Could the wielding of American power abroad be curtailed, and if so how?

In this thread on the Soleimani assassination, a fellow Doper wrote as follows:

Whether or not you agree that with this (for the record, I personally do), my question is this:

By which methods, if any, could the wielding of American power abroad be curtailed?

Condemnations from the U.N., the I.C.C. and the like might carry some measure of moral weight, but I doubt they’d do much in terms of forcing real change in American behaviour. Economic sanctions seem, for obvious reasons, deeply unrealistic. Certain kinds of armed resistance might, possibly, effect at least some changes. Internal changes - the rise to power of “isolationist” leaders - would, I guess, be the surest way forward. What else might work?

Official economic sanctions might be unrealistic, but we could encourage people to voluntarily decouple their businesses from US involvement. The rest of the world could also work to set up banking institutions that are independent from US control, both direct and indirect. Control of international banking is a big part of how the US imposes their sanctions on everyone else, take a look at what’s been happening to Iran since Trump quit the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Other things we could do are actually starting to happen now in Iraq: inviting US military forces to leave our countries. Without airbases and land bases to support it, projection of US power would become far more difficult and dangerous. That wouldn’t stop all US actions, but it would cut down on a lot of them.

Of course, there would be costs to doing any of that, but there were costs to stopping Nazi Germany and the USSR, and we paid them.

Power abhors a vacuum - that’s why anarchism doesn’t work. Any US powers relinquished globally will be overtaken by others. It’s a cruel reality.

Private businesses might (or not) “decouple” from the US power apparatus depending on how their finances are affected. If the Pentagon is your major client, you’ll stay coupled. If your market is mainly non-US civilians, think to incorporate in Costa Rica or Luxembourg - they’re probably mostly outside US-vs-China-vs-Russia power plays.

There is one body, vast in power but timid in its use, that could easily curtail it–the United States Congress. The reason this is not done is Congress has systematically become a blank check for military spending of any kind, and so much of a mountain of legislation has been written in the past 75 years that “delegates” significant decision making power to the executive that to reverse it would take a real strong Congress very desirous of doing such a thing.

People often talk about things like the unitary executive theory, the constitutionally murky nature of the War Powers resolutions and etc. None of that even has to come in to play, Congress could systematically undermine the capacity for the President and the military to act abroad on whim by reversing mountains of legislation and automatic appropriations that enable all of this stuff to happen. The executive would be left with little recourse–while he can argue the War Powers resolution is unconstitutional (and maybe it is), he can’t argue he is entitled to unlimited money, that he is entitled to continue to wield delegated powers when the delegating legislation has been repealed.

I’m unsure how you think a formal condemnation from the UN would even pass, considering the only ones with any sort of teeth would have to be from the UNSC and, that would only be possible if all the members agreed…which seems unlikely. :stuck_out_tongue:

Let me put it this way…what has forced China to change IT’S behavior? Nada. What has forced Russia to change it’s behavior? Nada. And in Russia’s case there have been economic sanctions, though it’s been a limited number of countries. In China’s case, basically it’s been the US. Hell, what’s caused Iran to change IT’S behavior? Again, nothing, and this includes sanctions that are simply impossible for the rest of the world to impose on the US…would be cutting their own collective economic throats.

As for armed resistance, I have no idea what that even means. Are you talking about the UK and France, Japan and South Korea, Australia, Canada, Germany, etc doing this?? :confused: Doing what, exactly?? Leaving aside that all those countries are actually US allies, what sort of armed resistance would they be doing? I suppose they could toss US troops out of their countries (those that have US bases), but that seems both unlikely and counter to their own needs and aims. So, who else? China? Any ‘armed resistance’ from them would be ‘war’. Same goes for Russia. Or North Korea or Iran.

I’m unsure why the US wielding it’s power is an across the board bad thing and needs to be curtailed, but all those suggestions are simply not possible or realistic, or would be counter productive to whatever it is you are hoping to achieve. Myself, what I’d do is…nothing. Wait. Leave the US alone. Countries that are pushing against the US should stop doing that. On our own, we will eventually neuter ourselves wrt wielding power globally. If everyone stopped pushing on the US the US would just go back to sleep. There were all sorts of voices for disbanding or seriously reducing our military after the Cold War…but then, when we were starting to downsize, other groups and countries decided to push the US. And so we went back to frantic building and pushing back.

If the American people perceived no threats, they would eventually be clamoring for a real reduction in our military budget, because no one wants to pay the taxes. And this isn’t just liberals, it’s a lot of conservatives who think we shouldn’t be mucking about in foreign parts too. The reality is that if countries are threatening US interests abroad, and cause worry and anxiety in the public, politicians will use that, and we will continue doing so. It’s a vicious cycle that gets boosted by our industrial and military complex and the various groups involved in it. But if there are no threats, if countries aren’t pushing us, we will, eventually, stop pushing back and go back to sleep…until the next crisis.

