No, Mr. President, We Are Not The One Indispensable Power in the World

Yesterday President Obama, in a 30 minute campaign speech in Las Vegas, idolized the United States as the much needed “one indispensable power in the world,” demonstrating once again that the fantasy describing him as being on some kind of apology tour is more absurd than anything Albert Camus dreamt of in his philosophy.

Now I hate to go all existentialist, but no power in the world is indispensable, Mr. President.  Americans have done mightily great deeds for the sake of life and liberty, and have been enabled in part by the global power wielded by their nation, but these do not make us indispensable.  We’re not absolutely necessary.  American might is not the hope of the world, as other idolators of America have preached.

The time of American global dominance will pass.  We will fall, and others will rise up, compelled by forces greater than the strength of any nation-state.   The human drama will continue without us, and then it too will pass into oblivion, all the triumphs and failures of humanity forgotten.

So let us please dispense with this pseudo-religious faith in the doctrine of our necessary national goodness.  I know idolatry sells, but we ain’t the Good News, and we’re fools to pretend we are in either word or deed.

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Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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13 Responses

  1. Rodak says:

    “So let us please dispense with this pseudo-religious faith in the doctrine of our necessary national goodness.”

    We can dispense with it who only stand and wait. But those of us who also serve by contesting for high national office cannot. There are not enough secular progressive votes out there to win an election.

  2. BlaiseP says:

    The predictions of America’s fall from supremacy have been bruited since we set up shop as a nation. Don’t you believe it. Tell you why: nobody else wants the job. Every time some bolus of doo-doo hits the whirling blades of fate, we may always rely on someone to shriek ‘n moan “Where’s America? America is allowing this to happen!”

    And from within our borders, a certain species of feckless idiot will decry American indifference in the face of brutality elsewhere. Of course, we may also count on such persons to condemn us when we do intervene.

    This conundrum, like many another word game of its sort, is trivial to answer, once you understand how it’s phrased. It’s a trick question. We aren’t indispensable. It’s just that every other nation in this world of Sin and Error refuses to do their part. Europe has yet to field an adequate disaster response force. And why should they? The Yanks will fund and staff it for us. All these officious little twerps running around in Brussels, every one of them thinking he’s in charge. But paying for it? Staffing these missions? Not on yer life.

    And we’re not going to fall. Happily, other nations are rising in the world, as they ought to rise. The 20th century was an unmitigated disaster: Europe, China, Africa, Central America, all caught up in a titanic Woozle Hunt. Communism’s lost its appeal and Democracy’s gaining credence, albeit slowly.

    If the progress of democracy is painfully slow, the world is still labouring under the irrelevant borders established in the 19th and 20th centuries. The world needs reorganising. And it will reorganise, that much seems inevitable. It took us two centuries to get to our present status as a nation in the world: a working democracy takes time to develop. Too much progress, too fast is not a wise approach to the problem of raising up home-grown democracies. It will take three generations to get it right: the first two are mostly reactions to what came before.

    Whatever else, we will not fade into oblivion. We will be remembered as a nation until the end of the world, our great presidents will enter common speech to join Pericles and Tiberius and Marcus Aurelius. We gave away our greatness and were not lessened thereby. We are from everywhere: to criticise the USA is to criticise the world. Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t be criticised or that we shouldn’t criticise ourselves. Our influence in the world has not been entirely wonderful. But no other nation has so clearly represented the whole of mankind, for both good and evil.

  3. Why do you hate America?

  4. George Vogt says:

    Pretty sure the Romans thought they were sticking around too. But really Kyle, I agree at least with the idea that it is not our country that is indispensable, but the very God our country has dispensed that is indispensable. Oh, and I bet those Brits once thought much more of themselves as well.

  5. Darryl Brown says:

    I picked up on that statement too… and couldn’t believe that I haven’t heard anyone else make some comment about the fact that America is not an indispensable “power”… I realize that he was talking about the fact that as a nation we are seeking to be strong in the world and try to support freedom around the world…. However, even the definitions of some of these thoughts have and are being redefined by our President to mean something akin to Socialism or European Idealism… No world power will last forever…. History has proven that! But if I really want to put on my “Right Wing Extremist” hat on I would agree with President Obama’s statement and say, “Yes,… Mr. President, I agree…. However, the only indispensable power in the world is not an earthly political nation or military might. Rather the only indispensable power Himself made it possible for any power to exist, let alone rise to a position of prominence…. And America, is only in a position of power at the purview and purpose of an Indispensable and Omnipotent God… and HE is the only indispensable Power in this world…

  6. Rodak says:

    Let’s not mix apples with oranges. The president was clearly speaking of geopolitical power. This country may or may not be “indispenable” on that playing field.

    In any event that geopolitical power is not to be compared and with that of God:

    John 18:36 ~ Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

    The kind of power embodied in Our Savior is power over the hearts and minds of individuals. It is not concerned with the fate of nation-states, including the U.S. of A.

  7. patricia says:

    A nation may make itself indispensable by having fingers in every pot, somewhat like the way the banks made themselves indispensable in 2008-09.

    Claiming indispensability usually doesn’t mean there is actual superior virtue, although that is what is implied. Generally it only means that someone with a huuggee ego is talking.

    • Rodak says:

      No argument with that, Patricia. The operative phrase once again (unfortunately, imo) is “too big to fail.”