U.S. presidential candidates, in their final debate on Monday that was focused on foreign policy, made it clear to their voters that they will be better presidents in leading America in key parts of the world without knowing what kind of negative consequences it might entail.
One wonders how the next president is going to make it happen giving constraints of the U.S. power following two devastating wars in the Middle East and numerous falling initiatives. In the debate, Obama used the word “leadership” for 15 times while Romney said it eight times. It certainly brings votes to say America is going to lead the world to peace and prosperity but at the same time it creates discord in various parts of the world against the U.S. role.
No state can accept leadership of another state unless it is under grave threat of destruction and any attempt to create leadership over others has always had backlash. There is no such thing called “American leadership that will bring peace and prosperity” as Romney kept repeating in the debate. States, as usual, will always keep fighting and the U.S. must pick a smart strategy to turn the tide into its favor. This could include pitting emerging powers against each other to make sure that no nation is dominating others in a region they are located. Another strategy is to make brief intervention to change the course of events rather than trying to run a country. The U.S. is good at changing the course of history but it is bad at running other nations.
When you boast of a military spending that is more than military spending of next ten countries combined, then you should be ready to see other countries worried about your military might and intentions. The U.S. is the most powerful nation on Earth and it can defeat any state it wants in any part of the world. When this kind of tremendous power shows signs of leadership role in any regional challenges it faces, it will be met with resistance rather than welcome. States will only welcome the alliance and partnership of the U.S. as long as they know that the U.S. has no expansionist ambitions.
When you talk about leadership in the East Asia, this is definitely not good news for both China and its adversaries. The U.S. must continue to leave nations surrounding China weak to the extent of being only defend themselves to make sure that Japan and other states don’t dominate the region as it was the situation before the World War II. The U.S. should stay vigilant against Chinese expansion as well as maintain the current balance of power in the Pacific region with delicate partnerships rather than speaking about being a leader in the region.
The same goes with the Middle East too. Neither Turkey nor Egypt want U.S. leadership but both powerful countries wouldn’t want to see their ambitions being realized without the U.S. giving a helping hand to them.
All in all, the U.S. will continue to increase its presence in the Middle East and East Asia no matter who will be elected to the White House. But the U.S. should aim to prevent any state to dominate regions that are very significant to U.S. interests, including its own domination. Taking a leadership role in the Middle East and the East Asia won’t help Washington to promote its interests and instead will turn friendly nations balancing against the world’s superpower.