The Problem of American Power

The Problem of American Power

The uneven development of world economy has resulted in a disastrous split between the industrialized West • and primitive East; but it has also brought another split, at the moment quite as important, between the United States and its own allies. Those theoreticians of liberalism who advance claims for American uniqueness generally do so in a spirit of eulogy, but if they were to stand back a little from the problem and see it in some historical perspective, they might make a genuine contribution. For there is a sense in which America is becoming unique. Even as it is inextricably drawn into the historical dilemmas of Europe and Asia, even as Europe and Asia become “Americanized,” there has developed in this country such a concentration of wealth and power, with so many new attendant values, as to make America increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.

Far more than good or bad will is at stake. A kind of symbiotic relationship can be traced: the decline of Europe has proceeded in direct ratio to the rise of America. The power potential of the country, its unprecedented emphasis on norms of accumulation and efficiency, its literal incapacity to understand and irritated refusal to sympathize with the patterns of thought which dominate Europe and Asia—these are factors, sometimes the result of bad will but more often of a multiplying cultural distance, which make America into a lonely power colossus, alternating between gestures of humiliating generosity and crude intimidation, sincerely convinced that only by the imposition of its will can the world be saved. But the world resists this will; it cannot, even if it would, surrender its own modes of response

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Lima