July 4, 2006

July 4, 2006 | Commentary on Political Thought

Why they need us: Imagine a world without America

For all the worldwide whining and bellyaching about the United States, today - America's 230th birthday - provides an opportune time for them to consider for just a moment what the world might be like without good ol' Uncle Sam.

The picture isn't pretty. Absent U.S. leadership, diplomatic influence, military might, economic power and unprecedented generosity, life aboard planet earth would likely be pretty grim, indeed. Set aside the differences America made last century - just imagine a world where this country had vanished on Jan. 1, 2001.

On security, the United States is the global balance of power. While it's not our preference, we are the world's "cop on the beat," providing critical stability in some of the planet's toughest neighborhoods.

Without the U.S. "Globo-cop," rivals India and Pakistan might well find cause to unleash the dogs of war in South Asia - undoubtedly leading to history's first nuclear (weapons) exchange. Talk about Fourth of July fireworks . . .

In Afghanistan, al Qaeda would still be an honored guest, scheming over a global caliphate stretching from Spain to Indonesia. It wouldn't be sending fighters to Iraq; instead, Osama's gang would be fighting them tooth and nail from Saudi Arabia to "Eurabia."

In Asia, China would be the "Middle Kingdom," gobbling up democratic Taiwan and compelling pacifist Japan (reluctantly) to join the nuclear weapons club. The Koreas might fight another horrific war, resulting in millions of deaths.

A resurgent Russia, meanwhile, would be breathing down the neck of its "near abroad" neighbors. Forget the democratic revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia, Comrade! In Europe, they'd be taking orders from Paris or Berlin - if those rivals weren't at each other's throats again.

In Africa, Liberia would still be under Charles Taylor's sway, and Sudan would have no peace agreement.

And what other nation could or would provide freedom of the seas for commerce, including the shipment of oil and gas - all free of charge?

Weapons of mass destruction would be everywhere. North Korea would be brandishing a solid nuclear arsenal. Libya would not have given up its weapons, and Pakistan's prodigious proliferator, A.Q. Khan, would still be going door to door, hawking his nuclear wares.

Also missing would be other gifts from "Uncle Sugar" - starting with 22 percent of the U.N. budget. That includes half the operations of the World Food Program, which feeds over 100 million in 81 countries.

Gone would be 17 percent of UNICEF's costs to feed, vaccinate, educate and protect children in 157 countries - and 31 percent of the budget of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which assists more than 19 million refugees across the globe.

In 2005, Washington dispensed $28 billion in foreign aid, more than double the amount of the next highest donor (Japan), contributing nearly 26 percent of all official development assistance from the large industrialized countries.

Moreover, President Bush's five-year $15 billion commitment under the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is the largest commitment by a single nation toward an international health initiative - ever - working in over 100 (mostly African) countries.

The United States is the world's economic engine. We not only have the largest economy, we spend 40 percent of the world's budget on R&D, driving mind-boggling innovation in areas like information technology, defense and medicine.

We're the world's ATM, too, providing 17 percent of the International Monetary Fund's resources for nations in fiscal crisis, and funding 13 percent of World Bank programs that dole out billions in development assistance to needy countries.

And what does Uncle Sam get in return? Mostly grief, especially from all the ungrateful freeloaders who benefit tremendously from the global "public goods" we so selflessly provide with our time, effort, blood and treasure. How easily - and conveniently - they forget . . . unless they need help, of course.

But let us never forget, especially today, that despite the name-calling, the jeers, the petty jealousies, we're the envy of the world - and rightfully so.

The fact is that no matter what anyone says: No country has given so much to so many so often - while asking for so little in return - for so little gratitude than this great country of ours. So Happy birthday, America! Stand tall and proud - you've earned it.

Peter Brookes, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, is the author of "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States."

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

First appeared in the New York Post