employed without legitimacy and strategic purpose may be very danger ous for

Employed without legitimacy and strategic purpose may

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employed without legitimacy and strategic purpose, may be very danger- ous for the state that does so. Power is the foundation of force; but an excessive employment of force—not just military, but economic and political—can erode the power foundation. Paradoxically, the recogni- tion of power comes from the display of force, but when states employ force excessively, it may lead to a decrease in power. The unmistakable link between power and force may, in fact, be found in national will and legitimacy. The longer a state employs force, the greater the potential for a decrease in national will, which may eventually result in the diminu- tion of power. Reconsidering American Power For long stretches of US history, the basis of constitutional discus- sions centered on how to maximize liberty and prosperity, and how to organize force with a view to preserving them. The goal was suf- the minimum necessary to protect and ensure liberty. It was only in a Constitution so conceived that the unionist’s slogan, “join or die,” could coexist with the revolutionary’s Don’t Tread on Me! By using principle to founders understood, the nation could generate true power. Where does American power stand today? From one vantage point, US power seems unsurpassed. The United States is not only a member- state of a global community of nation-states, but its leader. And the global - ian impulses, and other touchstones of American liberalism—is itself the American regime writ large. In this sense, the United States is not merely part of the system; it is the system. As a result, US domestic poli- tics and policy determinations have widespread consequences beyond American shores. Also as a result, American strategists feel a special responsibility to guarantee the stability of the system as a whole. Seen another way, however, American power not only checks but undermines itself by appearing only in the guise of force. American military force has had a mixed record of success, particularly over the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq. These and other irregular wars and military-humanitarian operations (MHOs) the United States has engaged in have demonstrated the inability of mere military force to 6 Hannah Arendt, “On Violence,” Crises of the Republic (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), 134.
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18 Parameters 43(4) Winter 2013-14 - ment among internal factions, improved capacity in host nation civil governance, and increased economic development. Force of arms can bring down regimes with far greater ease than it can build them up. Partly as a result of the prominence of force in the American disposition toward the world, the persuasive and alluring aspects of America’s soft power—its ability to attract other states through its ideals, ideas, and culture—is also in question. And with good reason, as the United States’ focus on force led it in many cases to compromise its own core ideals with greater effectiveness than any enemy could have done.
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