The Corner

Unipolar Delusions

Over at the American Enterprise Institute, Dan Blumenthal offers an odd little essay called “Why It’s Still A Unipolar Era“:

The current fashion in foreign policy argumentation is to explain that America is in decline, particularly relative to Asia… The new declinists have a point—the raw numbers are impressive. But power is about much more than raw numbers. It is the most elusive concept in politics. It usually cannot be measured accurately until it is used.

The recent example of the West’s decision to use force against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is a case in point. The United States was supposed to be entering a new era of constraints, perhaps even decline, bound by a severe financial debt crisis and an unwillingness to properly fund our military forces . . .

After all the hand-wringing, President Obama understood two things: the world order Washington needs demands that Qaddafi be stopped, and only America could stop him… The United Kingdom and France admirably made a strong moral and strategic case for intervention, but could not act without U.S. leadership.

What about China and India, countries that the new declinists identify as the future guardians of world order? The best that could be said is they did not get in the way.

Etc.

I don’t think even hardcore Sinophiles argue that Beijing is interested in being “the future guardian of world order,” do they? In America Alone, I wrote that, in a post-American world, “the danger we face is not a Chinese superpower,” but “a world without order.” Neither Beijing nor Delhi want to be “guardians of world order,” in part because they think it’s a mug’s game. In 2009, America was responsible for 43 per cent of global military spending: The Pentagon has effectively assumed the defense costs of the entire planet. Britain and France are supposedly major players, too, with the third and fourth biggest military budgets in the world, but they’re apparently incapable of bombing into submission a third-rate dictator 20 minutes from St. Tropez without American muscle. If you define “power,” as Mr Rosenthal seems to do, as the willingness to absolve some of the wealthiest nations in history from responsibility for their own defense, then certainly Washington is extremely unipolar. If you think, as China does, that this is an outmoded and unsustainable Truman-era model of “superpower,” then all you have to do is sit back and watch America spend itself into unipolar oblivion.

Indeed, Beijing and Delhi seem to have calculated that they can cut themselves a piece of the Euro-action, too: Let America take care of “global order” while China and India get on with getting rich, just like the Germans and Belgians did. Iran? America’s problem. Libya? America’s problem. Yemen? Hey, who needs multiple choice answers in a unipolar world?

Consider this most insouciant of Mr. Blumenthal’s assertions:

The world order Washington needs demands that Qaddafi be stopped, and only America could stop him.

Or to put it another way: America picks up the tab for maintaining a global order that enables the rest of the planet to get rich selling stuff to Americans that Americans buy with borrowed money. Within a half-decade or so, American taxpayers will be spending more in interest payments on the U.S. debt than on the Pentagon. And the portion of those interest payments that goes to Beijing will cover the entire cost of the Chinese military. Meanwhile, the Commies use the dough to buy up every useful bit of Africa plus resource-rich parts of Canada, Jamaica, Australia, etc.

From the ChiComs’ point of view, if this is a unipolar world, what’s not to like? The question is: What does America get from it?

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

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