View Full Version : The Future of U.S. Power

Bill Moore
12-24-2014, 04:24 PM

If the link does not default to the right video, choose the Davos 2014 The Future of U.S. Power video. Recommend starting the video at the 8 minute point. It is a BBC forum about how the U.S. is perceived globally and the future of its power. Is America losing it? The link below is an article about the forum.

(Added) Link is:http://www.weforum.org/sessions/summary/bbc-world-debate-future-us-power and there is a written summary.


The Future of American Power

The world wants the protection of American hegemony without American hegemony.

The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland at the end of January. These meetings are often criticized as hotbeds of anti-American effete elites and this one did not disappoint.

One panel which did not receive much press outside of Davos was one entitled, “The Future of U.S. Power.” The major American player on the panel was Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. He was joined by Aleksei K. Pushkov, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the lower house of the Russian Parliament, former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who now heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia.The following comment is at the heart of the argument, it is about American Exceptionalism, and it is a point that Bacevich would refute vigorously.

America has a global mission because of, not in spite of, its “exceptionalism.” It is a burden and blessing that Americans have borne for centuries, but it is this very duty that defines America as a people, a culture and a civilization. The future of U.S. power will be determined by the promotion or rejection of this calling. It will not be determined by Davos globalization acolytes, Soviet-era philosophy or the fear of American exceptionalism.http://www.amazon.com/The-Limits-Power-American-Exceptionalism/dp/0805090169

Bill Moore
12-24-2014, 04:30 PM
The hope of the above post is start a discussion on American Power, it certainly does not need to be constrained by forum on the topic. It is important topic, in some respects the concept of power is changing, and it is undeniable that U.S. power is decreasing relative to other powers, but it is still a superpower. How should we should that power? Are we an anachronistic nation when it comes to the way we wield power?

12-24-2014, 07:42 PM

I am still listening to the debate @ Davos, it is not a good advert for the skills of the participants on the global choices for the USA, nor the US trying to be a superpower. There is a heavy emphasis on the Middle East; maybe reflecting it was in January 2014.

For a long time after 1945 the USA's primary national security interests were often pursued alongside willing partners, who shared those interests, partly in fear of their adversaries and so allocated resources to 'hard' power. Where was this? Western Europe and North-East Asia notably. South-East Asia for many years.

Large parts of the world were rarely of primary US interest and activity. Quite often partners from elsewhere were more active, pursuing their own agenda, only parts of which the USA paid attention to. Africa comes to mind. US national security very rarely appeared to be an issue.

As the 'Cold War' ebbed away (it maybe returning today) the USA chose to engage and disengage in far more places. Sometimes this was due to primary national security interests, often it appears to have been caused by the GWOT and the theme that terrorists everywhere could one day attack the USA.

Using 'hard power' (mainly military) in the future - for the USA - is currently restricted by war weariness after two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Plus a realization that many old partners are not ethusiastic to be a partner tomorrow. I concede the politicians may, the electorate are very wary if not opposed.

The USA in my opinion has great 'soft power' which it appears unable to use, partly due to a doemstic market focus and doubts beyond that it is 'good' for both sides.

The USA with a global mission, maybe.

Exceptionalism not so sure in part as change is transforming everyone.

Bill Moore
12-24-2014, 09:29 PM
Revisiting this post to clean it up and hit upon a couple of points.

The forum was too narrowly focused on the Middle East and biased against the U.S. Although criticism of our policies in the Middle East are not beyond severe criticism. During the forum, Sen McCain made great points on how our failure to honor our red line regarding WMD use by Assad in Syria had repercussions around the world. Allies, partners, and adversaries questioned our resolve to lead. The Russian comments about the U.S. being the only remaining evangelistic nation that tries to impose its ideas on other countries also rings uncomfortably true. Can be Americans, meaning citizens who embrace the ideas of our founding documents and not be democracy and free market evangelists? I think that is a serious question for us, and one that will certainly come up during the next Presidential election. It will be presented in the same bipolar way that the arguments about being strong against communism were, and strong against terrorism were (and remain). Failure to conform could result in loss of party support. Yet, as Americans (obviously directed at U.S. citizens) we need to ask ourselves is that really who we should be as a nation. Sen. McCain said we have a responsibility to spread our ideas globally, so he clearly is in the interventionist camp.

The topic of American Power is important not just to America, but to the world, since our actions impact the security and economies of many citizens well beyond our borders. U.S. has issued strategic guidance to sustain U.S. global leadership. What does that mean? Is it even possible in an increasingly multipolar world? Are we willing to employ hard power in a manner that it will be effective? More to the point, if we can't sustain a dominant leadership position globally what does that portend for the world order? Will actors hostile to human rights occupy the space we abandon?

