“Americans! They’re all thick!” is a common remark in Irish circles after the latest eye-rolling piece of news that comes from stateside. It’s not unique to the Irish either: the rest of the world has no shortage of superior notions on hearing the latest from President Trump or the millions of gun-toting paranoiacs who voted for him. It’s very easy to feel smarter than the Average American.
And yet: here’s the thing. The United States is not just another country. It is a country so powerful that it can supply Ukraine with enough weapons to paralyse its former superpower rival whilst utilising a mere 5% of its defence budget. And not just any old weapons either. Advanced missile systems that allow a single infantryman to destroy a Russian tank worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. HIMARS missile systems which allow Ukraine to devastate Russian forces. US satellites that provide incredibly accurate information on enemy forces to Ukraine. Sure, the UK and France and Germany are contributing in their own ways, but the reality is this: Ukraine is not defeated because the United States stepped in and equipped a brave but shockingly underequipped Ukrainian army with the arsenal of democracy. The US saved Ukraine.
Not only that, but the US also maintains a vast nuclear arsenal and air force and 12 aircraft carriers where the nearest rival has two. Could it suddenly fight China if it had to? Probably. It would almost certainly require the US economy to shift from its current consumer footing to a military manufacturing mode, but it could do that, and what’s more, that’s when, the US really shines.
People forget what defeated both Nazism and the Empire of Japan. Yes, British and especially Russian blood sacrifice, but what did it was the incomprehensible heft of sheer American economic power. It was American steel and Studebaker trucks that kept the Soviets in the fight.
If a giant asteroid was detected to be on an impact course with Earth, who would we all turn to? Beijing? Brussels? London? No. Even if the EU got 20 year notice that a giant meteorite was going to destroy, say, Poland, we’d still not get our act together. Once again, we’d assume that only one country would have the mix of resources, know-how and sheer willpower to actually save humanity. And after they did it, we’d bitch about their arrogance and lack of consultation.
Can we rely on them forever? Probably not. The US feels like it is turning in on itself, and not just on its right. If there was, say, an Ocasio-Cortez led liberal landslide, there’d be a huge focus on building a massively expanded (and expensive) US welfare state with an American NHS at its core.
As if that is depressing enough, just remember that there is only one country with a sniff at matching US power, and it is a brutal one party dictatorship that uses tanks against its own people.
As for Europe: we can’t even agree on a single currency.