America's role on the world stage: retreat?

Should America cede leadership to China and Russia and religious extremists?

If not how should America try to lead?

Personally I’ve been a big fan of Obama’s cautious and measured use of military power and his preference for engaging in trade as a major tool of diplomacy and of influence. I agree with the thesis of this article and believe that he has navigated us well through some very tricky and choppy waters, and has us pointed in a good direction if we stay the course.

The American public, and much of this Board, is not so enamoured of trade agreements.

So, is ceding any leadership role the only option left, or how else to exert influence?

We should cede power. I am not interested in paying for imperialistic bullshit anymore.

We need better trade deals that have a reasonable balance of trade and maintain a reasonable level of self-sufficiency. We need to strengthen our military and be less confrontational. We need to exert greater influence on our allies to stand with us, but do so less often. We must not go to war unless it is an absolute necessity, and then we must not hesitate to win.

You can call it ceding leadership – but so long as they’re willing to fight and die amongst themselves, and we’re willing to take a breather while patiently waiting for chances to play the cheerful opportunist, well, then, yeah, that sounds pretty good.

People need to be realistic. Nuclear powers openly fighting is dangerous. If the US put troops in Ukraine for instance, they would have directly fought Russian troops. (As it was, Putin has only tried to capture areas where there’s enough pro-Russian support that he didn’t have to do much fighting.)

As for the extremists, a previous administration proved that the US does not fight understand the history or culture of the Middle East. Distinguishing between Middle Easterners who hate Americans and Middle Easterners who hate Americans and are also terrorists takes a lot of work. You can’t just kill everyone in the former group, as that’s almost everyone. It goes both ways, there’s little understanding of America in much of the Middle East.

The fallout of the invasion of Iraq continues. The leadership of Iraq was originally an independent minority dictator who had little religious fervor, now it’s Iranian-backed and weak with more religious fervor. I’m struggling to see how this is better, but I guess it’s not worse. All that blood, money, and time and the situation didn’t get any better. In some ways worse: western Iraq is now controlled by ISIS, and it took a long time for Iraqi troops to gain enough skill to defeat them. Most of the fighting by Iraqi troops is done by the Kurds and Iranian troops. Fox. Henhouse.

And then look at Syria. After seeing that waste in Iraq, many Americans simply don’t want to send US troops to the Middle East. There’s so much apathy that if ISIS never executed foreign captives I really believe there would be no American boots on the ground. Suppose America got “fired up” and decided to send in the troops. Who, exactly, would they attack?

ISIS, the former al Qaeda branch that regularly sends cultists to Europe to commit mayhem? Who kills and rapes minorities and executes foreigners? Or should we attack Assad, the dictator backed by Russia and Iran who uses poison gas on his own people? The guy whose secret police regularly torture its citizens? ISIS hates Assad and vice versa, it’s going to be rather difficult trying to defeat both groups. The US already proved it couldn’t control a country the size of Iraq, why would a second time be any different?

Russia had its chance to half lead the world. How did it work out for all those nations who Russia led?
America as the leader of the world is the least bad option, given that there’s always gonna be a wannabe superpower, so why not us instead of despotic nations like China and Russia. America did free the world from fascism and communism.

The U.S. should participate in dealing the world’s problems via the U.N., jointly with the other western democracies, and in other relevant joint ventures–but should not be a Lone Ranger or the world’s policeman.

I have to believe that anyone who thinks that either China or Russia (let alone ‘religious extremists’) should lead the world just doesn’t know what they are saying or what the ramifications of what they are saying actually is. :eek: It’s such a monstrously bad idea to cede basically any sort of leadership to either of those nations that I can’t believe anyone who knows what they are talking about would ever suggest it.

No, we shouldn’t cede leadership to either. And who else is there? The Euro’s? They don’t want it and, frankly, couldn’t do it regardless. They are almost totally self focused and in naval gazing mode. I’d be more comfortable with some of the up and coming Asian nations or perhaps a coalition of them. South Korea perhaps as head of a coalition. Sadly, it might not be our choice to ‘cede’ leadership…at some point we just might not be able to maintain it, especially since our ‘allies’ aren’t really doing much of anything to lighten our burden, especially on the military side. The only country stepping up their military spending to seriously be able to project power on a global stage currently is China. Most of our European allies in NATO aren’t even meeting the minimum commitments they are supposedly bound by treaty to meet.