Let me finish with one example. Look at our space program. When we were in a race to the Moon with the Russians we focused on that, poured in money, etc. Then we won and the Russians stopped even caring about landing a man on the Moon, instead focusing on unmanned missions and space stations. So, we downsized and did those things. And the space program (the manned program especially) languished, to the point we didn’t bother even trying to build a next generation manned orbital lifter. We let the Russians do it for us. Now, with other countries starting to push us a bit on this, we are talking about going back to the Moon. But it’s not a serious threat so far, so it’s still a ‘well, maybe we will do that’ kind of thing. Mars is the same. If someone seriously looks like they WILL do it, then watch and see how public opinion shifts budgets and how all of a sudden it will be important to do that and we will just do it.

I think the same goes for the US military and use of US military power abroad. We do it because pretty obviously, there are threats out there. China has been pushing us and our allies, hard, in the South Pacific (South and East China Seas regions). We had pretty much forgotten the region, being focused on the Middle East after we got pushed there. Now, however, we are focusing back to this region. Russia has pushed our buttons in the Ukraine, and so we remembered about Europe and moved troops and air craft there. China became interested in Africa, and several terror groups pushed our buttons so we refocused there as well. Same goes for Iran and, especially, North Korea wrt the shit they were up too in the 2010-2016 time frame.

If those countries hadn’t done those things we would basically be thinking about downsizing and bringing troops and capabilities back home to be mothballed.

To me, the best course if you really want a US disengagement would be…leave us alone. Don’t push us. Don’t threaten us or our interests. Play nice…trade nice. Do those things and the US will downsize it’s military because, again, no one wants to pay for that stuff.

Or you could do the things you are suggesting. Economic sanctions. Consider how the trade war between the US and China has effected the global economy, then multiply that by…7! (probably more, but I love that Megamind quote). The I.C.C.? What do you expect them to do, exactly? I mean, seriously…if they don’t do anything about Xi or Putin, and the horrific things their countries do, you expect them to, what? Put Trump on trial? Or GW Bush? :dubious: None of those things would work because they aren’t meaningful…or they would have such a negative backlash that it would destroy the countries trying to do them. There is, essentially, zero chance anyone is going to decouple their economy from the US that has any sort of meaningful trade. Hell, China is probably afraid WE might do that to THEM, and what the repercussions of that would be. No way would they do that to us, not unless they want a lot more issues than the currently have. Western Europe is certainly not going to do that…nor is Canada, nor Japan, nor South Korea, nor Australia, nor any other country coupled to the global market.

I guess to wind this rant down, what, exactly, are you trying to achieve with this? WHY do you think US power needs to be curtailed? And if it was, what do you exact the outcome to be? What do you expect, oh, say China to do if US power abroad was curtailed or rolled back or whatever it is you want to do? What do you expect Russia to do? What do you expect the the EU or anyone else would or could do if that was the case, and what would the likely outcome be, in your mind?

…maybe because it does so unilaterally and idiotically (see Iraq and Afghanistan).

Pfff, if the American people had any brains they wouldn’t have voted for Donald Trump. They wouldn’t shrug their shoulders at having their sovereignty violated by Russia and having House and Senate Republicans collude with them. And they would be clamoring for things that would actually improve their lives like universal health care and a more balanced tax code. Let’s not assume that people with voting privileges are informed or that they behave rationally.

Of course you offer the binary response: if the US isn’t allowed to use its power for its own interests, then we’ll just take our ball and go home. Ya know, people would trust American power more if it partnered with other countries and didn’t call them “Euro-fags” or whatever when they don’t enthusiastically join us in our foreign adventures.

What do you expect Russia to do? BWAHAHA! Duuuude, Russia is violating our sovereignty and half of this country supports the political party that’s colluding with them eyes wide open. We have an oligarchy in this country now. Most of this country opposed the Trump tax cuts and yet they passed anyway. Most people want expanded healthcare access and they can’t get legislation. Most people want things like instant background checks and restricted access to assault weapons, and yet there will be no legislation to that effect. We lock up refugees and let them rot in our gulags (er, I mean, detention centers). We have minority rule, but yeah, the rest of the so-called free world should trust America to represent their interests whenever they bomb the shit out of some country with high numbers of brown people.

Keep livin in fantasy land, brah, but the rest of the world ain’t smokin that shit.

I don’t think the OP makes much sense. American power has arguably made the world safer. American power has already been curtailed. This is due to a series of fairly recent decisions which seem unfortunate.

There are different types of power. A simple division is into hard power - such as the use of military action and soft power - such as intelligence, diplomacy, peer pressure, technology and allies. This is really a spectrum rather than a division, since there are different degrees of each, technology has become much more powerful, and things like economic sanctions might be at an intermediate level.

But power can also be characterized as legitimate (obeying the rule of law), referrant, reward, informational, coercive, expert, diplomatic, de facto, etc.

Previous presidents have largely used the threat of hard power and the use of international institutions, diplomacy, arm twisting, defensive organizations, intelligence sharing and economic motivation. Of course, most presidents have been tempted to use harder power, with mixed consequences, but only for a small percentage of problems.

