Can America Police the World?
What has happened to the giddy optimists who predicted the "end of history" at the end of the Cold War? With the collapse of the "iron curtain" in 1989, and the subsequent demise of the Soviet Union a couple of years later, many in the West thought that we would soon enter a "post-ideological" time when Western values of capitalism, free markets and democracy would solve the world's problems. Many were convinced that a time of universal peace and prosperity was on the horizon.
Those rosy predictions have not come to pass. Many Americans—including many high in government—naively assumed that the rest of the world not only needed to become, but also wanted to become, "more like us." Democracy was touted as the answer to all of the world's problems (see "The Future of Democracy" on page 4 of this issue). Free markets would bring a free world.
Then came the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. Overnight, attitudes changed. America quickly mounted a retaliatory attack on Afghanistan, a country whose Taliban regime had supported al-Qaeda, and won a quick "victory" by overthrowing the Taliban and occupying Kabul, the capital city. Policymakers were divided, however, as to what would come next.
In the 2000 presidential election campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush declared that unlike his predecessor, Bill Clinton, his foreign policy would stress America's self-interest, and that he would not follow President Clinton's example of committing American troops to "nation-building" missions abroad.
As the mission in Afghanistan began to bog down, policymakers found themselves faced with a "nation-building" dilemma not unlike President Clinton's experience in the Balkan states. In response, accepting the counsel of his "neo-conservative" advisors, President Bush decided to pursue an "interventionist" foreign policy after all. If a strategically important nation did not willingly embrace American values and interests, the U.S. would reserve the right to project American power and insist that it do so!
Articulating this policy, President Bush spoke out regarding what he called an "axis of evil"—the nations of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's bellicose posturing had long cast him as the perfect villain in a Middle East melodrama, so the invasion of Iraq came next. After a quick "victory" in war, it soon became evident that winning the war—overthrowing a corrupt regime in a backward country—would be easier than "winning the peace" by producing a stable successor to Hussein's government.
What will come next for the U.S., and the world? For more than a decade, the world has looked to the U.S. as the world's only superpower. But can that superpower bend other nations to its will, to produce a world of peace and freedom? Will what "worked" in Afghanistan and Iraq be a model to apply to other international conflicts? Make no mistake about it: the rout of the Taliban and the toppling of Hussein does not guarantee that the U.S. can or will banish all brutal dictatorships from the world scene. With irreconcilable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, genocide in Sudan—indeed, with ethnic and religious conflicts in so many places—can America expect to police the whole world?
Before the invasion of Afghanistan, many of President Bush's critics forecast American defeat at the hands of the Taliban—or at least a long list of casualties. Similar predictions preceded the invasion of Iraq. In each case, the nay-sayers were proved wrong. The U.S. military—with its $400 billion annual budget—rolled in to Kabul and Baghdad and toppled two bedraggled third-world regimes that had suffered under years of international sanctions.
Many took these "successes" as evidence that the U.S. is powerful enough to impose its will anywhere. Although the U.S. has faced more problems in Iraq than in Afghanistan, the illusion of U.S. omnipotence remains strong in the minds of many. Is this the pride that goes before the fall?
A closer look at Afghanistan—where the U.S. has been engaged the longest—should be instructive. Last November, Britain's Financial Times newspaper carried an article with the headline, "Afghanistan is a 'narco-economy', UK says" (November 19, 2004, p. 6). The Financial Times was reporting Britain's response to a just-released United Nations report that documented a 64 percent increase in Afghanistan's opium production. Three years after the U.S. overthrew the Taliban, opium had become the mainstay of the Afghan economy, and accounted for a whopping 60 percent of the gross domestic product. Opium cultivation had risen from 8,000 hectares in 2001 to 131,000 hectares in 2004! As a result, Afghanistan has now surpassed both Colombia and the "Golden Triangle" of southeast Asia to lead the world in the production of narcotics. The value of Afghan opium production is approaching $3 billion, and it accounts for 87 percent of the world's total supply. Narcotics production has become the main "engine of economic growth" for the Afghan nation. Who is profiting from this? Certainly warlords and government officials at almost all levels are reaping a bounty, but there is more. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, pointed out in the UN report that Taliban and al-Qaeda refugees near the Pakistan border were also reaping a financial windfall.
Obviously, then, America's overthrow of the Taliban government did not solve the whole problem. A stable and democratic Afghanistan has yet to emerge—and, frankly, is not even on the distant horizon. The central government headed by Mohammed Kharzai has effective control of the capital and little else. The lucrative narcotics trade provides a corrupting influence that will not only undermine government efforts to control the country, but will also provide funding for future terrorism against America and its allies.
The situation in Iraq is no better. Divided among Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, Iraq was one of several countries created at Versailles following World War I. Its three main ethnic groups share deeply rooted antagonisms that lead many analysts to expect the nation to fracture along ethnic and religious lines. In the meantime, ongoing violence continues to damage the morale and test the resolve of America and its allies. Each new death fuels more protests at home, more unrest within Iraq and more talk of a "quagmire" reminiscent of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
President Bush has made the spreading of freedom the centerpiece of American foreign policy. His vision is that each new democracy in the Middle East will be another cornerstone in the effort to promote peace and prosperity in that troubled region. The reality behind his words, however, is far different, and less encouraging. If there were truly "one man, one vote" throughout the region, regimes favorable to the West would be voted out and replaced by hostile ones. Remember that, for a time following the 9-11 attacks, "Osama" became the most popular name for newborn boys throughout much of the Arab world.
