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Fiscal Crisis and American Globalism

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The fiscal crisis rocking Greece will be soon occur in other European countries. In a few years, it will occur in the US, where government spending and the national debt have risen in an effort to counter the recession. President Obama and economic advisor Paul Volcker have expressed grave concern over the national debt and signaled that deep budget cuts will be needed.

Just where the cuts will come is unknown, but for many citizens and observers, reduced military presence around the world will seem a likely place for the budget axe to fall. For a number of reasons, however, a marked reduction in US commitments around the world is unlikely.

National Identity

Globalism is a basic part of America's understanding of itself and will not be abandoned easily. A military presence in some 84 countries around the world came as a surprise to Americans born before WWII; it was a fundamental part of the national identity to those born after the intoxicating victory of 1945. It greatly exceeded the nation's dabbling in colonialism in the previous century and the American identity of prosperity and virtue became infused with global power and mission.

The disaster of Vietnam damaged the appeal of globalism yet brought no withdrawal, only indeterminacy and paralysis. The helplessness of the Iranian hostage ordeal led Americans to feel that restored military might was essential; small, easy campaigns in Grenada, Panama, and the first Iraq war (1991) re-acquainted them with the romance of war.

The September 11th attacks charged the nation with the mission of defending itself through various campaigns across the world and bringing light to darker parts of it. Relinquishing this mission, and the national identity behind it, will be difficult, especially now that terrorism is returning to America.

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Brian M Downing is a national security analyst who has written for outlets across the political spectrum. He studied at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago, and did post-graduate work at Harvard's Center for International (more...)

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