Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

Those American Bastards

By David G. Young

Washington, DC, December 30, 2003 --  

One of the greatest ongoing irritations of the past few years has been the incessant whining of European leftists about American "unilateralism." The noise began shortly after George W. Bush was elected and pulled the United States out of the Kyoto climate change treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the International Criminal Court. As the Bush administration began its lonely saber rattling on Iraq, the hissing from Europe grew ever louder.

These annoying noises are the unhappy cries of an internationalist elite witnessing the collapse of order in the world family of nations. In this sense, the noises are not unlike the last two decades of cries from rightist Americans worried about the decline of the American nuclear family.

Social conservatives and mainstream American government planners have been terrified by the explosive increase in out-of-wedlock births during the last half of the 20th century. Between 1970 and 2000, the percentage of children born to single mothers increased from just over 10 percent to a full third of all children.1 Thirty years ago, most black infants were born by married parents. By the turn of the century, unmarried mothers were responsible for bringing over two-thirds of black Americans into the world.2 Across the North Atlantic, single motherhood has exploded. In Iceland, for example, 65 percent of births were to single mothers in 2001.3

For good or for bad, there is a simple explanation for this trend: women around the world are having more children out of wedlock because they can. Fifty years ago, an educational gender gap and social restrictions made it nearly impossible for women to find employment allowing them to support a family. Today, this is not an issue -- women fill a majority of positions in American medical and law schools. Although they may prefer marriage, women don't need husbands to raise children. No amount of rightist cajoling has been enough to overturn this reality.

It is for an analogous reason that the United States has chosen to go it alone on the world stage in recent years. Times have changed, and American leaders now have enough power in their hands that they no longer need other countries to accomplish their goals. Like a single mother, America may prefer to have a partner, but it doesn't need one. No amount of leftist cajoling will change this reality, either.

It is only a recent phenomenon that America has been so able to act alone. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago, America was involved in an international struggle for diplomatic favor. The United States had to court international allies lest they be pushed into the enemy camp. The Soviet Union, until the late 1980s, had the most powerful land army in the history of the world. The easiest way for the United States to counter Stalin and Brezhnev's military was by combining forces with allied nations, just as it had done against Hitler's armies.

Today, there is no military power that can come close to rivaling the United States, and the country's foreign policy shows it. Those who attribute this change to the provincialism of a Texan president are blind to the actions that took place in the previous administration. Like the invasion of Iraq, Clinton's war in Yugoslavia was executed without UN authority. Chinese and Russian veto threats had scuttled an attempt at a Security Council resolution authorizing the war. In the unlikely event that George Bush were defeated by a more internationalist electoral rival, the new American president would likely undergo a unilateralist conversion the very first time his interests conflicted with those of the internationalist community.

What we are witnessing today is but a natural return to the more common historical pattern of unilateral military action by a dominant power. It is exactly the sort of behavior that was typical of the British in the 19th Century, the Spanish in the 15th Century, and the Romans in the 1st Century. Disgruntled residents of small European countries had better get used to this reality, since it is not likely to change within our lifetimes.

If Europe wishes to see a different world order, then it must put its money where its mouth is. The European Union has a larger population and higher annual income than the United States. If Europe were to increase its defense spending from today's anemic levels, it would be able to both assist and rival the United States as a global policeman, and easily satisfy its desire to have a multi-polar world.

Until this happens, expect American sons to be regularly deployed as the de-facto police force around the world. Their go-it-alone leaders, like their go-it-alone mothers, are a reality that citizens of the world will simply have to accept.

Related Web Columns:

Put Up or Shut Up, December 10, 2002

Imaginary Isolationism, August 7, 2001


1. U.S. Center for Disease Control, Health, United States, 2003

2. Ibid.

3. UN Economic Commision for Europe, Trends in Europe and North America, 2003