Opinion | America Has No Reason to Be So Powerful – By Stephen Wertheim – The New York Times

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Mr. Wertheim is the author of “Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy.”

Credit…Illustration by Doug Chayka; Photographs by Don Mason, Shilo Watts, Joel Carillet, narvikk and rusm, via Getty Images, and mikanoka, via iStock

“The next president, whoever he is, will not determine the future of America’s role in the world. Joe Biden does not recognize there is a problem. President Trump has no answers.

Three decades into the “post-Cold War era,” still named for what preceded it, the United States possesses no widely shared, deeply felt purpose for vast global power. America’s armed dominance today occupies a position similar to that of liberal immigration, free trade or private health insurance a decade ago. Taken for granted by political elites, it is nonetheless ripe for challenge beneath the surface.

One source of challenge comes from recent experience: America’s wars have projected mayhem across the greater Middle East and brought militarized violence home to American streets. Another source is prospective: As both liberals and conservatives rack up debt, they will face pressure to cut the gargantuan, trillion-plus sum lavished annually on national security.

But the most profound challenge is rooted deep in the past. If many Americans no longer understand why their country should police the world, it is for good reason: U.S. military supremacy has outlived its original purpose.”