The internatianal value of the US military

In a recent article by Orson Scott Card (I know… I’m obsessed), he talks about how our civilization can fall. Not just the United States, but the international economy and in turn, society as we know it. He makes some interesting points concerning the value of the US military.

In the aftermath of WWII, once again America was the economic cushion — only this time the portion of Germany under western occupation was included in the economic recovery, as was Japan.

The result, over the past sixty years, has been a pax Americana covering much of the world. And the world has prospered fantastically wherever the American military sustained it.

Let me say that again: As with Rome, the American military has been the wall behind which a system of safe trade has allowed an extraordinary degree of specialization and therefore mutually sustained prosperity.

America has not been imperial — we have not been stripping other countries. On the contrary, those nations that were able to sustain the internal peace necessary for production, and that have joined the economy presided over by America, have all been able to join in the prosperity as equals.

We don’t tax them — quite the opposite. We have taxed ourselves to pay for the military protection that maintained the safety and perception of safety that allowed the European community and Japan to flourish. Their welfare economies are only possible because they did not have to pay for their own defense at anything like the levels we have paid.

People talk about America’s enormous defense budget as if it were a menace to the world. But our enormous defense budget has allowed Japan and Europe — and Taiwan and South Korea — to thrive without having to invest much of their gross domestic product in defense.

So is this an accurate assessment?  Can we (as Americans) claim to actually be the police of the world and the catalyst to the global economy?

I know our military does a lot for countries which have a US military presence, but claiming to have such a large impact on all those countries economies is quite bold.  That being said, all his points seem valid to me.  Can someone provide evidence otherwise?

By the way, I’m sure this is an article to bring more attention to his new book, “Empire”, as it about a near future American Civil War (review still to come).

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7 Responses

  1. Mike W. says:

    Reluctant (joyfully quoting Card) says:

    “America has not been imperial — we have not been stripping other countries. On the contrary, those nations that were able to sustain the internal peace necessary for production, and that have joined the economy presided over by America, have all been able to join in the prosperity as equals.”

    This is true in a literal sense, we haven’t been stripping other countries. However, if you look at our military interventions in Latin America specifically and in Southeast Asia additionally, you will see interventions that were intentionally done in order to give the US access to the resources in those countries and to guarantee access of our businesses to their markets. Did we strip Chile of their copper? No, but the CIA assisted in the military coup that overthrew a freely elected president so that he wouldn’t shut off our access to their copper. Our military was then sent to train Chilean military officials. Pinochet’s regime was brutally oppressive to those who disagreed with their economic and authoritarian tactics.

    Card’s pax americana isn’t much different from the pax romana in which Rome in terms of economic pressures. The pax americana has brought increased prosperity to those countries who were willing to play by the US rules, but created increasing poverty in those countries subjected to our oppressive economic influence because they weren’t (see Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador).
    Chile and Costa Rica (who abided by the US rules of trade) are more prosperous because the US allowed them to be due to their compliance with US demands for access to markets and resources.

    On the other negative hand, at least the Pax Romana brought culture and learning to the world. The Pax Americana (as Card likes to call it) has spread a culture of inaneness throughout the world. Television is now everywhere; movies portraying brutal violence and gratuitous sex abound in other countries. I admire Card’s positive spin on things, but I believe he is very wrong.

    You can find this information anywhere, but I would start with just reading Wikipedia articles about the histories of these countries (and the Spanish American War in the Philipines).

  2. Mike W. says:

    I went and read the article. Great overview of the history of the fall of Rome. And I agree with alot af what he said. I still vociferously stand by my previous comment. However, I also very much agree that a withdrawal from Iraq (and as he says from the War on Terror) would be disasterous. By 2050 much of Europe will be majority Muslim, for the reasons he states. The problem is, this “War” cannot be won militarily. If we continue to try to win it with guns and bombs, we will loose the war, the world will loose everything.

    Iraq is a mess. The only way to stabilize the situation is to legitimize Muqtada al-Sadr and together with al-Sistani, make sure that they are including WITHIN the government. As long as they continue to operate outside the government, there is no check on them and the Shiite militias will continue to run rampant. The Sunnis need to be included in the government, otherwise they will continue to kill groups of Shi’a. Specifically how to do this right is the challange. Those who understand constitutional forms must play a role, or the government will either implode or the people will be subject to a military dicator (which may not be a bad option for the US interests…we’ve encouraged it and done it and tolerated it before).

