Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said something that is true for almost every American reading these words: “I spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position.”
Most Americans born since 1945 have spent every moment of their lives in the world’s most exclusive club: the superpower club. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Americans have been the only members of the superpower club.
Many Americans, like Mr. Gates and the troops who serve under him, wholeheartedly embrace American power and understand the importance of American power; not just to America, but to the world.
Others, like the president of the United States, have a more conflicted view of American power. As Newsweek editor Jon Meacham observed, Barack Obama’s formative years in the small, foreign country of Indonesia made him “more conscious of what American power feels like on the receiving end than on the giving end.”
Perhaps that is why, on April 3, 2009, in Strasbourg, France, Mr. Obama decried American power and “arrogance,” saying, “In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.” Then, later that month, in Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Obama told the assembled leaders of Venezuela, Haiti, Grenada, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Suriname and others: “I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations.” Then, during his first address to the United Nations, Mr. Obama scorned American power and exceptionalism, saying, “No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.” During his visit to China in November 2009, Mr. Obama spoke of the need for America to show “modesty” and “humility” on the world stage.
But it was the president’s speech to the nation last week that confirmed his un-American view of American power, leading even the traditionally friendly Washington Post to write, “President Obama’s Afghanistan speech confirms America’s decline,” heralding that “the American Century just ended [and] President Obama said that [American] power had reached its limit.”
Is it any wonder why some people, like Mr. Gates and a growing number of American citizens, think that Mr. Obama is either standing idly by while American power wanes - or worse - that his administration is actually speeding the demise of the once-great superpower, America?
Mr. Gates said, “That’s one of the many reasons it’s time for me to retire, because frankly I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government … that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.”
Why would any American, least of all the president of America, want to scale back American power?
Objectively speaking, the world is a far better place with America being the No. 1 power than the alternatives. Imagine a world in which the No. 1 power was also the world’s biggest jailer, polluter and censor (communist China) or the fast-rising movement of radical Islamists who seek to dominate the world and its women with Shariah law and bring all non-believers into submission or “dhimmitude.”
Compassionately speaking, the world as we know it is the way it is because the most powerful nation in the world, for most of our lives, has not just been a great power, America has also been a good power. Just ask the people of Takihana, Japan, in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquakes. When they looked out on the horizon and saw the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and American helicopters coming their way, they saw the troops, the supplies and the water that would save their lives. The same has been true all around the world: America shows up first and stronger, than any other nation. And the reason we can do that is because we are powerful. Weak nations do not have rescue helicopters, aircraft carriers or the troops to save lives. American power is what allows America to turn its good intentions into good deeds.
American power is a force for good in the world. A world in need understands that. America’s allies understand it. Most Americans understand it. Our troops fully understand it. Even our enemies understand it.
The odd man out is Mr. Obama. Mr. Gates and our troops could teach the president a thing or two about the importance of American power - and how America’s enemies view any sign of weakness.
Michael Prell is a writer and strategist for the Tea Party Patriots, and author of “Underdogma: How America’s Enemies Use our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power” (BenBella Books, 2011).