An American decline would undermine global security
Adversaries and allies alike should remember the unique role of the US in keeping the world safe and prosperous – and help out.
The great recession, mounting debt, military burdens, overconsumption. From New York to Beijing to Paris, there is talk, sometimes jubilant in tone, that the United States is on the decline. Some have even said that it's about time.Skip to next paragraph
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The truth is, if the US declines, who else could take on the tremendous world role? No one.
Rather than jeering, the rest of the world should consider just how much the US does, and step up support for it. The security of the world is at stake.
The US has played a critical role in the Persian Gulf since Britain withdrew in 1971. Without a regional protector, regional crises would cause oil prices to spike, creating economic shocks around the world. Indeed, the most serious oil shocks have come when US capability in the region was weak (consider the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the 1979 Iranian revolution, the 1980 eruption of the Iran-Iraq war).
Washington's role is also critical for Middle East peace. Israel is very strong, but a strain of its national psyche remains massively insecure. If Israel were to perceive American weakness, it would compensate by refusing to make serious concessions for peace.
In Asia, Washington helps preempt a dangerous arms race. Understandably, the US wants Japan to fund more of its own costly defense. A weakening America would likely cause Japan to increase defense spending well beyond its norm of 1 percent of gross domestic product. That could trigger a runaway Asian arms race that hurts world security.
The US also works hard to fight nuclear proliferation. The United Nations Security Council does not want a nuclear-armed Iran. Nor do most countries in the region. If the Iran nuclear standoff ends peacefully, it will be in part because Iran fears sustained US-led pressure. US credibility and strength are crucial here, as they are in containing North Korea.