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Cafe Society to discuss the role of the U.S. as a ‘Super-Power’

By Staff | Apr 17, 2017

During its next session on Tuesday, April 18 the Cafe Society will discuss whether our nation can still assert itself as the remaining “Super-Power” able to influence, if not control world events. Recent actions in Syria and the waters off of North Korea would seem to imply that the Trump Administration intends to play this role. It is still not clearly resolved how we managed to prevail in the “Cold War” and if deterrence can really be credited with preventing many dangerous crises from spinning out of control during the era leading up to collapse of the Soviet Empire. There are many who believe that unattended social and economic issues severely crippled the Soviets from within. Those are vulnerabilities that we are certainly not immune to. There is no doubt that to be credible and sustainable any nation aspiring to be the primary arbiter in today’s complex globalized world has to command significant power projection capability which includes a delicate balance of political, and economic prowess as well as military might. And now a new dimension of technological ascendency has to be an integral part of that ability to control events. While our nation’s political and military leaders might assume this mantle of authority in trying to influence current events, they may find to their embarrassment that “the emperor has no clothes”.

These informal discussions are held every Tuesday morning from 08:30 until 10:00 in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center. There are no fees and registration is not required.

Facilitator Mike Austin stated: “There is a famous quotation from Teddy Roosevelt that nations should ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’. Our new president is certainly not prone to speaking or tweeting softly and it remains to be seen how big his stick really is. We are far removed today from the high state of readiness, depth of strategic and tactical resources, civil and military reserves, diplomatic acumen, facilities, base and over-flight rights, and broad array of allies and like-minded states that we aggressively managed at the end of the Cold War. In many respects today the concept of a ‘super-power’ is almost irrelevant. In essence a great process of leveling has run its course and the comparative advantage among nations is greatly reduced. In the era of terrorism we have demonstrated our impotence. Nothing seems to work. There is little to push against. The Arab Spring has come and gone. Regime change has proven to be pointless if a suitable successor is not waiting in the wings, and nation building is at best an illusory past time, building castles in the sand if we try to implant our values in other cultures.

Our new President seems to be intent on ignoring or setting aside many of the institutions and capabilities that were the source of our strength. Granted, he picked up the reigns after we had taken our ‘peace dividend’ and already slid far from our pinnacle of power. But his over reliance on senior military advisors to formulate and execute an, as yet undefined national security strategy, with little input from our intelligence community, and little or no role for the State Department isn’t promising.”

Austin concluded: “Bad as all the above may seem, there are larger issues. Part of our moral suasion that underpinned our dominant role in world affairs was that we were an unselfish nation willing to share our strengths for the common good. We were ‘over there’ in World War I and back again in Europe and the Far East in World War II, and worked hard to stay committed, to build international institution such as the United Nations and regional security structures such as NATO, financial entities such as the World Bank, and the IMF, as well as an active advocate of human rights and humanitarian assistance where we could make a difference. Finally, being a super-power implies having a global reach, remaining cognizant of adverse trends, and mounting social, economic, and political pressures long before they reach the crisis stage where direct intervention is required. At present we are myopically focused on a limited number of hot spots while the rest of the world is ignored. Other nations (Russia and China in particular) are moving into those areas establishing a viable and ultimately troubling presence. “