Due to crippling domestic problems, the United States can no longer play world policeman. Can this great free nation ever return to unrivaled international prominence?
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They pulled back. Six years, three months and 11 days after declaring war on Iraq, United States troops moved out of the nation’s major cities. America’s armed forces ceded control to the new Iraqi Army, beginning a timeline for complete withdrawal by 2011.
Iraq and Afghanistan are a microcosm of America’s role as a global police force, with both successes and failures: free democratic elections, toppling Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, and keeping the War on Terror away from the U.S. home front—persistent terror attacks overseas, a lucrative heroin trade, billions of dollars spent on military operations while U.S. citizens reel from financial downturn, and no clean exit strategy in sight.
These two fronts of the War on Terror are the latest efforts of the self-styled world policeman. But, as with police officers in any metropolitan area, global law enforcement is a virtually thankless job. One that never ends.
Regardless of how one views the victories and losses in these two Islamic nations, one thing is clear: The United States of America has been burned, its reputation damaged, by trying to “rid the world of evil.” The global sheriff now wears a tarnished badge with its bruised reputation.
To the international community, U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have left Uncle Sam with two black eyes. Foreign newspaper editorials make this clear (articles taken from translations on the Watching America website, emphasis ours):
An article from Hong Kong paper Wen Wei Po stated the Iraq war “cost America its international support”—“showed international terrorist organizations its weaknesses”—and “belittled America in the eyes of its enemies.” Further, the conflict “marked the decline of the American empire from its peak.” In all, “America has broken its domination as the only superpower, a pattern of dominance that formed in the late Cold War era. America is unable to be the world policeman anymore.”
Regarding the ongoing war in Iraq, French paper l’Humanité remarked, “The legitimacy of the American superpower has been called into question. The capitalist policeman has shown itself to be nothing more than an insatiable oaf and the economic crisis has thrown light on the wasted resources and human lives that lay by the wayside of American progress. This constant push for profit at any cost—even war—has become too much of a threat to our planet for us to put up with the empire any longer.”
The title of an editorial from Sohu, a China-based search engine, asked, “America Is Backing Off So What Do We Do Now?”
“America is still the world’s only super power but it is a super power that has given up the role of the global policeman. It is more willing to influence international affairs through cooperation and diplomacy rather than brute force.”
Washington has its hands full, with a near 10 percent national unemployment rate, a declining housing market, and a federal government stretched thin by behemoth corporate bailouts.
As the Sohu editorial put it, “America cannot afford to embroil itself in a new predicament, but the resetting of its relationship with the world is going [to] take some getting used to.”
For decades, America wielded the authority of global policeman. Suffering injustice? The U.S. stood ready to swoop in and save the day. Under the bondage of tyranny? The U.S. was prepared to remove oppression, and rebuild with freedom.
But no more. America appears to have shed its star-shaped badge in a last-ditch effort to fix its internal problems. Has the “Great American Experiment” failed? Why has America continued to tumble—and how will it return to international preeminence?
No other single nation in history has ever rivaled America. Not one. The U.S. has had it all: freedom, abundant wealth and unmatched power.
From the time it broke from the British Empire, America grew to become a world power generations later—a nation built on principles centered on freedom—religion, press, speech and equality for all.
These ideals, detailed in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, spread like wildfire. America became the poster child for budding democratic nations.
Canada borrowed from the U.S. (but mostly from Britain) for its constitution, as did Australia, in 1900, almost jot and tittle. France, Belgium, Switzerland and other European powers owe a nod to the U.S. for their laws.
America often shares its wealth abroad. Over $25.4 billion went to foreign aid in 2008—only 0.0017 percent of the nation’s $14.3 trillion gross domestic product. Germany comes in at a distant second, with less than $13 billion in aid, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Then there is America’s power. The country saw military successes (World War II, the outcome of the Cold War), and gallantly weathered stalemates (Korea) and defeats (Vietnam). If there is any credence to the saying “money is power,” Washington’s proposed $533 billion 2010 defense budget should prepare a military ready for anything.
This is the nation President Ronald Reagan called a “city on a hill,” borrowing the saying from pilgrim John Winthrop, who borrowed the term from the Bible: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matt. 5:13-14)—an apt description of America’s view of itself.
But that light must be shared: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house” (vs. 15).
America wants all nations to enjoy what it has. And it has had the freedom, wealth and power to make this come to pass—a line of thinking that has long permeated U.S. foreign policy. For decades, presidents have agreed.
