This then is the heart of the tragic paradox we face a system of government

This then is the heart of the tragic paradox we face

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This, then, is the heart of the tragic paradox we face: a system of government that generates power by restraining force has produced a nation commanding unparalleled force, and with it the tendency to place force rather than power at the core of its international relations. As the founders knew, military force is an essential element of American power. But this power rests equally on its capacity to effect or prevent change by means of its prestige and legitimacy, which have as much to do with the opinion of those subject to American power as with the opinions of Americans themselves. True power is legitimate, purposeful, and strate- gic in securing national interests. The nation founded on such a notion of power, yet bewitched with its own force resembles nothing so much as the tragic hero tilting toward his drama’s climax. The United States’ successful efforts to open markets are partially responsible for its tenuous economic situation, and may potentially lead to political backlash domestically. 7 A worsening economic condition for the United States may result in an inability to garner the necessary will for further uses of economic force. 8 The ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have strained the United States politically and economically. 9 Of late, the United States may have experienced a decline in its power due to an excessive utilization of force and the greater use of force in lieu of leveraging its latent power capacity. It has become imperative that national decisionmakers, policymakers, and the American public alike, begin to tackle directly and outright this complex and often paradoxical interplay between American power and American force. 10 Legitimizing American Power as limited power, with an intentional emphasis on balance, durability, 7 Glenn Somerville and Chris Buckley, “China and US Each Claim Gains on Yuan Talks,” Reuters News , May 25, 2010, . - bruce-bartlett.html. 9 The political effects of the United States’ actions have been the subject of several analyses, including Andrew W. Terrill, Regional Spillover Effects of the Iraq War , Strategic Studies Institute, January Council on Foreign Relations (May 11, 2010); (New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 2008). 10 The prominent use of its military, international democratization efforts, and uses of economic statecraft in pursuit of national objectives are utilizations of force that may have affected the power/ force equilibrium of the United States.
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A MERICAN P OWER IN T RANSITION Wilson 19 certainly energy . . . but importantly, also modesty. 11 America’s approach to power was originally an enterprise in the construction, constitution, and assurance of a “minimalist state of power”—just enough centraliza- tion of power to ensure citizen’s rights and no more than that minimum so as to protect and ensure liberty. The key political considerations in connection with power were to be found not in physical force as an end-all, but rather in the questions of justice and authority, i.e., what is
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