The words make us cringe: American imperialism. We are told, and many rightfully believe, that indefinite foreign military presence is evil. But much of America’s military presence in foreign countries is for strategic policing purposes, not economic reasons as so many assert.
One such example is the nearly 45,000 troops stationed to keep North Korea, from invading the young democracy of South Korea. Undoubtedly, the number one priority of the United States is to benefit itself; such is a rule without exception for all governments. The international community is safer because of a U.S. military presence, and without any other option for international security, the United States needs to continue its role.
It is important to realize how much more powerful the U.S. military is than any other country. According to The New York Times, the U.S. military budget will total $419.3 billion. That should be astounding, considering that, according to GlobalSecurity.org, the total military expenditures for every country in the world combined is only $500 billion.
With that power, the United States is developing a remarkable permanence throughout the world. According to the Washington Headquarters Service, the United States is present in 135 countries, or about 70 percent of the world’s nations.
There is no clearer example of America’s worldwide influence than its Unified Command. The Pentagon separates the world into five “areas of responsibility.” Each area has a command center along with assigned troops, in hopes of offering the quickest reaction time for any international occurrence. No other state has such an expansive system, so the Unites States is already playing the role of international peacekeeper.
Common thought is that an international group is the most democratic way to police the world. Perhaps it is the fairest way, but it’s not the best. With several separate and independent states given responsibilities that could cost the lives of soldiers, countries will always try to minimize their losses. Inevitably, states do as little as they can, creating a weakened, unimpassioned force.
For an example, look no further than the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The international community was aware of the outbreak of violence between the rivaling Tutsis and Hutus, which resulted in a significant U.N. presence. As tensions rose, all participating U.N. nations began withdrawing troops. After 10 soldiers died, there was a complete withdrawal. The result was 800,000 Rwandans dead in 100 days, a pace that outdid the Holocaust.
Multilateralism has proven ineffective. Individual countries are not willing to sacrifice citizens, and so the group dynamic does not work on an international scale.
Multilateralism requires a level of teamwork that international leaders have never been able to accomplish, so a single force is outstandingly stable. As Dartmouth professor William Wohlforth wrote, “unipolarity” is the steadiest and most secure international dynamic.
If the United States stops policing the world, who will? The European Union has garnered attention for successfully uniting more powerful nations in a credible coalition than ever before, but participating EU states are still individual countries that would falter under the same pressures that other multilateral political groups have. We may be told the world hates the permanence of American foreign presence, but it is absolutely necessary because there is no other group, country, or coalition that can do it.
Theoretically, the best solution would be to create an exclusively U.N. military force for international intervention. Unfortunately, such an idea is all but impossible; too many parties would need to be involved.
Without question the Unites States has made an endless list of well-publicized mistakes and seemingly heartless maneuvers. But hegemony allows for swift and united decisions that create stability that is otherwise impossible.
International opinion seems to be against U.S. foreign policy, but these voices have not thought about the dangers that would rise if changes were to occur. Multilateral forces have proven historically unable to create a unified force, as all parties act in their best interest. The stability of a global U.S. police force is essential. It is scary to realize how uncontested American military force is, but it is even scarier to imagine the world without it.
Christopher George Wink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.