Ethics & International Affairs Volume 14 (2000): Special Section: the Meaning of Kosovo: American Power and Responsibility in a New Century [Excerpt]

Dec 4, 2000

Never before in its history has the United States enjoyed such a favorable strategic environment as it does today. There are few deadly enemies anywhere in sight. The U.S. military budget surpasses that of China, Russia, and the five Western European powers combined, and U.S. military capabilities are well ahead of those of any ally or potential adversary. America's booming economy and domestic social arrangements—with crime and unemployment down to the levels of thirty years ago—are a puzzle to those who, as recently as a decade ago, were predicting inexorable American decline. Such a surfeit of U.S. power and prestige, and the apparent absence of any significant obstacles to it, have prompted many to argue that this is a unique historic opportunity for the United States to fulfill the Wilsonian dream of remaking the world in America's image. Among conservatives, the argument has been made most forcefully by William Kristol and Robert Kagan of the Project for the New American Century; among liberals, by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Tony Smith, whose essay follows.

In probing this questions, however, one also need to raise an equally important, albeit more uncomfortable one: Assuming that this is, indeed, a historic opportunity for the United States to exercise its power on behalf of liberal, democratic values how can it do so in a morally responsible fashion?

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