Times are different now than during the Cold War or the perilous times which preceded it. So different in fact that the next few decades will offer mankind golden opportunities. Since recorded history, never have the conditions been so perfect, the best chance ever to improve the lot of civilization as a whole.
While there isn’t really a precedent for this, unique opportunities can avail themselves when effectively there is only one superpower and that hasn’t happened often… and, except for Rome, that scenario is usually short-lived.
Looking back we can recall nothing but an endless parade of countries intent on conquering their neighbors. If it wasn’t Genghis khan or Alexander the Great, it was England and France vying for position, the threat of the Spanish armada, or contenders like Japan, Germany and the USSR. Today however, it could be different… now that America has achieved its status as being the only superpower.
Importantly for the world, America’s expansionist policies have been retired and since it seems they will remain retired, that’s a positive circumstance. More likely other sovereignties will be respected now. As it has been for ages, with more than one superpower it was always a matter of contention, sabotage and a race to coerce and recruit allies by whatever means for advantage. Wars were made almost inevitable and it’s a miracle the Cold War didn’t spark World War III. Even between ‘regular’ wars, the gloves were usually off, underhandedness ruled and nothing was thought too wicked. And throughout history it has almost always been the case…so being the legacy of mankind to date.
The last truly undeniable superpower was Rome and although the Romans reigned supreme for 400-500 years, diplomacy wasn’t exactly their forte. They may have demonstrated neutrality at times but generally were bent on staying the only superpower, quick to put down potential challenges within their reach. In varying degrees, this was the cornerstone of policy for almost every country since. Even third-rate countries would intimidate fourth-rate countries.
If there were other times of a single superpower, perhaps England in the eighteenth century, it was only for a decade or two and tenuous at best… with France and Spain in hot pursuit. As contenders found each other, the dastardly deeds would commence.
Guidance for a superpower
For the past 15 years America has been considered the only superpower but matching Rome in longevity seems unlikely. As far as longevity and its grip on power, Rome may never be matched. However to emulate Rome is not a worthy goal… instead America has a chance to leave a better and more fantastic legacy. Just how long America will remain the only superpower is unknown but is well-positioned to be one for quite awhile.
These days aren’t like Roman times though; developments happen faster. The world is also more dangerous and competitive. America’s reign would also depend on what is squandered… and America’s rapidly growing trade-deficit equates to squandering.
In the meantime, America has a unique opportunity to be the first superpower to advance the cause of humanitarianism. Rome didn’t do it and except for the Magna Carta, rarely did England. Yet for them their location dictated policy… potential threats were often next door; it wasn’t wise to be overly accommodating. As for America, ballistic missiles canceled the protection two oceans once provided so America’s situation is therefore now similar.
With the status of a superpower but with equal vulnerability now… will this force America to maintain order in the Roman tradition? Can America afford to be less vigilant now than before? How lenient and accommodating can a superpower be? It’s uncertain where America can turn for guidance… Julius Caesar surely wouldn’t offer very good advice. Anyway he’s dead and so is Pompey and Crassus.
As America tries to express what she believes should be expectant of a superpower, the Persian Gulf offers clues. And, it’s good news. What America is effectively doing in the Persian Gulf is to thwart plans for an Islamic world of a Inquisitionist nature which would doom mankind forever. It’s certainly noble and something a superpower should do whether responsibilities come with the title or not.
For that reason America can’t relax just yet; 12th century religious madness is still around in the Middle East and must be contained. However, we can’t be too critical of the intrusive activities of, say, Saudi Arabia’s “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”, as long as we still have ‘blue laws’ enforced by vice squads.
In that loony (loonier) land of fanaticism, everyone in the world knew Saddam was a potential threat and so did America, enough so to invade Iraq. There had to be a good reason one should conclude, after all, we didn’t invade Norway, Brazil or the Philippines instead. We didn’t because no reason existed. While not all would agree America had good enough reasons to invade Iraq, or the legal right, everyone knew there were reasons nonetheless. Whether or not these reasons were justifiable is a judgment call. In the meantime we’re not thinking about invading Peru, India or Switzerland.