President Theodore Roosevelt declared in 1904, “Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”
In other words, chronic wrongdoing requires intervention from an international police power.
Fast-forward through two world wars, rebuilding war-torn Europe, the space and nuclear arms race, Vietnam, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, to the end of the 1990s. Responding to Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors, President Bill Clinton said he was “prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.” The Operation Desert Fox bombings followed. After the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush approved the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the year 2009 brought a subtle shift. Newly elected President Barack Obama said while “we don’t want stronger nations bullying weaker nations…where you have nations that are oppressing their people, isn’t there an international responsibility to intervene?”
Yet Mr. Obama qualified his remarks that military action should only occur in “exceptional circumstances.” He said the focus should be on extensive diplomacy and peaceful measures. If these fail, only then “the need for international intervention becomes a moral imperative” (emphasis ours).
But how should Washington pick and choose its battles? While stuck in two war fronts, more problems crop up each day: a coup d’état in Honduras, contending with saber-rattling from Iran, nuclear threats from North Korea, war and starvation in Africa, global warning fears…
Amid all this, America’s wealth evaporates before its eyes, which the world blames for the global economic turmoil. The country’s military might is spread thin. Will freedom fall next?
The American mindset has been wrong for years: “We have built this nation. We have defended freedom. We built the greatest nation of all time.”
Yet it is not this nation’s ideas that have set it “upon a hill” as the “light of the world.” Identifying the country’s ancient roots is key to understanding how it rose to prominence as the lone superpower, the self-appointed world policeman.
The United States began as a haven for religious freedom. Every American dollar proclaims, “In God we trust.” Its citizens proudly sing, “God bless America, land that I love!”
In a strange irony, God has blessed America—yet few truly understand this or give Him credit. The entire nation is clueless as to why it enjoys such abundant, unprecedented blessings.
It all started thousands of years ago with Abraham. Because of the patriarch’s faithful obedience, God promised his “seed” (modern descendants) national, material blessings. From Abraham came the 12 tribes of ancient Israel, from which America, Britain and other Western nations descended. (Our book America and Britain in Prophecy explains this in stunning detail.)
God promised Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, that his descendants would become “a nation and a company of nations” (Gen. 35:11)—the U.S. and United Kingdom, which skyrocketed from obscurity to become the greatest single nation and company of nations in history. Britain and America descended from the sons of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh, respectively), and received the birthright blessings (Gen. 48:14-16).
God wants the modern peoples of Israel, just as He did with Old Testament Israel, to be a model nation: “Behold, I [Moses] have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me…Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (Deut. 4:5-8).
Nonetheless, the American and British peoples have acted in the same stubborn, rebellious and stiff-necked fashion as did ancient Israel. Unthankful, ungrateful and proud, America stumbles on, trying to make its own way—instead of seeking God and yielding to Him so that such unrivaled blessings continue.
Unlike Abraham, U.S. citizens have not obeyed God. Rather, they have worshipped in their own way, with every American doing “that which was right in his own eyes” (Jdg. 21:25).
The result? When other nations demean and ridicule it abroad, or when its citizens or government officials are kidnapped or attacked, or in the face of international atrocities, the American giant can only issue weak verbal warnings.
Why? Because God is also keeping His promise to “break the pride of your power” in the face of the nation’s disobedience (Lev. 26:19). The U.S. has already lost its sense of patriotic loyalty to the political, economic and military might it once so freely enjoyed.
Increasingly, America is vilified and despised throughout the world, even by nations that benefit from U.S. aid. This also is a result of disobedience: “Behold, I will raise up your lovers [former American allies] against you, from whom your mind is alienated, and I will bring them against you on every side” (Ezek. 23:22).
The once-great country is neither grateful for these birthright blessings, nor has sought God in repentant obedience. And without turning to God and keeping His ways, the U.S. cannot pull out of its downward spiral.
Still darker days will soon slam into America. Without national repentance, it will sink to the lowest of nations—even enduring national captivity!
Yet, as occurred time and again in ancient Israel, Jacob’s descendants will cry out in captivity, and repent.
God will hear and restore the glory of the nation: “Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin of Israel: you shall again be adorned with your tabrets, and shall go forth in the dances of them that make merry. You shall yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things” (Jer. 31:4-5).
At that time, America (along with Britain) will become the model nation God originally intended. However, it will not appoint itself to police the world through wealth and military might. Rather, it will be a shining city-on-a-hill example of keeping God’s Law. The entire world will wonder at its prominence, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”