In the second Bush administration, neo-conservatives are playing greater and more visible roles. Is the U.S. really ready to deploy America's unparalleled power to spread freedom around the world? If so, will American foreign policy quickly become a series of armed missions, with the unspoken rationale that if the cause is noble, almost any means is justified?
Writing in the Economist magazine, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, observed: "America remains the world's pre-eminent actor, but it is also stretched militarily, in debt financially, divided domestically, and unpopular internationally" (November 6, 2004, p. 36). Before the war in Iraq, the American government took a very unrealistic approach to the costs of the venture. The explanation was that Iraqi oil sales would pay for costs of reconstruction in the country and even for much of our costs in "liberating" the nation. Reality has proven far different.
The annual U.S. budget deficit is currently above $400 billion. The rising cost of homeland security and overseas military intervention has put a strain on the American economy—a strain that the Bush administration has been reluctant to acknowledge. Far more than most can imagine, the American economy is increasingly at the mercy of the bankers in Asia and Europe who finance the U.S. by buying its bonds. If it has not already, America will soon learn the truth of what wise King Solomon wrote nearly three millennia ago: "The borrower is servant to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).
Coupled with the huge and ever-mounting financial deficit is the strain that is being put on the American military. With more than 150,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. would be hard pressed to respond to a crisis on the Korean peninsula or elsewhere. National Guard and Army Reserve units have been activated to fill in the gaps created by an overstretched American military, and "stop loss" orders are preventing some soldiers from leaving the armed forces. Can this go on much longer with an all-volunteer military, if the U.S. truly expects to police the world?
Another troubling factor is America's tremendous dependence on foreign oil. Currently the U.S. imports more than 12 million barrels of oil per day—accounting for more than half of its energy needs. In our current environment, where energy producers manage their resources to assure maximum prices as demand shifts, there is no reason to expect significant reductions in energy prices anytime soon. Rather, if there were a disruption of oil production by a major producer such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or Nigeria, prices could skyrocket, creating drastic reverberations not just in America but around the world.
Americans, for all their power, are far more vulnerable than they wish to believe. After all, no nation can remain a great power for long if its economic foundation erodes. What is the real foundation of America's national greatness? How did it come about, and how long will it endure? These are questions that neither the Bush administration nor its critics can adequately answer!
Few on either end of the political spectrum realize that the Bible explains what will happen as a result of America's aggressive desire to reshape and police the world. Some on the so-called "religious right" do acknowledge that God is the source of America's national blessings, but even they fail to understand why those blessings came about. Unaware that the U.S. and the other British-descended peoples are mentioned in Bible prophecy, they understand neither these nations' past rise to greatness nor their coming fall from that greatness. Some focus, selectively, on these nations' widespread sins, but fail to apply the consistent biblical standard; homosexuality and abortion are decried, but rampant unbiblical divorce and remarriage is generally passed over in silence. Unaware of the "big picture" from Bible prophecy, they fail to understand what is actually ahead—and why.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats truly know what lies just around the bend for America and its allies. Neither do the leaders of Britain, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. You can know, however! If you are willing to really look at the words of your Creator—the One who has declared the end from the beginning—you can know where America's efforts to reshape the world are headed in the years immediately ahead. (If you have not yet requested your own copy of our free booklet on this vital topic, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy, please do so right away).
The Bible explains that the American and British-descended peoples have received the blessings of national bounty and greatness because of promises made anciently to the patriarch Abraham. As Moses prepared to lead the ancient Israelites—ancestors of the American and British-descended peoples—into the Promised Land, he reminded them: "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full… and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God… then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day" (Deuteronomy 8:11–18).
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the American and British-descended peoples enjoyed those blessings that were the fulfillment of ancient promises of the birthright blessings that Abraham's grandson Jacob (Israel) conveyed to his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, through the laying on of hands (Genesis 48:14–16). Speaking of the British and American nations and those who would oppose them, God inspired this ancient prophecy: "The archers have dealt bitterly with him, and shot at him, and hated him; but his bow abode firm, and his arms were made supple, by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob…" (Genesis 49:23–24, JPS). This prophecy was not intended primarily for ancient times, but for the last days (Genesis 49:1). It has certainly been descriptive of the history of the American and British-descended peoples since about 1800ad. In Deuteronomy 28, God further amplified these national blessings, promising: "The Lord will open to you His good treasure… You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them" (vv. 12–13).
However, we cannot take God's blessings for granted and simply live any way that we choose. With great blessings come great responsibilities. The English-speaking nations have increasingly rejected God and His laws, thumbing their collective noses at the One who gave them national greatness. God warned anciently, through Moses, what the consequences of such behavior would be. "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments… Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. The Lord will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me" (Deuteronomy 28:15, 19–20).
For the last two centuries, God did indeed use the American and British-descended nations to police the world. But that day is quickly drawing to a close. Nations that use the name of God while rejecting His commandments cannot continue to receive His blessings. Rather, He will break the pride of their power (Leviticus 26:19) in order to bring them to national repentance. Then, rescued from the consequences of the Great Tribulation by the returning Jesus Christ, the nations will emerge greatly humbled and anxious to seek the true God and His ways.
Jesus Christ will establish His government over the nations at that time. He will rebuke strong nations (Isaiah 2:4). He will successfully "police the world"—and He will do so in righteousness!