It does not seem like that good an idea to insult allies, castigate institutions that offer stability, exacerbate relationships with domestic organizations, praise dictators or subvert long-established norms. Not that there weren’t and aren’t problems, but there always are and the usual mechanisms for dealing with them often worked in the past.

In fairness, the world is a different place with strong opposition. Technology is different and the dominant corporations have also changed.

By establishing new rules and norms, it seems America has lost a lot of softer power. This is a shame, since the general record of stability has been reasonably good. New challenges, including the environment, will require cooperation and a degree of American leadership. Of course many countries are proud, but too much nationalism, jingoism, isolation or trade breakdown seems like it could have a lot of drawbacks.

Further curtailing power might mean more limits, not always good, on corporations. But Congress might address some excesses and the branches might re-establish a sensible balance of powers.

I’ve been hearing constantly about how America is “no longer a superpower,” how America is no longer in a position of “global leadership”, how America is a joke and not taken seriously by the real “adults in the room” like Germany and Canada, how the future belongs to Russia and China, and indeed how America under Donald Trump has become a puppet state of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but if it is, that would certainly conflict with the notion that the “containment of American power” is the single biggest geopolitical issue today.

They can all be true at the same time.

US military power might be lessened by (re)introducing a universal draft. As it stands, the US military is comprised by a very small and unrepresentative subset of the population, one that seems to find perpetual glory and fulfilment in offering up its children to country and god.

If deaths and maimings from US military actions were spread around the country equally, politicians, including the President, would be far less likely to pursue them. The projection of American power would decrease.

But ISTM that reintroducing the draft is not a platform that is going to be pushed by those whose kids aren’t dying.

US moral influence, another source of power, is lessening and will continue to, not only because it is based on the US’s growingly remote WWII legacy of liberation and ostensible embodiment of ‘freedom’ during the Cold War that followed, but because of the incurious, boorish, and manifestly self-serving actions of one Donald G. Trump*. The world can see what’s happening even if 40 percent of the US population can’t. The European Union could have challenged, if not replaced the US as a beacon and ideal for nations and peoples, had it remained intact and stable. Then Boris put his johnson it.

Europe could have become more powerful in other ways too. Serving as an alternative to China, it was naturally placed to offset US influence while resisting Russia politically, socially, and economically. It could have lead the world in dealing with climate change, minimizing wealth disparity, addressing surveillance and privacy, and building the electronic infrastructure for the next umpteen years.

With Brexit I’m afraid none of this is likely to happen.

*The G stands for genius

I’m not sure what could be done.

If the US does evil things, and foreign nations freeze our leaders funds or do things like that, it’ll backfire since the US will retaliate.

It would require the EU and China working together to punish the US. I don’t know if they’d agree to do that.

So who’s power would you prefer being wielded?

You would prefer China? China is pushing itself everywhere by hard and soft means. Soft by buying influence in the media like Hollywood movies and hard by buying up large property in places like Africa.

That’s enough, asahi. Don’t personalize your arguments.

There was a time when you didn’t have to defend US influence in the world by saying, “Well, at least they’re better than China!

And in fact, a big part of what is letting China grow in influence these days is the increasingly stupid belligerence of the US in the last two decades. So, good job, there, guys.

Ask the families of the innocent people the USA keeps killing abroad. How many in Iraq by now?

“Honey, I’d stop hitting you if you would just stop burning my dinner.”

This is not so, imho. China is and has been more belligerent that the USA forever because of many factors including geography and history. Since the 60s China has invaded Vietnam, fought border wars with the USSR and India, declared an independent nation, Taiwan, to be theirs and to arm-twist countries from recognizing her. She has incarcerated a million Muslims within her borders. She has invaded and absorbed Tibet.

This is a silly take. Firstly, they dont kill people indiscriminately. They identify targets through intel and take measures to eliminate the target while reducing peripheral casualties. Dont want Americans killing folks? Dont engage in political violence.

How many hundreds of thousands if not millions of innocents were killed by Western aerial bombardment in WWII? Some of those by Canadians. The lives of innocents only enter the equation when its finger-pointing time.

People expected that of China. People expected better of the US.

The expectation is that the US behave lawfully. It is traditional, and probably a good idea, to talk to Congress and allied nations. It seems Trump was given various options and no one can be that surprised he picked a strong one — if that is indeed what happened.

Iran seems to have provoked the US a great deal this year and must have been expecting some sort of retaliation, unless they assumed Trump backing down several times earlier this year made that unlikely.

In any case, Iran shot down a plane with Irani citizens (and many with Canadian citizenship) and should have also closed their airspace. My above comments apply, and Congress and the legislative branch have the obligation to evaluate suitable checks on power. Many countries have money invested in the US but it is hard to see a large change here.

That said, I am not in a position to judge whether American actions were lawful or not.

And my thoughts and condolences go out to the innocent victims of this tragedy. In particular, to the 57 Canadians and the small number who studied in my hometown.