*If the countries of the world were ranked, many people across the globe would rank the United States first. But this is curious because the United States does not rank very high in education, has the largest national debt with a recently downgraded credit rating, and is a less and less attractive location for businesses due to favorable tax shelters available in other nations.
What then is the basis on the #1 ranking I alluded to earlier? Two things: culture and power. Culture I will leave for another day. In light of the recent news about American drone strikes American power deserves a little more attention.
There are two basic concepts in play here. First: the United States sees itself as the leader of the free world which means it will feels a responsibility to use military force to ensure that world events follow a certain path. This use of military force means a commitment of either American lives or, in our increasingly technologically advanced reality, a commitment of American machinery.
The first of these things is the easiest thing to change but also the most unlikely thing to be changed. There is nothing besides American ego that dictates that we strive to maintain our position as world leader. Our policy makers could decide to retreat from the responsibility of world leadership. But the prestige of that position is too powerful a force to deny. Even with an understanding of the negative consequences of being everywhere in the world, there is virtually no chance that the United States will abandon its role as world leader.
Because of that role the American military must be able operate and enforce the American will in multiple arenas. A few generations ago that meant having a substantial number of troops and equipment spread around the world. But if you are a military decision maker why would you not progress beyond putting American lives in jeopardy? This is what the drones make possible. Given that the drones can strike targets with precision using them is the correct military decision.
All of this brings us to the recent news regarding the use of drones on American citizens. But if you accept the first two concepts listed above there really shouldn’t be any question about who gets targeted. Unless you mistakenly subscribe to the idea that American citizens couldn’t possibly pursue actions that would subvert American interests, then there are scenarios in which American military forces would be in conflict with American citizens.
In this case A+B yields C. If you’d like to change A and relinquish America’s status as the most powerful nation in the world than the outcome might change. If you want to change B and not support American interests around the world then the outcome might change. But without any change in A or B, it is unreasonable to expect that American citizens would not, at some point, be targeted.
Secondly it might be argued that this is different because the American military is executing people without benefit of a trial. This is true. But the American military is not a police force tasked with bring evildoers to justice. Instead the American military is a force tasked with killing people so that the interests of our country are advanced. This is an unpleasant truth. To ask the military to operate in a different manor is to set it up to fail. So when our military targets American citizens, the unfortunate outcome is that American citizens die.
At the end of the day most people who are upset with this outcome are misplacing their anger. No one in this country likes to have Americans losing their life. But the real problem here is the position of the United States as world leader that must have its perspective carried out. Once this changes many of the negative consequences of American military activity will be minimized.
Can our egos take such a change though?
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.