How is our power impacted by the advent of hyper-interdependence and hyper-connectedness in this phase of globalization? How is our power impacted by the advent of the emergence of market states as a new norm (market interests trump all other interests)? Can we effectively use hard power to shape the world when we allow international and domestic opinion (or more often than not, media opinion) to constrain our application of force?

Soft power is more myth than reality. Power is the ability to get people to act the way we want them to act, so if they're attracted to our ideas and values it works. If they're not, then we reached the limit of soft power, and if the desired behavior we desire is in our national interest we will have to resort to hard power to achieve it. Not watered down hard power where we gradually escalate the use of force and economic sanctions, but sufficient power to compel an adversary to bend to our will. I wish war as a political necessity ceased to exist, but simply trying to wish it away does not change the reality of the world we live in. As America's relative power continues to decline it will force strategic decisions for other leaders beyond our own borders.

We are living the curse, "may you live in interesting times."

12-25-2014, 09:22 AM

If the link does not default to the right video, choose the Davos 2014 The Future of U.S. Power video. Recommend starting the video at the 8 minute point. It is a BBC forum about how the U.S. is perceived globally and the future of its power. Is America losing it? The link below is an article about the forum.

(Added) Link is:http://www.weforum.org/sessions/summary/bbc-world-debate-future-us-power and there is a written summary.


The Future of American Power

The world wants the protection of American hegemony without American hegemony.

The following comment is at the heart of the argument, it is about American Exceptionalism, and it is a point that Bacevich would refute vigorously.


Bill--you seem to always find critical points--this is really interesting as it also goes to the heart of Putin and his inner circle--his former circle was what one would call "liberal by Russian standards" and globalists from an economic perspective-meaning they foresaw the deep need to modernize Russia's economy and increase the well being of the Russian population ie all Russians in all regions of the RF.

If one takes the total oil/gas earnings since say even 1998 until 2014 and if they had been invested into rebuilding the economy and industrial base Russia today would be an European economic powerhouse capable of "influencing Europe" without the use of force and fear---ie the "superpower status" Putin strives for.

That "liberal" inner circle has been slowing swapped out since Georgia in 2008 and now they are ultra nationalists ie "fasicists" surrounding him and he tends to agree with them simply from his KGB past. I would go so far to state the current inner circle around Putin is either active members of the FSB or past officers of the KGB and all legal changes in the last eight months have centered power in one hand--Putin's. we often overlook the statement---a country can become a fascist state via democracy.

At the heart of Putin's three core strategic end states he wants to achieve that I have written over and over about is the deep fear of US "values"---regardless of how one wants to define them.

Robert would again repeat the mantra "rule of law and good governance".

Putin's hates these "values" simply because if you look at the total collapse of the Soviet Union---yes it was driven by economics and poor governance but at it's heart it "lost the battle of values".

Believe me when I say Putin "got the message".

We the US all sit back and claim Reagan drove them into the ground economically with his arms race---but it was the internal true contradiction's of Communism coupled with the massive Soviet style corruption built on a system of lying from the bottom to the top and back down that "killed" the Soviet Union and discredited Communism forever as an ideology.

So in some ways Putin is trying to "restore" Communism without calling it "Communism".

But in the end he is refighting the battle of "values" ---as an example look how he distains the West's drive for equality even in the question of homosexuality, women's rights in work and education, free and fair elections--he distains what we have for elections and their crazy processes and the list goes on forever.

The fear of the "Maidan" springing over to Moscow is his greatest fear---the fear of a population awakening and demanding changes for themselves not for the oligarchs---that is his fear and he is doing his best by beating up on the Ukraine to discredit the "Maidan".

The constant global press coverage of the current Ukrainian Rada decisions with large crowds outside demanding more money for education, social projects for the poor, more energy saving projects, creation of new industrial jobs of the 21st century ie IT, and down to the demands that local police should be well trained, polite and not corrupt---- is what he fears most---again it is all about "values" regardless of how defined.

His fear is interesting in that it does if one listens to the average Russian Joe Vodka on the street they voice the same things privately and under their breath.

So again Robert is totally correct it is all about "the rule of law and good governance" as and this is the main point as determined by the population themselves.

My complaint is that the US civilian leadership has now decided that "soft power" is the way forward and some how is side stepping the historical past that dictates that sometimes just sometimes "force" is needed to parallel "soft power"---in some ways "soft power" as a principle is valid but the hidden stick of "hard power" must always be present as a "perception".

AND this current government cannot seem to get that---it is all about perception which goes to the comment in your article---the world wants American hegemony without "apparent" hegemony---that goes to my concept of "perceptions being created and maintained".