Should? IMHO we should lead by working with our allies, who are equally engaged and serious about this and are equally committed to the cause. Sadly, we seem to be the only country in the western world willing to carry the water…and this is a bad thing in a myriad of ways. It leads to American arrogance…and it leads to us discounting the input of those same allies, since by not carrying their weight it means we have to rely on ourselves. It weakens the alliance and has for decades now…really, since the fall of the Soviet Union and the European steady withdrawal militarily, cashing in on the peace dividend and smugly laughing at the US for having a military budget more than the rest of the top 6 or whatever other military’s combined.

I think Obama has done a good job, though of course the issues I’ve raised above haven’t chanced…if anything the trend in NATO nations has continued, with almost none of our NATO allies, at least in Western Europe meeting their target treaty commitments in funding. But I doubt ANY US president can affect that anyway, so it’s not a ding on Obama, especially since I seriously doubt many Europeans even see the issue or why it’s important. I’m sure I’m going to get quite a few 'dopers who think that the US should follow their lead and drop our own military commitments to their target levels…a fraction of a percent of GDP. Someone else will undoubtedly carry the water, after all (or no one will…who needs that sort of thing these days in such a peaceful world??)…China perhaps. What a grand idea!

I assume you are talking about something like the TPP? A lot of liberal Democrats of the Sanders persuasion seem down on it, yes. To me it seems a good counter to what China is trying to do in the Pacific region, and I think it’s a good move by Obama and good not just for the US but for the region as well. MMV on that, of course.

As for the American people, I think that many of them have been captured by populist blather from both Trump and Sanders wrt trade and it’s impact on home grown 'Merican jobs.

If we cede leadership how will we exert influence? How much influence does Europe have these days…and how much of what’s left of it is due to being in the US’s shadow? Who’s shadow will we be in that we can sponge off of them to exert influence without the power? China bucks our influence NOW…why would they continue even to pretend to feel it if we cede leadership to them?

My apologies to the UK…I see that they are still meeting their minimum military GDP requirements for NATO. France also seems to be hovering just above it as well…so, might have overstated things. Looks like all the other major NATO allies are below it, however, including Germany who is closing in on 1% of GDP.

I think it’s only a matter of time before America’s leadership role in the world is taken by China, if for no other reason economics. It’s hard to believe we can keep up with military obligations that require world wide presence and still be able to match China in the Pacific with a $20+ trillion deficit (and growing) of course.

I will be interesting we see how the west reacts when for the first time a western power isn’t calling the shots. (It will be very interesting, at least to me, when the President goes on TV and says "heh, I’m not happy that China invaded Taiwan either, but nothing I can do about it.) One can certainly look to Vietnam and Iraq and say that’s not a bad thing, but I’d argue overall American leadership over the last 70 has been a net positive for the world. Many, many here will argue that the U.S. loss of power will be a good thing of course, so perhaps it’s not that big of a deal. We’ll see sooner rather than later as Bill says I’m afraid.

I think you’re overestimating China, as a lot of people have. Part of why superpowers exist is the ability to culturally connect with the superpowers’ “subjects.”

The US was able to do this because British and then American culture, through English language, an easy to learn language (no noun inflection, verbs barely change, only pronunciation is hard but goes in patterns), was able to spread through Western Europe and ultimately the rest of the Western World. Another reason this happened was broader European culture. American popular culture spread, which was similar enough to European.

The USSR became an empire because Slavic culture was the base of much of eastern Europe, and even for as different as Russian looks than other slavic languages (cyrillic vs. latin), the languages are similar enough that culture could easily spread.

Chinese is harder for Japanese, Koreans, and especially Westerners to learn, not only linguistically but culturally because there’s less Chinese pop culture to be consumed outside of China.

Another problem for China is that their economic growth owes almost none to innovation, and owes mostly to corner cutting and counterfeiting. That’s not sustainable.

It used to be that way for Japan. “Made in Japan” was a joke meaning “shoddy imitation” well into the 1960s – and then they got the hang of things and outdid the West in manufacturing and industrial innovation. No reason China can’t do the same, eventually.

??? I suppose thats the perception in the U.S,but in reality Chinese company products especially those of Huawei are innovative in the extreme. THw Chinese are also leading the world in research in hypersonic engines, new generation high speed rail, nano tech, materials sciences.
Hell, the amount of money the Chinese are throwing at research infrastructure is unparalleled.

This may happen, but if it does I think it would only happen by China becoming a western style nation. Take Japan and South Korea. The way I see it, they are basically western nations. If China became the world superpower but becomes fully westernized in the process, I think that would be a good thing. I would have no problem with the USA ceding world power status to a fully westernized China. However, I think the only way China will ever reach that status is to become westernized, similar to how Japan and South Korea became powerful by westernizing.

