This was Norm’s idea and his wording, too. It’s a timely topic, certainly, but one that is easily hijacked by simple slogans. Let’s do better.
But, really, the scale of U.S. involvement in other nations is breathtaking. Twenty years after the Cold War’s end, we have over 700 military bases in some 50 countries. Defense spending has doubled since 1998, and is now greater than at the peak of the Cold War or the height of Vietnam. We account for almost one-half of global military spending. Our diplomatic reach is as great.
Why? Of course, we’re the only superpower in a globalized world, and our interests extend virtually everywhere. Still, Norm’s question is useful as a question about strategy. What is our role in the world? How should we be protecting our many interests? Whose interests are being protected? What is our responsibity ot other nations and to the global system we helped to build? Etc.
In a 10-minute opening, I’ll give a few details of our military and economic and diplomatic reach, and then list the most widely cited explanations for our continued global dominance (e.g., a natural function of our size, economic interests, Cold War legacy, ideology, etc.). Then, open it up.
LINKS: [Hard to find something directly on-point to topic wording]
- See here for a discussion of the size and scope of our military spending and how it compares to past eras and to other countries.
- A decent short explanation of our changing security needs in the new century.
- Obama’s new National Security Strategy focuses on managing threats within our means.
- Overview of, to me, a sensible strategy for reforming defense spending.