Benevolent Hegemon

The Junta will convene this Wednesday, January 30th, at 8pm, at the DOC Wine Bar in Williamsburg, to discuss the idea of (American) patriotism today. All are welcome, as always. As a counterpoint to my recent essay, The American Patriot, a frequent Junta attendee, Graham, offers the following defense of American military power. Come out on Wednesday night and tell us what you think…

The topic of American military might is one that I have given much thought recently as I read “The Coming of the Third Reich” by Richard Evans. Based on this book and another I read last year on post-colonial Africa, my conclusion is that American military dominance is in the best interest of the world.

Consider the fundamental human desire for money and power in a world of scarcity. When harnessed in an orderly and regulated manner, this desire is the engine for functioning economies the world over. However, if order and regulation are not enforced by a single, dominant authority, this desire naturally drives humanity to destructive power struggles.

Take, for example, the parable of Lord of the Flies. Without adult supervision, a child’s urge for power will overwhelm conscience. This consequence is not limited to children. Organized crime, including street gangs, the mafia and drug cartels, follows the same rule. When a leader is abruptly displaced, the resulting power vacuum creates bloody battle.

Two events in the 20th century give us real world examples of how these forces can benefit or ruin societies. First, consider post-colonial Africa. In the vacuum created by the departure of European powers, many countries degenerated into tribal war. Governments that came to power often usurped the resources of an entire nation. Half a century later, brutal dictators remain in power after bankrupting their countrymen, stifling political opposition by any means necessary. While Bob Marley and others artfully advocated “liberation” of Zimbabwe and other countries, I wonder if citizens of those countries today would trade places with their counterparts of the colonial era.

In contrast to this cautionary tale, the story of developed nations since World War II offers a hopeful example. Europe before 1945 was a land of constant conflict. Unending land wars were the equilibrium state of pre-1945 Europe. This was a world without a consistently dominant “superpower” (to use the parlance of our times). As a result, whichever military power was temporarily most powerful would seek to expand the reach of its empire at the expense of its neighbors. The rise of a dominant American military was driven by the development of the atomic bomb and was demonstrated by the U.S.’s ability to end the second world war. The years since have been among the most peaceful times in history for developed nations. Compare the death toll from European wars since 1945 to that in the first half of the twentieth century.

In summary, the last 70 years have provided concrete evidence that a peaceful world requires an unquestionably dominant authority. The rest of the world, and the American left, frequently question the methods and prerogative of the American military. However, implicit in these attacks is the assumption of a false choice. Our choice is not between a peaceful world with a strong American military and a peaceful world without a strong American military. Our choice is in fact between a peaceful world with a strong American military and a world of war without. Given that choice, I would select American military dominance, and I would grant the military some leeway in its methods of maintaining that dominance.

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