A tangent has developed in another thread and I think it is interesting enough to have it's own thread. The subject is, what is the position of the US in the world and is its influence on world affairs declining?
Friday, November 14, 2008
There are a number of ways you can measure power in the international scene. One of the most basic is to look at GDP. Here is the wikipedia article on GDP. You can see that the gap between the US and the next largest economies is enormous. What's more, six of the next eight biggest economies are members of NATO and the second biggest economy is Japan (not in NATO but an equally close ally). Among the 20 biggest economies, only China, Russia, India and Indonesia are not close allies of the United States. And the US is not involved in anything like a Cold War style rivalry with any of the four countries I mentioned. Russian-US and Chinese-US relations are strained at times but compared to the Cold War it's all happiness and sunshine.
The gap is even bigger when we look at overall military spending. Here is the relevant wikipedia article (there are questions about accuracy for the gross level point I'm trying to make I think it's accurate enough). The US spends just over 10 times as much on its military as the second biggest military spender, France, does. The US also spends over twice as much as the entire EU combined. China's military budget is similar to that of France. The 20 biggest military spenders other than the US include 9 NATO members, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan and Israel. It also includes countries that Brazil and Saudi Arabia that are close allies to the US but not as close as the NATO members or Japan et al. Only Russia and China could really be considered to be potential rivals to the US and the US outspends them both combined many times over.
Finally there is the ability to project power globally. A good indicator of that is the number of aircraft carriers a country has (here is the wiki). There are 22 aircraft carriers currently in service around the world. 11 of them are in the US Navy. All 11 of these US carriers are capable of launching and recovering fully operational combat aircraft. Most of the rest of the world's carriers are only capable of launching V/STOL aircraft like the British Harrier which have limited capabilities (the US Navy operates an additional 10 carriers of this type of carrier that most other navies use). The only other navies to operate a carrier of the US type are France and Brazil (which operates an obsolete French carrier) both are US allies.
An overall impression one should take away from this as well, is not just that the US is powerful. After all, as Bill Clinton said, "America leads most effectively through force of her example rather than the example of her force." It should also be clear that the USA's closest allies make up most of the list of the most powerful countries in the world.
It may well be that the US is in a slow decline relative to the rest of the world. But there is a long way to go before the US is anything other than the richest, most powerful, and best connected country in the world.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 12:36 PM