    Regarding the solution for world-wide Islam…this is my solution. I too am very disappointed in the so-called moderate Muslims who will not stand up in any real sense to the Islamists (those who want to overthrow the world with Islam using whatever means necessary). However, the main stated reason that portions of Islam are so violently radical is that Western (read Roman) civilization is destroying families. So, if the US and the West want to win the war on terror, the way to do so may be to demostrate a devotion to the institution of family. Islam is a very tribal, very family-oriented, religion. Instead of exporting our culture of violence and sex we chose to support the fundamental unit of society throughout the world, I think that way (and only in that way) can we win the hearts and minds of the people and win the war.

    Sorry about the long comment.

  3. Dave W. says:

    Mike, I agree about the family focus to win the hearts of Muslims, but we can’t export what we don’t have. How is the U.S., with 1/3 of births being to unwed mothers, supposed to export family values to the world? our focus needs to be inward (as I alluded to long ago with a reference to Gidgiddoni’s wisdom against the Gadianton robbers). I know you’re not overlooking this, I just think we need to focus on ourselves and everyone within our circle of influence and try to make it spread.

  4. Mike W. says:

    Dave,

    The U.S. (unlike Europe) is still having children and seems to value family sooooo much more than Europe. One great thing (among many others) about the Latin American influx into the U.S. is that it just may save the American family. Go to any park on a Saturday afternoon in Phoenix, Tucson, LA, Vegas and who do you see there? Latino families celebrating time together. How often do you see Caucasian families taking that time on a regular basis? This is one reason that I think there is hope for the American family. Sure we could be much better (and must be) but I am still hopeful that America has things to offer the world (from a values standpoint). Are we closed-minded and narrow? Yes, but still there is a powerful belief in God among a vast majority of Americans (again, unlike Europe). This will only increase with the Latin American influx also. If Anglo-Americans aren’t willing to accept the influx and repent and embrace faith and family, I think that the Latin influx will be as “a lion, yea, a young lion, which when it enters teareth to pieces,” as Christ prophesied in 3 Nephi about the descendents of the Lamanites.

  5. Dave W. says:

    Mike,

    I agree with your comparison to Europe and your appreciation for the family values of Latinos, but I think that Muslims are more like the Latinos in this regard than are the Americans. I think we could learn a thing or two from Muslims about respecint your elders, family unity, etc.

    I think the great, great majority of Muslims are just like you an I; trying to be good people (according to their beliefs) and provide temporally for themselves. What separates the extremists from the majority is not a difference in the way they view the family, but in a way they veiw 1) the West, and 2) their own religion.

    In thinking about how mainstream devout Muslims can influence extremist, divergent Muslims, maybe we can think of how we mainstream devout Mormons could influence extremist, divergent Mormons. We can’t (much less a non-Mormon) preach to them about plural marriage, etc., and it’s impossible to argue doctrine. Likewise, mainstream Muslims won’t get far preaching to their extremist brothers about why the West’s vulgarity and arrogance is OK. We need to find out 1) what’s making them susceptible to “mass movements”, and 2) what reward (usually intrinsic) they get from being a part of the movement. Not until we figure out these can we begin to formulate a countermeasure. I don’t know the answers to the two questions, but I hope there are hundreds of analysts, etc. working on it around the world. Otherwise, we’re in for generation after generation of West-hating extremist Islamists.

  6. Mike W. says:

    Dave,

    I’m not saying that the moderate Muslims should go about proselyting to their extremist brethren. What I hope for is for large numbers of moderate Muslims to publicly decry the violence and the hatred and the extremism. I think that if there were violent and ruthless Mormon extremists, most would publicly condemn the actions. The Brethren already do condemn the bigotry and racism and closed-culturedness of those who promote such feelings within the church and community.

    I agree that we can learn much from Muslims regarding the family. That is partly my point. Only when the West (and it’s not going to be Europe) will support the family (at home) will Muslims see that we have more in common that in difference.

    I also agree with the need to understand what motivates the extremists. I haven’t read The True Believe yet, but I guess that would be a good place to start. I think that fundamentally the motivation is religious intolerance based on economic disparity and lack of freedom of soul.

  7. Reluctant says:

    Extremely good point Mike:

    What I hope for is for large numbers of moderate Muslims to publicly decry the violence and the hatred and the extremism. I think that if there were violent and ruthless Mormon extremists, most would publicly condemn the actions.

    If the mainstream Muslims would loudly condemn the actions of the extremist, there would be fewer new recruits to the extreme. If a young Muslim sees only one side of the debate in the public media, they are going to start agreeing with it.

    Society often finds “truth” in the loudest philosophy of the time.

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