The Magazine

Power for Good

Since the end of the Cold War, America the Indispensable.

Apr 10, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 28 • By MAX BOOT
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Mandelbaum also points to five economic benefits of American power. First, the United States provides the security essential for international commerce by, for instance, policing Atlantic and Pacific shipping lanes. Second, the United States safeguards the extraction and export of Middle Eastern oil, the lifeblood of the global economy. Third, in the monetary realm, the United States has made the dollar "the world's 'reserve' currency" and supplied loans to "governments in the throes of currency crises."

Fourth, the United States has pushed for the expansion of international trade by midwifing the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and other instruments of liberalization. And fifth, by providing a ready market for goods exported by such countries as China and Japan, the United States "became the indispensable supplier of demand to the world."

Naturally, the United States gets scant thanks for all these services provided gratis. But Mandelbaum points out that, for all their griping, other countries have not pooled "their resources to confront the enormous power of the United States because, unlike the supremely powerful countries of the past, the United States [does] not threaten them." Instead, the United States actually helps other nations achieve shared goals such as democracy, peace, and prosperity.

Call it what you will, America is still the greatest force for good in the world, as it has been since 1942. That may seem obvious, but there is no truth so basic that it cannot be denied by most intellectuals. With his refreshing willingness to defend the much-reviled "goliath," Mandelbaum is a welcome dissenter from the regnant orthodoxy in his own field.

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.