Critics of the Bush administration’s neoconservative, hawkish foreign policy cite the thousands of American causalities, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi causalities, and trillions of dollars spent as proof of failure. Obama ran two highly successful election campaigns on promises of being the Anti-Bush; America would “reset” with Russia, “pivot” to Asia, and would no longer engage in wars it deemed reckless or unnecessary in the face of American security.
The administration and its allies have had the audacity to call Obama’s foreign policy a platform based on realism. Clearly they misunderstand this term and the history behind it.
Following two horrific world wars, the United States emerged as the world’s sole hegemon; that is, America was the most powerful, most influential, and most wealthy country in the world. This allowed America to dictate world affairs, global trade, and the course of history.
It is easy to criticize the actions of past presidents, but ultimately the Cold War never turned hot and the dreaded World War III never broke out. Presidents who commanded strength, who had faced down the Soviet Union–who were true leaders–maintained world order.
With the presidency of Obama, we are entering a new dawn. America may no longer be the world hegemon and a multipolar world may emerge, but what does this mean?
A monopoly on power and military might have kept the peace through the latter half of the 20th century. Conflicts broke out and wars were waged, but ultimately violence was contained and regional actors never seized towards bigger ambitions for fear of American retaliation. This country’s military might and the willingness to use it scared the bad guys away.
The coming troubles that a multipolar world will bring are starting to become apparent. Just turn on your TV or pay attention to the news: Russia is seizing a neighboring country and China is provoking and agitating its regional neighbors. Both Russia and China are heavily funding, growing, and modernizing their militaries while ours is in a state of decline.
America is no longer leading allies in Europe and Asia, leaving them to question our resolve and commitment to defense treaties.
The multipolar world without America at its helm will see many more regional conflicts, like in Ukraine, creep up. No longer will regional actors behave out of fear of retaliation, and no longer will the balance of power be weighed in democracy’s favor.
To those who wished for American decline, for American retreat from the world stage, and for a multipolar world out of anger for our previous president, I congratulate you. Your dreams are coming true. I just hope you’re ready to face the consequences.
Will Schaub is a senior majoring in political science and English. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.