How Powerful is the United States?

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“How powerful is the United States?” might
seem like a dumb question. By just looking at the US military, economy, and political
influence you could conclude, as studies by the National Intelligence Council
did in 2008 and 2012, that the United States is the “single most powerful country”
in the world. They also think that it will remain that way until at least 2025. So instead of focusing
on the United States’ strengths, we’re going to focus on it’s limitations. Yes,
the United States is the most powerful, but how effectively can they wield that power? The answer is: not too effectively. For starters,
the US government is largely governed by an elaborate system of checks
and balances, which is good for maintaining stability, but bad for wielding power. For example, the President is the commander
and chief of the armed forces, but only Congress can declare war on other nations
or authorize extended military campaigns, like our current war on terror, which is currently
authorized under an act passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11. So, right now,
the President can do what he needs to do to fight Al Qaeda, but he cannot conduct
extended military campaigns against other non-al qaeda affiliated nations without Congress’s
sign off. Even if another nation, like lets say Russia, were to do something that
the President disagreed with, like lets say annex Crimea or invade Ukraine, the President’s
hands would still be tied. Plus, both the President and Congress are
in power for limited periods of time and freely elected by the people. If the President
or Congress were to vote for or start an unpopular war, it could be difficult for them
to stay in office. So, at the beginning of any large scale conflict, elected officials
have to be at least somewhat certain that the people will go for it. This is why the
majority of the United States’s overt military actions are against outside aggressors like
Japan in World War Two, rogue states like Iraq in Desert Storm, or as a direct result
of a terrorist attack on US soil or against US embassies. It would be very difficult for
our Government to start an overt conflict with a foreign state without one of those contingencies
happening first. I say overt conflict, because the US does
have a history of using covert operations to overthrow or overly influence other nations.
And it is a history spotted with messy failures that act more as proof of the US’s
lack of power than anything else. To hear more about that, check out our video on the
US’s current relationship with Iran. Obviously, that is just one approach to the
limits of US power, and there are many other examples. Russia and China’s place
on the UN security council being chief among them. To find out more about that click
here and please let us know in the comments, any other angles you would like
us to point to in the future or anything else you’d like to know.

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