Many around the world detest American power and even many in this country are at least ambivalent about our global role. In "The World America Made," author Robert Kagan begins by inviting readers to wonder in the fashion of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" what the world might be like without the United States.
Kagan notes that there was nothing inevitable about our current world order that, under American leadership, since 1950 has seen a healthy rate of economic growth, no wars between major powers, the eradication of poverty in many parts of the globe, and a great increase in the number of countries that are democracies. World peace and the spread of democracy are not inevitable, Kagan asserts, and notes that in the 1920s and 1930s when there was no leading powerful democracy in the world there was what he calls a "reverse wave" in which pernicious ideologies were on the rise.
Some today argue that the world would function more smoothly if there was a multipolar arrangement and America was no longer the world's clear leader, but Kagan disputes this, offering a key example of a multipolar system in the past that led to disaster and tragedy. The author also offers cold, hard statistics to refute the abject nonsense that the size of our defense budget is the main driver of our deficits. He wisely notes that, given the stability and prosperity we (and the world) get from the low percentage of GDP we spend on defense, "it may be a lot cheaper to preserve the current level of American involvement in the world than to reduce it."
"The World America Made" is a short book, but it is so well-argued and meaty that there were many, many passages that I underlined, double-underlined, and bracketed. Kagan's book is very timely and is a book that in this election year should be read by anyone skeptical or ambivalent about the global role of the United States.