Friday, 10 August 2012

World Policeman

Being the worlds policeman is a tough job, but someone has to do it ... the first major player (at least in Europe) was the Roman Empire, which acted as policemen in a manner in which no other ancient state managed with its 'Pax Romana'. Various 'players' tried the role on for size after the Roman Empire fell, but never quite fitted the bill.

But we have just had 150 yrs in which there have been successive western Anglo-Saxon policemen, Britain and its world wide empire (Pax Britannica), at its height from about 1850, and followed by the US from 1945 to-date. However its never a permanent position, with many challengers to the role for example, France, Germany, the USSR and now China always eager to take over the role. 

World Policeman - Global Sheriff - Never A Permanent Role

Now this police power takes several forms, which we can call 'The Three M's'.

Military Power: The most obvious of the three, it can be exerted only while one state has an overwhelming advantage over all others, which is why Britain could hold sway for a century or more via its overwhelming naval might (even as late as 1941 it had more warships than the next two biggest nations combined) - air power really only took over as the chief means of exerting power at a distance during World War II.

Since then, the US via its missile strength, and aircraft carrier groups has held sway in a similar manner ..... however missile advances in China and elsewhere mean that this ascendancy is now being threatened.

Moral Power: The least tangible of the three M's, this can be exerted via such things and films, music and the arts (Hollywood exports subliminal US values such as equal women's rights in such movies as Aladdin, or others). Or perhaps via its social mores such as toleration, justice, freedom and its laws (Many in the world want to live in countries that give the same opportunities to advance as the USA without corruption etc stopping them). Sometimes its merely the constant standing up for certain values regardless of politics .... this can be less obvious in moments of geo-politics, where changes in national policy can muddy the waters. But in a hazy kinda way the US believes its trying to do good, in much the same way that Victorian Britain believed it was on a civilising mission when for example, it banned slavery for the world, regardless of whether the world wanted it banned.

And finally Monetary Power: Having the worlds biggest economy allows you to push a lot of buttons and pull a lot of strings. Britain was never quite in the total ascendancy as the US has been since 1945 in this regard (Germany and then the US were always close by, and the US or Germany in 1914 may well have already taken #1 and #2 spots), but there’s no doubting that the US, regardless of its waning influence in the other 'two M's', still dwarfs all other economies and despite the economy being massively in debt (to the Chinese for example), can push and pull the economic levers pretty much as well as ever.

Its this last item that makes the news elsewhere as often as not .... take for example the aggressive prosecution of the Standard Chartered bank ....not for any offence inside the US itself (its committed none), but rather for allegedly ignoring US foreign policy in its dealing towards Iran’s money .... which is not technically an offence outside of the US.

The principle on which this enforcement is based appears to be along the lines of those articulated buy the lawyer Jacob Frenkel, of the law firm Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy and Ecker.

"Any sovereign, whether a country, province, state or municipality, has a right to expect that a company or person doing business in that territory is subject to the laws of that territory. Just as a party doing business enjoys the protection of the laws, so too must a party comply with the laws."

However, this is a moot point when for example US multi nationals operate in countries such as Peru etc, where they can ignore any Peruvian foreign policy objectives and the US government will back the US Company.

So oddly despite the calls of 'Yankee Go Home' (or words to that effect), that often ring around the globe when US military bases appear in many more countries, its actually the exertion of the US's power via the Monetary M, that has most impact and influence.

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