result of his continued agitation for violence in the streets, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous nations in the world.
That same year Obama bowed to Vladimir Putin and threw American allies under the bus as he abandoned plans for a missile defense shield in Poland. 2009 also brought Iran’s Green Movement. When Iranian students took to the streets seeking to overthrow the avowed American enemy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Barack Obama ignored pleas for a public display of support, moral or otherwise. In contrast, when protesters – including the Muslim Brotherhood – called for the ouster of one of America’s strongest allies in the region, Hosni Mubarak, Obama quickly called for Mubarak to resign. Not surprisingly, less than two years later Egypt was in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2011 President Obama helped unleash Hell when he sent American air forces to support the overthrow of an admittedly not nice guy, Muammar Gaddafi. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the chaos that was unleashed has turned Libya into an ungovernable mess where local private militias (some of whom are Al Qaeda) are far more powerful than the government itself. Indeed, according to the Cato Institute “Human rights conditions in post-intervention Libya... are considerably worse than in the decade preceding the war.” It was in the middle of this this ungovernable mess that an American Ambassador and three others were killed by Al Qaeda in 2012. 2011 was also the year he pulled the United States out of Iraq in the worst possible way, leaving the United States with virtually no influence in a country American troops had fighting and dying in for a decade.
undercut longtime ally Britain in their renewed dispute with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, unlike Ronald Reagan, who was a staunch supporter of the Brits during the Falkland War in 1982. His next step was to let Bashir Assad outwit him while simultaneously turning Vladimir Putin into a credible world leader. Obama accomplished this dual disaster as he blinked at actually doing anything about a chemical weapons red line he had offhandedly warned Assad not to cross. Next he betrayed staunch American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia when he proffered a nuclear agreement with Iran that John Bolton calls “Abject surrender by the United States”. Finally just last week, he essentially acquiesced to a Chinese power grab – and simultaneously undermined allies Japan and South Korea – as the US advised American airlines to comply with China’s demands for notification when they planned to fly over water and islands claimed by all three.
For five years we have seen that whatever the situation, Barack Obama consistently chooses decisions that will weaken American power and influence in the world. The history of an American superpower is not one that is without blemishes, but it has clearly been a force for good in the world. Can you imagine a 2013 where the dominant power for the previous century had been the Soviets or the Red Chinese or some incarnation of Al Qaeda? That ability to influence events and nations requires far more than just a powerful military. It requires a leader who recognizes that American influence has been a significant catalyst for the improvement of the condition of man around the world, and one who is willing to use that fact as his North Star when carrying out foreign policy. Barack Obama has consistently done just the opposite. From supporting leftists in Central America to betraying allies on practically every continent to fueling the replacement of imperfect dictators with whom we could work with Anti-American Islamists or even chaos, for five years he has chosen the path that leads to diminished American influence.
We’ve known from before the election that Barack Obama is no fan of the American Constitution or free markets. From his willingness to diminish America on the world stage at every turn it appears that it’s not just American institutions that Obama despises, but rather the idea of a strong America itself.