Is America still a Great Power?

The question of whether America is still a great power will strike many as foolish. Undeniably, there is no doubt the United States of America is still the preeminent power in the world. America has the world’s largest economy in terms of gross domestic product, our companies lead the world in investment and innovation, and our country has high living standards. The United States has the most powerful and technologically advanced armed forces in the world and spends considerably more than most countries on defense. Adopting this classic framework to measure a country’s power would surely lead to a positive answer to the question.

However, these traditional standards of analysis of power do not fully reflect what is needed for the preservation of a great power. Other criteria must be added to the analysis of America’s status of a great power. The criteria are the moral qualities of patriotism and conviction of destiny, which, due to a self-loathing campaign by the left, the latest episode being the actions of Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry, reveals the moral qualities to be lacking in America and leads to the questioning of America’s status in the world as a great power.

Patriotism is a sentiment of love, respect, and reverence for one’s own country. This feeling of love is not constant but is one that arises in specific circumstances in the state's history. These events can be the celebration of America’s independence on the Fourth of July, participation of American teams in international sporting events or events such as the Second World War. Hence, patriotism is a transient love for one’s country, its shared history, tradition, and language.

The second moral quality is conviction of destiny, which refers to a country’s unified goal or purpose. Take, for example, the competing powers during the Cold War, the Soviet Union, devoted to spreading the Marxist revolution across the world, contrasted with the American goal to spread the virtues of freedom and capitalism. Hence, great powers must have a unifying goal or purpose, which guides what they stand for in the world.

Looking at the state of America through the lenses of patriotism and conviction of destiny, the outlook looks precarious if America is to maintain its great power status. The American Left, for example, has joined a global movement in the West centered in self-loathing or hatred of one’s own country. Thus, we see plans like the 1619 Project, which was designed from the outset to utilize the history of slavery in America to create a degraded narrative of America’s founding and the shared history of its citizens. This agenda persists with the continued disrespect to the American flag and our national anthem.

This self-loathing program is also seen in what Kenneth Minogue dubbed ‘Olympianism’ the belief that the nation-state is the root of all evil in the worl and that we must turn to international organizations. Left-leaning individuals across America are Olympian ideologues and campaign constantly to undermine national sovereignty and national identity in favor of creating supranational institutions and identities.

The crusade against America also has a detrimental effect against establishing a conviction of destiny. The unifying goal of the United States has always been the cultivation of freedom in the world. However, many seem to balk at this idea, and construct a narrative of America as an immoral actor in the world, guilty of many crimes. This narrative saps our nation’s self-confidence, so that America does not know its proper place in the world, or what its destiny or goal might be. Consequently, the United States is strong in war because it has a unifying goal and purpose like winning the conflict and weak in peace.

The self-hatred campaign against one’s own country makes sustaining a feeling of attachment, love, and loyalty hallmarks of patriotism and  a unifying goal or purpose impossible in today’s America. We cannot sustain America’s status as a great power in the long term where there is a populace lacking patriotism and a nation lacking a conviction of destiny. This truth is revealed by looking at other great powers throughout history such as Ancient Rome and Greece, whose lack of these moral qualities were part of the reasons for their downfall.

I’m not suggesting that the United States will collapse like the ancient civilizations of Rome and Greece. But not addressing the lack of these moral qualities should be a pause for concern for politicians, policymakers, and the public at large. The assault against these qualities begs the question of whether America is still a world power. The answer seems to be yes, for now.

Ojel L. Rodriguez Burgos is a Ph.D. Student in the School of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. His political commentary has appeared in The Hill, The Washington Examiner, and Forbes. Follow him on twitter: @ojelrodriguez

Image: Vincent Aderente

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