One of the hardest parts of parenting is managing the transition from the all-knowing, all seeing protector from all harm, to the often barely recognized elder statesman. Power over others can be habit-forming, and a more difficult habit to break than heroin. But when we are dealing with human beings one thing is certain; the Absolute, not our hand, is in control.
As children grow up and begin to feel their independence they might find their parent wants to hold on, telling them that they still know what’s best, that they offer stability and security. It is a faint hope as children always grow up and go on to their own adventures, full of hazard and opportunity. If we as parents manage that transition well we get to participate in those adventures, and perhaps even contribute to their success. If we don’t the children spin off to their own orbit.
At the end of world war two the United States was really the only country still standing. Europe was devastated, Russia was trashed, China, which had been in a civil war before the Japanese attacked was plundered and destroyed and Japan herself had been bombed beyond recognition. It seemed natural that we, the US, would take the leadership role and we did. In the intervening years the United States built a global system that enriched us while providing something that looked like order, the Pax Americana it was called. That worked fine for over seventy years but now the kids are growing up.
The idea of a uni-polar world with us as the single pre-eminent power makes perfect sense and worked well when we were the only one but now there are others, and they don’t care for the idea one bit. So here it is. We can let this issue lead to war as we try to hold on to control or we can manage the change, gracefully, like adults recognizing that we have no choice. It’s like the hero in the movie says, we can do it the easy way, or we can do it the hard way but we are going to do it.
The US does not need to leave the world stage, as so many pundits have suggested. We simply need to put diplomacy in front of the military. Create a peaceful stage whereupon all players can play as relative equals. In this way we can salvage our superpower status without bankrupting the nation with military hardware.
Let’s challenge the diplomats to put together a no-aggression treaty between the big guys and get the smaller countries to sign on. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. The treaty can provide for phased withdrawals from conflict zones, reductions not just in nukes but in all types of weapon systems, de-militarized border zones and other practical and trust-building measures. We can support our troops best by not sending them on excursions to every corner of the globe. We could let the diplomats lead instead of the army. With all the money we would save not feeding the military procurement machine we could pay off the national debt and get back to a government, and a country, run not for the select few but for the people, from whom all power derives.