I think people are overestimating China as well but mainly for different reasons. The argument that China is about to be the next superpower is very 2014 and just a rehash of Japan circa 1985. It is result of looking at a chart and extrapolating the same rate of current growth into the future. Economics and global power do not work that way. The reason China was able to grow so quickly was because they managed to build a huge industrial base using a huge, and largely, impoverished population but that doesn’t scale well at all let alone indefinitely. As their middle and upper classes grow, they start to lose the economic advantages that got them to that point in the first place. Major industries have already started shifting their production facilities to even poorer countries. They don’t care about China in particular. It was just the Wal-Mart of industry. If Indonesia or some African country can produce the same widget even cheaper, that is where they are going. It takes a lot more than cheap goods to build a successful country.

The Chinese economic markets have already started to tank partially because they are no longer the lowest cost producer of the goods they specialize in. They also have gigantic structural problems in government, education, the environment (the pollution in some cities is so bad it threatens normal life), human rights and a very sub-par military. I wouldn’t write off China completely because they may eventually get there but the advise to ‘learn Mandarin’ is completely misguided unless a student wants to do it for academic reasons.

People claim that the U.S. is too patriotic and flag waving and that may be true in some cases but many Americans are way too hand-wringing and self-depreciating as well. The fact remains that both the U.S. economy and the U.S. military are still the largest and most powerful that have ever existed on Earth and will remain so for the foreseeable future. I think that is a good thing overall.

perfectly said. I couldn’t have articulated it that much better. America is the shining city on the hill, and the hope of the Earth.

I think you misread my post. I think America’s future decline on the world stage will have more to do it America’s economic issues than with what China’s doing. Our debt is unsustainable, and if when interest rates come back to normal, interest on that debt will climb as well. Something will have to give I think that will be defense spending.

You may be correct that China won’t be a world superpower. But they may be a much larger regional power, and I wonder if the American people will want to spend blood or treasure to stop that. Especially treasure that they may no longer have in abundance.

Not sure your source but from NATO’s website for 2015 (pdf file) the following countries are at or above the minimum target of 2% - Estonia, Greece, Poland, UK and US. That’s four non-US members. Not surprisingly the two most recent additions to the list border Russia.

Those showing a positive annual real positive change in spending from 2014 of at least 5% (not % of GDP) ( > +10% underlined ) - Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Slovak Republic.

Some NATO countries seem to get the Russian threat, the general alliance weaknesses exposed in Unified Protector, and the fact that US has cut significantly in the last several years. They are increasing spending to move in the right direction. I have to give them points for effort even if they haven’t reached the goal yet. If you look at the list a lot of them are in eastern Europe with their feet closer to the fire. I you look at the link some countries aren’t close to targets and aren’t trying. Some like UK, France, Germany and Canada have generally been cutting. France met the target as recently as 2009 and decided to stop. Overall NATO Europe has reduced spending as a %GDP from 1.70% in 2009 to 1.43% in 2015. Since a resurgent Russia demonstrated the willingness to directly intervene in a neighbor by invading and seizing part of Georgia (2008), NATO’s European members have been on a general trend of military cuts. :smack:

Leadership isn’t a binary “thing” that one (or two or three) country has and the others don’t, which can be passed around like a football.

All countries strive for influence - military, diplomatic and or trade (and probably other forms of influence I haven’t thought of). The wealthiest nations will, absent complete incompetence, be the most successful at this. We tend to call this “leadership” - but in fact, the US has to compromise all the time just like everyone else, it’s just that you have to to a whole lot less of it than anyone else.

America has around 300 million people, China and India both have over a billion. In order to remain the most influential country, the US must remain the wealthiest. In order to remain the wealthiest, you will have to either match populations, or remain more than three times as economically productive as these countries forever.

The first of these is possible, I guess - you’ve got a lot of area. I don’t think you’d find it pleasant though. I don’t find the second at all credible.

Within the next 20 or 30 years, either China or India will probably become the new wealthiest country on Earth. (I’d rather it was India - doesn’t seem likely on current trends though. But they were nearly equal economically to China all the way through to 1990, so it’s not totally impossible.) Whoever is wealthiest, will be the most influential. There will be no ‘ceding’ anything.

I used to be a bit of a neocon, and still have many of those sentiments when it comes to interventions. The fortress America types that want to retreat from the world always reminded me of Denethor from lotr:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc-gh-3TkR0#t=1m50s