The United States Must be Ambitious in New Era of Great Power Conflict
Great power wars became irrelevant as soon as the Japanese surrendered aboard the USS Missouri on September 2nd, 1945. The next forty-six years saw great power conflict fought through proxy wars. Once the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the United States entered a period of unprecedented power in a unipolar world. Grand strategy became muddled with indecision and a lack of purpose. As a new era of great power conflict emerges, the United States must push an ambitious grand strategy to retain its status as a global hegemon.
Great power conflict will no longer take shape as war between competing world powers. Rather, conflict will be much more subversive. China currently has little interest in competing militarily with the United States. It is using economic initiatives to displace U.S. influence across the globe. The United States must respond with a more effective grand strategy than that of the past five presidential administrations.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a threat to U.S. hegemony. The Chinese frame the hazy policy plan as “strategic hedging,” granting them greater leverage over the international system without the use of military force. China’s rhetoric is centered around altruism and harmony, yet its policies suggest aggressive economic sabotage. For instance, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is built upon the foundation of weakening India. Additionally, China has no interest in serving as the world arbiter for international security. It is more than comfortable allowing the United States to overspend its way into a downward spiral.
Democracy worldwide is in danger because of the Belt and Road Initiative. China invests in newly democratic nations, where the threat of corruption is constant. Predatory lending by the Chinese enables corrupt leaders to maintain the status quo. China applies the same principle to the United States, buying and undermining democracy. China is using American companies to parrot its propaganda. Hollywood and the National Basketball Association have fallen prey to Chinese interests – they prioritize money over basic human rights. Xi Jinping disguises this strategy as “soft power,” though it is rooted in a much more malignant reality.
America’s response must be purposeful and bipartisan. Geoeconomic power, unlike military, is imperative to preserving American hegemony. Investment in American infrastructure, healthcare, and education will require leadership from political leaders and constituents. The United States must also relinquish nation-building and rid itself of unnecessary foreign expenditures. Once that is accomplished, it can focus on multilateral policies and direct its efforts towards less threatening issues. Joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will benefit U.S. strategy against China and provide a more reliable avenue of economic prosperity for surrounding Asian nations.
The notion that decreased military spending lends to military weakness is a false one. Under the framework proposed here, the United States would still boast the most powerful military in the world and remain above the two percent benchmark for NATO guidelines. Yet relaxing its aggressive tendencies and posturing will preserve American time, resources, and energy. Along with repairing its international image, the United States will also prove its ability to adapt to the changing global order.
Great power conflict has changed drastically since 1945. As a new era of great power conflict emerges, the United States must push a purposeful grand strategy to retain its status as a global hegemon. The United States has long been the bastion of liberal democracy because of its ambition. When ambition intersects with altruistic ideology, leadership surfaces. When U.S. leadership is guiding the international order, the world flourishes.