Origin of American Power

A true source of great power in the longer run is non-material American values such as constitutiona-lism and the rule of law.

The USA is the undisputed superpower of our age. A few people might disagree with this opinion, but we often ignore the reservoir of American power, what makes America as sole superpower of our time? Let me start the story of America. Before independence, the North American continent was occupied and colonized by various European powers, mainly Great Britain, Spain, and France. It was also worth noting that before the self-independence of the USA, much of the British political, economic, and cultural institutions were planted in 13 colonies of the USA. Moving fast track, on the issue of taxation, 13 colonies aided by France fought with the British and won independence during the War of Revolution 1777-1783.

However, America in the 19th century was weak and nobody thought that the USA would be the leading power in the coming age. Internal divisions, slavery issues, political divide, weak economy, and hegemony of European powers in the American continent were chief issues of that time of the USA. Again, on the issue of commercial and naval rights, the USA fought another war with Great Britain in 1812. Luckily, the USA was able to emerge victorious in the War of 1812, despite heavy losses. In that era, much of American attention was paid to the expansion of territory eastward under the umbrella of Manifest Destiney, industrialization, formation of the banking and financial sector, political stability at home, and adherence to the constitution of the USA largely due to policies of President Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Monroe and Andrew Jackson.

Under the presidency of James Monroe, the USA declared the “Monroe Doctrine” (1823) that outlawed European powers from further colonization of America and established the USA’s right to intervene in the Northern Hemisphere. Moving forward, mid-19th century, American history solely revolved around the issue of slavery which broke out a civil war (1861-65) between northern and southern states.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, America unpinned an era of stability, prosperity, and peace and became the biggest economy during the 1880s. American involvement in WW1 and WW2 paved the pathway to Allied Forces victory and later on divided the world into two blocs, leading to the events of the Cold War (1945-1991). Since 1991, the USA has enjoyed the status of sole superpower and positioned itself as the sole broker in international disputes. Let’s back to the original question, what factors make the USA a superpower and the future of American power?

First, USA has been able to become the sole superpower due to its political stability at home. Since its independence, the USA has not seen major turbulence in its elections and transfer of power from one party to another party. It is largely possible of strong adherence to the constitution of the USA and the rule of law. The system of checks and balances over the separation of powers unpins each institution of America as strong and independent. An impartial judiciary ensures the rule of law while independent local governments perform pretty well at the governance level. Therefore, stability at home provides ample space for the USA to exert its influence abroad.

Second, the USA has the biggest economy in the world. The industrialization of the late 19th century, the computer age of the 20th century, and the artificial intelligence age of the 21st century have contributed much to the American economy. One can say that the manufacturing and services sectors make up a big chunk of the American economy. Not to forget to mention the ever-expanding role of Silicon Valley in the USA, where advanced cutting-edge technology, contributes to the growth of American power.

Third, owing to its biggest economy, the USA has been able to maintain a robust and highly efficient American military complex, whose budget is around $800bn, the largest military budget in the world. American military power unpinned USA involvement in every sphere of conflict in the world, from Ukraine to Gaza to Taiwan. It is quite remarkable that the USA has 800 military bases outside of its territory, which indicates American power, has unprecedented control over NATO too.

Fourth, the USA is the main architect of the post-1945 world order and, therefore, holds enormous influence over UNO, UNSC, IMF, WB, and WTO. Much of the liberal and economic principles of these international institutions are the brainchild of the USA and funded by the USA. henceforth, that puts American power at a pinnacle level in global politics and international relations.

Fifth, despite material supremacy, American real power lies in its population. The USA, having a population of 340 million, has a strong human development index, reflecting a strong commitment to education and healthcare. Having top educational institutions, the USA spends 40pc of the global R&D budget, underpinning the inventions of further advanced technologies. Not to forget to mention, that the USA has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners (413).

Sixth, the USA is the land of immigrants because of its enormous opportunities. Famous historian Yuval Noah Harari argued that much of American political, economic, and intellectual contributions are due to the contributions of American immigrants. The USA has been able to attract the ablest people of every profession from each country, leading to American prosperity and growth. What does America give to them? Economic gains, respect, dignity, safety, and security.

Seventh, the USA has the largest hub of soft power because of Hollywood, mass media, social media and cultural attraction. Owing to that, the USA has been able to control the war of narratives among the Global North, which makes it a leader of the Global North and Western world in a cultural sense, despite having tight control Western world in terms of political, economic and military means by the USA.

Lastly and more importantly, what truly makes America great is the power of independent thinking of its individuals. Freedom of thought, speech, and opinion irrespective of any professional, race, creed, religion, or color makes America beautiful.

On this front, China and India truly lack vis-à-vis competition with the USA.

Despite loud and clear claims that Chinese and Indians are taking over the USA in the 21st century in material terms, what makes me think America is a true source of great power in the longer run is non-material American values such as constitutionalism and rule of law which underpinned freedom of thought and human creativity at pinnacle level. Therefore, in my opinion, the USA should not abandon its principles of liberal world order while engaging in competition with China because the true reservoir of American power lies in principles of American exceptionalism of constitutionalism, rule of law, human freedom and dignity and principles of the post-1945 world order of UNO and other international institutions.

Sher Ali Bukhari
The writer is a UET alumni with keen interest in Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Sher Ali Bukhari
The writer is a UET alumni with keen interest in Pakistan’s foreign policy.

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