“Living next door to the United States,” former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once remarked, “is like sleeping with an elephant. You are affected by every twitch and grunt.” Mr. Trudeau was right, except for the fact that you don’t have to be America’s neighbor to feel the strength of the United States.
The United States of America is the most powerful force this world has ever known. No one state or empire has ever held more influence or had more effect on the shape of global affairs than has America. Our influence is worldwide.
Yet, many deem our presence in the world a mixed blessing. Quick to scorn U.S. policies if they are unpopular and speedy in demanding for American assistance, the resources and the influence of the United States are called on from all corners of the globe. It is small wonder why the American government and media do not inform the public of all the many foreign policy details that our country undertakes on a daily basis. And why the American public remains insular and isolationist en masse.
France, one of our closest allies, has long been the chief advocate for seeking to downplay the role of the “hyper-power.” It started with American-installed French President Charles deGaulle who pointed to the arms race in the 1960s between the Soviet Union and the United States as a danger to the world and that Western and Eastern countries should join together in fighting the superpowers’ influences. His remarks, while appreciated by his audiences in the Soviet Bloc, were not acted upon.
Today, the case remains roughly the same. Europe, the far second most influential region of the world, wishes to see a multilateral world order. However, realists in the United States would insist that that is not what they really want. Realists say a multi-lateral world order was the world of the 1940s where there were fascist, communist, and democratic states all wielding equivalent power, competing for dominance with devastating consequences. With one superpower, the boundary lines are clear, and the world order remains more or less stable.
My uncle over in Great Britain has a Victorian map in his house that shows all the territories of the British Empire during Britain’s height of power. At the top it reads: “The British Empire, never has the world known an empire so mighty.” Today, for better, for worse, and at the expense of multilateralism, America holds the title.
Gunnar Heinrich is a visiting 3rd year Politics & International Relations major from the University of Aberdeen, King’s College in Scotland. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.