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The Importance Of U.s. Military Might Shouldn’T Be Underestimated


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gIQAX5pVlQ_print.htmlWashington Post:


Robert Kagan

February 2 2012


These days “soft” power and “smart” power are in vogue (who wants to make the case for “dumb” power?) while American “hard” power is on the chopping block. This is, in part, a symbolic sacrifice to the fiscal crisis — even though the looming defense cuts are a drop in the bucket compared with the ballooning entitlement spending that is not being cut. And partly this is the Obama administration’s election-year strategy of playing to a presumably war-weary nation.




That order has rested significantly on the U.S. ability to provide security in parts of the world, such as Europe and Asia, that had known endless cycles of warfare before the arrival of the United States. The world’s free-trade, free-market economy has depended on America’s ability to keep trade routes open, even during times of conflict. And the remarkably wide spread of democracy around the world owes something to America’s ability to provide support to democratic forces under siege and to protect peoples from dictators such as Moammar Gaddafi and Slobodan Milosevic. Some find it absurd that the United States should have a larger military than the next 10 nations combined. But that gap in military power has probably been the greatest factor in upholding an international system that, in historical terms, is unique — and uniquely beneficial to Americans.




What has been true since the time of Rome remains true today: There can be no world order without power to preserve it, to shape its norms, uphold its institutions, defend the sinews of its economic system and keep the peace. Military power can be abused, wielded unwisely and ineffectively. It can be deployed to answer problems that it cannot answer or that have no answer. But it is also essential. No nation or group of nations that renounced power could expect to maintain any kind of world order. If the United States begins to look like a less reliable defender of the present order, that order will begin to unravel. People might indeed find Americans very attractive in this weaker state, but if the United States cannot help them when and where they need help the most, they will make other arrangements.

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