ARROGANT EMPIRE?

Fareed Zakaria has a provocative piece by that title in Newsweek.

He echoes the notion expressed by Krauthammer and others that much of the diplomatic anti-war movement is really about containing American power:

In one respect, I believe that the Bush administration is right: this war will look better when it is over. The military campaign will probably be less difficult than many of Washington̢۪s opponents think. Most important, it will reveal the nature of Saddam̢۪s barbarous regime. Prisoners and political dissidents will tell stories of atrocities. Horrific documents will come to light. Weapons of mass destruction will be found. If done right, years from now people will remember above all that America helped rid Iraq of a totalitarian dictator.
But the administration is wrong if it believes that a successful war will make the world snap out of a deep and widening mistrust and resentment of American foreign policy. A war with Iraq, even if successful, might solve the Iraq problem. It doesn’t solve the America problem. What worries people around the world above all else is living in a world shaped and dominated by one country—the United States.

This is clearly the case. But most of American influence is by example rather than through raw application of power. Other states are being forced to adopt American-style business practices for reasons that Thomas Friedman describes in The Lexus and the Olive Tree (cheap and a must-read), not because the US is threatening to bomb or impose sanctions on those who fail to submit to our will.

Yet after 9-11, the rest of the world saw something quite different. They saw a country that was hit by terrorism, as some of them had been, but that was able to respond on a scale that was almost unimaginable. Suddenly terrorism was the world̢۪s chief priority, and every country had to reorient its foreign policy accordingly.

No doubt, at least rhetorically. Of course, they aren’t really doing much about it, are they? Pakistan, yes. France, no. So how powerful is the US in shaping the policies of other significant powers?

To to the critics of American power, I’d recommend this 1998 Foreign Policy piece by Robert Kagan, The Benevolent Empire.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.