CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
October 14, 19
Contemporary Issues in American Foreign Policy
Since the end of the Second World War, there has been instances of America decline whereby it appears that in every ten years, a different enemy of the era has been experienced. As concluded by Joffe (2013) in The myth of America’s decline, there has always been a shortcut for the America decline theory to the oval office and the bestseller list. However, this is actually a “political myth” that echoes truth in every decade. The Soviet Union, the Vietnam War, the inflation and dollar devaluation,, Japan, and the economic threat of China are all main actors in the decline of America since each has played the role of “threat” within the decade (Joffe 2013).
Over the decades, there have been debates among declinists, who believed that America had been in a decline during the different times as well as the exceptionalists who felt that America was special and that the whole idea of decline was just an illusion. According to Joffe (2013), most of these warnings have been disapproved by history since America has been and remains to be the most powerful nation in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, Zakaria, who was not all against Joffe’s optimism, developed his argument without focusing on the declination of America. In The Post-American World, he pointed out three “tectonic power shifts over the last five hundred years.” (Zakaria 2011 p1). Over the period, America established its hegemony and dominated the world during the second power shift. “…that dominance has been unrivaled, a phenomenon unprecedented in modern history.” (Zakaria 2011 p2). For the declinists, that is an indicator of “what goes up must come down” but could also mean a starting of the other rising cycle. As Joffe (2013) mentioned, declinism seems to have such a grip on the American mind, that since they have strong confidence to the nation keep being powerful as they believe “…doom, in biblical as well as political prophecy, always comes with a shiny flip side, which is redemption.” (Joffe 2013 p47)
The third power shift, defined as “the post American world” by Zakaria (2011), is a new international political pattern of our time. In his words, the American power was by no way declined but seems gloomy as the shinning of other nations. In details, the prosperity of developing countries, especially the BRICS, has reshaped the global pattern. While looking at human history, the rise of a great power has not happened only within economic and military arenas, but also in the political, ideological and cultural fields leading to the increase in power across other nations. Similarly, the decline of big powers should also be comprehensive despite having no fact that supports the America declining in all-around field. Thus, it is undeniable that America have met challenges in the global market, yet, both Zakaria and Joffe admitted that it still remains absolute power in some crucial areas. Thus, to compare the American’s power with its competitor, the “rising China”, we should value them in different fields:
China is often criticized by greatly increasing the military expenditure in years with its defense budget closing to the American value as evidenced in the Chinese publication of Chinese budget. ¬However, the whole idea of China seeking a hegemony in military power is not only untrue, but also absurd. In fact, the country is unwilling, more importantly, unable to replace America to be the role of global policemen. In terms of military power, not one country in this era is able to compete with the United States. In both of military expenditure and research & development skills, America has the absolute advantage to dominate the global military pattern. As argued by Joffe, the United States was the top military spender accounting for close to 40 percent of the world’s military total in the year 2012 (Joffe, 92). Whereas it only accounted for no more than 5 percent of GDP, in the year 2019, the number was 36 percent of the world’s total and 3 percent of GDP. America’s military spending is as high as the first nine nations in the ranking combined, yet still cheap to the country. By contrast, China’s military expenditure is about one fourth of the American budget in 2019 and if measured by per capita spending, then America’s budget is 17 times that of China (Shikun 2019).
If calculated by the weapon storage and R&D skills in military, then the gap between the two countries is even larger. After the collapse of Soviet Union, the United States has monopolized the global weapon market with America selling 200 billion of equipment and military service in the year 2018 which is ten times than Russia did (“How much does the US sell arms to make money? Nearly 200 billion a year, ten times more than Russia,” 2018). When it comes to the military stock, America owns 20 active aircraft carriers out of 41 in the world total, a number which is more than the number of Russia, China, India, South Korea and Japan combined (“Total Aircraft Strength by Country,” n.d.). Even in the nuclear warhead, America’s China does not match America as the number of the warheads for the United States and Russia are 6185 and 6500 respectively while China owns 290. However, China has the advantage of a huge population and its large base reserve army. However, Joffe argued that the aging population in its demographics drags on the military development. He criticized that even if China doubled the military budget it would replace the world’s largest military force due to its slow population growth (Joffe 2011 p76-78)
In general, Zakaria (2013) may not appear in the military arena since America has been the unshakeable unipolar in the world since the end of the cold war. However, it faces enormous risk while maintaining its absolute advantage since away from the war in the last century, a military tension in this relative peaceful era means a serious threat to investor’s confidence in the financial market, and the biggest nightmare to a country today is an economic depression. Just like in the Vietnam and the war in Iraq, America won the wars with a relatively small lose in terms of casualties but paid a heavy cost in the Great depression and the financial crisis after the warfare since terrorism and regional conflicts are the new type of warfare in this era while the economic turmoil is a killer for a country’s development. Thus, it is important for the United States to avoid a war even with the global military pattern being under its unipolar order. Therefore, for the American leader to avoid a war, he may not need to involve in the foreign policy but instead need to have the ability to balance the strong influence of the military and arm dealers in the Congress and the oval office when making policy decision.
This is because a Long-term policy or strategy can promote regional cooperation as well as maintain stability and development. For the region of Indo-Pacific, the most important policies within the next decades could be Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy and China’s one belt road program. One thing for sure is that the region does not need another military priority policy but need a multilateral organization to work on the economic cooperation and diplomatic balance needed for the US economic and diplomatic balance with the Asia-Pacific region.
The paper has addressed the major issues in the topic with clear comparison between the readings by Joffe and Zakaria. With the facts on the state of military between the US and China provides evidence on the state of military power between the two countries
How much does the US sell arms to make money? Nearly 200 billion a year, ten times more than Russia. (2018, October 12). Retrieved from https://new.qq.com/omn/20181210/20181210A1MSL9.html
Joffe, J. (2013). The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Shikun, M. (2019, March 22). Said by the Chinese and American military expenditures. Retrieved from http://cn.chinausfocus.com/m/37894.html
Total Aircraft Strength by Country. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.globalfirepower.com/aircraft-total.asp
Zakaria, F. (2011). The Post-American World: And The Rise Of The Rest. London, England: Penguin UK.