Example--had Obama after issuing his "red line in the sand" on Syrian chemical weapons actually released the air force for the strikes however limited---the entire ME and the rest of the world would have maybe "complained" a bit but in the dark shadows they would have respected the decision and the fact that the threat was in fact carried out and for a "humanitarian reason---protection of the civilian populations of the ME"--they would respected the decision and understood in the future if the US stated they would defend a "global value" --the perception would be "they are serious about defending that stated value".

BUT-- what does the ME see today---the US air strikes on IS while ten kms to the left of those air strikes the Assad is dropping barrel bombs on their own civilians killing even more children and women and those photos and videos come out at the same time CENTCOM releases their bombing reports---does that make sense to the global population? What is then the perception of the US---we do not really care.

BUT--we talk a great game on the Ukraine and what does the world see---an Ukrainian Army struggling to rebuild itself initially overrun with large numbers of tanks asking for anti-tank weapons ie defensive weapons and stating we will fight ourselves and want no outside troop support and we say no---but on countless islamist battlefield videos coming daily out of the ME--we seem to be supplying tens of TOWS does that make sense in the world of "perceptions"?

By the way it is easy to do if the civilian leadership truly "sees and understands" the various problems but we are way to busy fighting our own demons of 9/11 to "see" that. IE did one see an intense internal debate on the simple fact---we knew the 9/11 attacks where coming BUT did we simply ignore them or did we want them to occur?---that debate has never been carried out in front of the American population in an open, unrestricted and unclassified fashion--yes we had eventually a "Commission" but did we get the answers---never.

Would it be politically hard to reach out to the IS--a massive yes---but they are here to stay and are not leaving the ME anytime soon, how do we reengage with the Egyptian population that so looked up to the US and then was run over by the Egyptian Army--the very Army that we claimed our military had such a great relationship with, how do we support a struggling Ukraine militarily to show their population we truly respect their decisions on "the rule of law and good governance"---how do we engage back into Africa that we to a degree destroyed during the days of the "Wars of National Liberation"-how do we actively support the slowing down of corruption there, or how do we slow down the human smuggling there as well--in our condemning of the use of barrel bombs on Syrian civilians mainly women and children do we do something about it or ignore it as we are now doing, do we truly stop the use of starvation as a weapon by the Syrians or just stand by and the list goes on and on and on.

That is what the world wants to see-- nothing more nothing less---meaning are we defending "our values" or just as we usually do lately---utter just "words".

Again it is all about perception and we are with this current civilian leadership failing and or have actually already failed--and this is what Putin has picked up on and is fully exploiting.

12-25-2014, 11:45 AM
Bill---to continue--here is a great example of what happens when "perception" is in play.

Initially when the oil prices starting sinking the KSA remained quiet---and actually several months ago Putin had an unusual comment when he visited the KSA that got virtually no media comments but puzzled me as it did not fit the ongoing events--he hoped the oil price issue between him and the KSA would not become an "issue".

Remember the KSA has been pushing the US on the Iranian hegemon issues (nuclear weapons) as well as pushing the Russians on their weapon deliveries to Assad ie S300s and their general support with military advisors ie GRU.

Responses from the US to KSA were minimal at best and the Russians and Iranians just kept going.

Then as the oil price fall picked up steam-KSA came out of their cover and fully placed their influencing power behind maintaining the price fall even down to the range of 20 per barrel---basically declaring an "oil war" against Iran and Russia both badly dependent on oil money flows in the ranges of 100-115 per barrel.

So a "perception" which was floating out there then hardened to actual facts and now every one knows the "game"---with the Iranian IRGC in fact "threatening war against the KSA for their oil war on other Muslims" and Russia "accusing the KSA of a political plot ie with the US".

But if we look at the reality on the ground backing up that "perception"---we see an impact being made on say Russia---something that the US has been unable to achieve with their version of "soft power".

This mix between "soft power" meaning attempting to get attention to the complaints of the KSA against Iran and Russia and being ignored to then making the decision to use "hard power" (in this case oil price) to reinforce the "soft power" messaging is something seem to not be able to do or we do not want to do as it actually forces a country to be ready to apply "hard power" something this administration does not kike to do as it would force they to make critical longer term decisions that might not support that historical review of their administration years later that all US presidents since say Reagan attempt to influence.

KSA has achieved more with Russia than Obama has---KSA definitely got Putin's attention---the sanctions are not causing the current Russian rubel crash-they contributed to it but did not cause the crash--it was the price of oil.

After oil price dropped to 60$ Kremlin is not interested anymore in Federalization of Ukraine

Lavrov says Moscow not insisting on "federalization" term for Ukraine, but wants sides