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The Case for Goliath

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The Case for Goliath

How America Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century

Public Affairs,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The U.S. global role in policing economic and military order is controversial. But if the U.S. doesn't do it, who will?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Some political books written by academics are too deep and detailed, but this one is for people who want the big picture, or at least, a version of the big picture. Author and historian Michael Mandelbaum makes his point quickly: the United States is the globe’s economic and military police officer, and the world needs it to fill that role. Mandelbaum illustrates his contention with a compilation of the Iraq War’s history, and a look at relevant world events from the Cold War to today. His narrative has some tendency to roam, although his tangents are often interesting. In one chapter, a discussion of oil moves to sections on conservation, fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, international trade and monetary policy. However, getAbstract believes that he makes his views clear: even countries that criticize America’s role accept the benefits it provides. Given this, the U.S. must decide how long it wants to, or can afford to, be the world’s cop, with both the power and the enmity that this role incurs.


Is the United States a Modern Empire?

Some critics contend that the U.S.A. is the modern world’s empire. Certain statistics imply that these voices could be correct. For example, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the U.S. economy was larger than those of Germany, Japan and Great Britain combined. The U.S. defense budget remains greater than those of the next 15 nations combined, which may also explain how and why U.S. forces are deployed in 150 nations.

But the term "empire" is a misnomer when applied to the U.S. "Empire" implies political control, coercion and a dictatorship that divides its subject populations along racial, ethnic or religious lines. These criteria do not describe how the U.S. operates in the world today. A better description would be to say that the U.S. provides governmental services worldwide. This list of services includes assuring security, providing a stable business environment, fostering respect for intellectual property, protecting the health of citizens, and creating consumer demand for goods and services. Empires do not provide services, but as the purveyor of the world’s government, the U.S. has assumed this role because that...

About the Author

Michael Mandelbaum is a professor of American foreign policy at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is a foreign affairs columnist for Newsday, and the author or co-author of nine books, including The Ideas that Conquered the World.

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