As time passes, when such threats to civilization and freedom are abated, it should be a time for America to relax. It should be a time when all countries are allowed to live in peace without being intimidated by a superpower. The question remains, will America relax after these threats have been eliminated? Or will they ever be? Will America be able to set a good example for a superpower or will she yield to the temptation to try ruling the world like Rome and England?
Yet if given the chance, wouldn’t Russia, France or China try? Wouldn’t any country try if it could, even Tibet, Chad or Uruguay? So it’s not about America, it’s about human nature isn’t it?
A heavy hand first and then compassion?
Let’s consider a few more things which might provide clues as for what to expect.
While it’s probably accurate to say that George W. Bush is hawkish, that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong. We all know sometimes a heavy hand is necessary. It’s too bad however that he doesn’t know when a heavy hand isn’t necessary, like how he’s dealing with those countries who believe in the spirit of justice. He has been cutting-off US military aid to any country not willing to give Americans immunity from war crime charges that potentially could be filed with the new International Criminal Court (ICC). He has caused more damage to America’s reputation than all past presidents combined, not to mention making a wreck of the federal budget.
Yet he did one great thing, he eliminated Saddam’s regime. He may have that dogged determination necessary to make the world a safer place but he’s going about it without any diplomatic skills at all it seems, not like an American president should have… and he is often crass and horribly inarticulate. At any rate, whatever good a bull-in-a-china-shop can do, we found out; Bush made the world a safer place and an accomplishment few can claim.
You have to admire him for another thing too, during his first term in office he was willing to risk his political future for the security of the world. Recent events are also proving George right about the ICC and frivolous war crime charges. In the weeks following the formation of the ICC, war-crime charges (aggression) were filed against Tony Blair by the Athens Bar Association followed by the Istanbul Bar Association. These charges were indeed ‘frivolous’ because what constitutes ‘aggression’ hasn’t yet been legally defined… seeDefinition of Aggression (external website).
Bush isn’t being charged because he saw it coming and withdrew America from being a party to the ICC. England, on the other hand, is a party, placing Tony Blair potentially under the jurisdiction of the ICC. George may be tactless but he isn’t stupid… but it’s not to suggest that Tony is, it seems he just put more faith in the process. At any rate, however badly George manages things, his heart seems to be in the right place… at least for how America should conduct itself as a superpower. However, all other matters and issues concerning George W. Bush are different topics.
Yet the jury is still out. How things develop in Iraq will reveal if Bush & Blair have an agenda other than ridding the world of an evil dictator. How long our troops remain and when we leave the future of Iraq to Iraqis is the question. Yet it may involve more, Iraq may end up being just round one. The nuclear threat other third-world countries pose is another matter Bush won’t take lightly. As one crisis seems to follow another, hopefully American leaders can remain focused on the bigger picture and realize that America has a golden opportunity, a rare chance to advance civilization. Yet, it’s always first things first isn’t it?
Like any country, America has many faces behind which are different forces. As that may apply to Iraq, could it be that America’s better angel prevailed? That its benevolent side saw eliminating Saddam was necessary to advance civilization? Hopefully that’s the case because if advancements in humanitarianism don’t happen during this particular era of one superpower and a democratic one at that, it could be several centuries before a chance like this exists again.
If George and/or his predecessors miss this golden opportunity then nothing would change, the world would continue to be locked into an endless cycle of wars, deprivation and religious insanity. But how can a superpower gracefully apply its power for the good of mankind? There are many unanswered questions, like how, without cutting one’s own throat, can compassion in trade issues be applied? In other international disputes?
Even though America has its own problems, that is, factions fighting for which face America should have, still, as to being the new superpower, it seems there’s a certain amount of understanding the world should have as to America’s dilemma.
Resource Box: © A.O. Kime (2003)
A.O. Kime is the author of two books plus 70+ articles on ancient history,
spiritual phenomena, political issues, social issues and agriculture which
can be seen at http://www.matrixbookstore.biz