Being a superpower is achieving unmatched dominance in doing or controlling something. On the international platform, however, the term is used to mean “a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemony” (Miller).
At the end of the Second World War, the United States of America emerged as the unrivalled dominant force in the world thereby attaining the superpower status. America’s standing dominance was boosted by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation of the British Empire. Currently, the United States remains the most powerful nation in the world. However, its status as a superpower has faced a lot of criticism in the past and present decade.
Many pundits claim the country does not meet any criteria for being a superpower. Interestingly, there is no universally accepted criterion for measuring or ascertaining a superpower status. Going by the common components necessary for societal dominance or prosperity, the United States is a decaying state and is, therefore, not a world superpower.
At the beginning of the fist world war, there were many axes of power. Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and America involved in world affairs, almost at the same level (Lee, 1987). However, the difference emerged at the end of the Second World War. Whereas the other countries involved in the two wars, second and first world wars, financial and human resource wise, the United States kept a safe distance.
The United States only involvement was in the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan. The other nations, which wielded equal power, faded into oblivion as all their resources were depleted in the two wars. This left only the United States and the Soviet Union as the dominant forces. It is evident that the two countries gained their world dominance after the fall of their main rivals. The United States gained even more when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Therefore, it is not outrageous to claim that the United States did not gain the world’s superpower status, but instead benefitted from the fall of other dominant states. Worst still, when the other countries were busy destroying each other in the wars, the United States was busy manufacturing weapons and selling to them. Removing a potential competitor from a competition does not make you number one; all it does is to make you compete yourself.
Attaining a super power stature requires military, political, cultural, and economic success. In the 19th century, “Britain was the prototype super power” (Miller). Britain gained economic dominance by colonizing many countries, which acted as sources of raw materials and labor for its industries. Britain invested in research during the industrial revolution, which led to the invention of many machines thereby speeding up the production process.
With raw materials, slave labor, and overseas markets, Britain became the wealthiest state in the world. Its political dominance also grew, as it occupied all strategic areas from Gibraltar to the Cape of Good Hope. The British pound became the most sought currency in the world. The British naval force was unmatched. The naval force protected British interests, trade ships, and trade routes, against any inference.
British dominance reigned for a century before other industrial powers such as Russia, France, and Germany launched aggressive competition in trade, political supremacy, and weaponry. The emergence of these powers did not destabilize Britain or change its influence on the international platform. British supremacy began dwindling when its overseas colonies gained independence.
This deprived Britain of raw materials for its established industries, market for its finished products, and labor. Its economic wings were clipped, henceforth. Germany, under the leadership of Wilhelm II, dented Britain’s political and military supremacy when it out rightly undermined its hegemony. Britain’s influence dwindled, and the United States, a former British colony, gained prominence.
The United States grew fast, economically, politically, and in military front. It developed sound economic policies, which enabled growth. It also gained significantly from the sale of weapons to other countries involved in world wars. The Second World War saw the united states grow its military, army and navy, gigantically. Before the beginning of the Second World War, its army numbered 270,000 (Leland & Oboroceanu, 2009).
However, this number moved to twelve million during the world war period. By liaising with other friendly counties, the US built a massive military force and was the first nation to acquire and us nuclear power. Under the leadership of Ronald Reagan and George W. as presidents, the United states enjoyed democratic space and constitutional amendments that opened opportunities for fairness and equally.
As a result, many people worldwide, slowly begun to harbor the desire to work and live in the United States, further giving it prominence and stature. Over the years, things have changed, and the United States, as things stand now, does not deserve the stature of a superpower.
The country’s unemployment rate has hit an all time high of 7.6 percent (Apollo, 2012). Over the last few years, the United States’ debts have been increasing at an alarming rate. With its revenue sources, taxes, custom duties, and miscellaneous receipts already exhausted, the government’s only option for meeting its financial deficit is through borrowing. This borrowing trend has continued for decades leading to an accumulation of $120 trillion in debts (Tanner).
Every budget year, the US government, faces this financing challenge. It is evident that the country’s financial might is wavering. Not only America’s economy has elicited concerns, but its politics too. The rate of polarization of America’s parties is worrying. Contemporary politics in America has gradually but steadily shown a widening chasm between its party leaders, Republicans and Democrats.
This situation has worsened to the extent that some pundits and scholars refer to as irreversible. According to Dionne, the United State’s political map has “taken the coloration of civil war” (2004). Its human rights violations rival the world’s “most toxic, tinpot dictatorships, and authoritarian regimes” (Ridley, 2011).
As the United States goes down economically, socially, and politically, China has been rising in all these aspects. In fact, according to John Leakey, a political scientist, It is just a matter of time before China replaces the United States as the world’s superpower (personal communication, (May 4, 2012). China has grown tremendously and is the United state’s principal creditor. It has a mature internal democracy, and well equipt military.
The stature of a super power is not easy to attain. It requires political stability and democracy, economic might, unrivalled military dominance, and most importantly, a friendly image on the international platform. The United States is slowly but steadily failing in these fonts. As a result, many nations have questioned its position as superpower, creating a temporary power vacuum. The power vacuum created from its imminent fall will most certainly be filled by China.
Apollo, J. (2012). America’s Long-Term Unemployed: It is Different This Time. Viable Opposition , 7-9.
Dionne, E. J. (2004). Why Americans hate politics. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Lee, S. J. (1987). The European dictatorships, 1918-1945. London: Methuen.
Leland, A., & Oboroceanu, M. (2009). American war and military operations casualties lists and statistics. Washington, D.C.?: Congressional Research Service.
Miller, L. (n.d.). SJIR: China an Emerging Superpower?. Stanford University.
Ridley, Y. (2011). America’s International Standing Does Not Match its Superpower Status. Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding.
Tanner, M. (2011). $120 trillion: The shocking true size of our nation’s debt – NYPOST.com. New York News.