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How the USA Maintains Its Superpower Status

Updated on May 26, 2016
The USA abroad: aid, McDonalds, and military bases.
The USA abroad: aid, McDonalds, and military bases. | Source

A superpower is a country with the power to exert influence globally. This power should be military, cultural, and economic. Economic power is most important, as it enables the other forms of power to be created, although a large population is also necessary, usually along with significant natural resources. Historically, the USA has built its economic superiority via colonialism – its conquest of the ‘wild west’ provided large amounts of natural resources, such as gold, which were exported, creating large revenue, which helped years later in the USA’s purchase of Alaska from Russia. More recently, it has engaged in neo-imperialism, both through its military and cultural influence; American brands such as Facebook, Starbucks, and McDonalds are found across the world. The USA has the highest military spending of any country, allowing it to continuously be at the forefront of military technology; in the event of war, the USA would achieve “full-spectrum domination”. This imperialistic strategy clearly shows a global influence being exerted, and so its superpower status being maintained.

American brands are extremely influential in maintaining the superpower status. They engage in cultural hybridisation – adapting to local needs, rather than imposing a completely foreign culture, e.g. McDonalds focuses on fish-burgers rather than hamburgers in Hindu nations. Whilst this goes against the notion of the American way becoming a ‘global culture’, it allows American brands to infiltrate resistant countries, such as France, which supposedly has strong anti-Americanism views – the sale of Coca-Cola was banned in the 1950s – but now has 17 Starbucks outlets in Paris alone, furthering America’s cultural hegemony, as well as contributing to the USA’s GNP, and therefore its economic power.

The USA’s neo-colonialism is also evidenced by its foreign economic activities; in 1991, it prioritised sending aid and investment to ex-communist countries, including South Korea and Japan, in an attempt to ally them; its aid does not necessarily go to the poorest countries – it is used as a political tool to improve relations. America exerts its military influence globally; its military bases cover every populated continent, with a higher concentration around Russia, especially in the west; this could represent the USA’s conflicting ideologies with Russia, and an attempt to surround the country which occupies the ‘heartland’ in Mackinder’s theory, in order to prevent the advantaged Russia from challenging its superpower status.

Since 1900, the USA has had the world’s largest economy; it manufactures large amounts of luxury goods, and the US dollar is the world’s major currency. The USA’s relative isolation from conflict has diminished the chance of attacks which would ruin infrastructure – it was able to support Europe after WWII, strengthening allies and establishing its dominance.

The USA’s military influence can be seen as reassuring or threatening, depending on the country. The distribution of military bases shows both the protection of trade routes, such as the Panama Canal, and the slight provocation of the middle-east.

The USA maintains its superpower status through large military investment, cultural dominance, and economic superiority. Its dominant position and developed infrastructure induce large amounts of growth and investment; around 20 of the 50 largest companies have their headquarters in the USA, and these have massive global influence.


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    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 23 months ago from Yorktown NY


      Checkout this video in their own words...regarding Iraq and Saddam.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 23 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Fine with me. Have a great 4th!

    • mybillypilgrim profile image

      Granville Bennet 23 months ago from Portland Oregon

      I'm sorry, jacklee, but I can't respond to this because your second paragraph is so obtuse that I feel there is no point in continuing the debate.

      Yes, perhaps we could talk about something else...

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 23 months ago from Yorktown NY

      mybilly, to your first point, the WMD of Saddam was not a lie created by the Bush administration. All intelligence agencies had the same info including the British, the French and the many others. The majority of the Democrats had the same idea and made the same speeches in Congress alerting to the danger of Saddam. Even President Clinton passed an act aim at regime change in Iraq in 1998 -

      Second, the whole world including the NYT were played by Saddam and some of his Iraqi detractors that wanted the invasion to take place for their own agenda. After the 9/11 event, we could no longer ignore the threat even if it was in dispute by some.

      The Bush decision to go into Iraq was a preemptive move. It was based on the premise of taking the fight over there so we would not have to fight them here. It worked and for the 8 years from 2001-2009, we were not experiencing any attacks on the homeland.

      The surge under General Petraus also was a success in stabilizing the various factions in Iraq.

      Obama was wrong in pulling out of Iraq when all military experts were advising him not to. That created the vacuum that brought about ISIS. In the beginning, we had a chance to wipe out ISIS but again Obama failed to react properly. He allowed ISIS to grow in strength and reach. He thought they were the JV team.

      That is how we got here where in 2016, we've had many domestic terror acts perpetrated by Islamic extremists with the latest being Orlando.

      History will judge whether Obama was right on leading from behind.

      Being a super power come with great responsibility. It is not just the arsenal that makes a super power. It is the tough decisions to use the powers of economic and military means to maintain the balance and prevent rogues such as Al queda or ISIS to take hold.

      It is hard to debate a complex topic like the Middle East in a forum here.

      I'll be happy to debate on any specific topic.

    • mybillypilgrim profile image

      Granville Bennet 23 months ago from Portland Oregon

      Ok, jacklee, I am up for a debate.

      Yes, many democrats voted to go to war with Iraq, and the reasons they did so are threefold; first and foremost, they were being lied to by the highest levels of the Bush administration about Iraq's' nuclear ambitions and capabilities. This included the President, the Vice President, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and the Secretary of State Colin Powell (who later said that he regretted his testimony before congress). They were using intelligence that had been debunked by the CIA and the weapons inspectors, knew it, and used it anyway.

      Second, there were credible news organizations and reporters, most significantly Judith Miller of The New York Times, who were buying into it because of their zeal and lack of due diligence. Judith Miller is no longer with The Times for a reason.

      Third, being politicians, (and kind of lame ones) the Democrats did not want to seem weak on Defense and risk their re-election prospects, so they took the President for his word and voted for it.

      So, yes the Democrats cow towed, and followed along, and they deserve a good share of the blame for not standing up and calling out Bush et al on their bullcrap.

      On your second point, I strongly disagree with the first part, that invading Iraq did not necessarily make things worse. As bad as Saddam was, he had stabilized the Shiite and Sunni relations in his country. There was no Al Qaida in Iraq until the we instigated the war. This ignited a long festering resentment and hatred between the two factions and fractured those very tenuous relations throughout the middle east.

      Yes, it is very complicated, and I will admit that I don't fully understand it all, but you can't blame President Obama for screwing it up. In fact, I would say that it was President Clinton who screwed it up in the first place when he installed military bases in Saudi Arabia. This radicalized Osama Bin Laden (a Saudi) and led directly to 9-11.

      The Bush administrations' reaction to 9-11 was a catastrophic failure and further radicalized thousands of Muslims throughout the middle east and led to the revolts in Syria, Egypt and Libya.

      Of course radical Islam and it's willingness to attack the West with no reguard for humanity or for their own lives is a huge problem, but it is a problem that we have created by screwing with a culture that we should have left well alone. It has never worked out for any of the others who have tried it before. I am not re-writing history, I am asking us to look at history and not repeat it.

      Obama was right to get out of Iraq, and I think we should get out of the Middle East altogether, and let them sort out their issues without our intervention.

      As for your final "super power" question, I think we have enough deterants in our arsenal to back off a little and concentrate on domestic problems for awhile.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 23 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Mybillypilgrim, you are forgetting history either on purpose or re-writing it. The Iraq war was supported by bipartisan vote in Congress. The Democrats only opposed it after it dragged on and no WMD were found.

      I'm not convinced, if we didn't go in, things will be much better. The Islamic extremists was a problem then and it is still a problem now. It is hard to fight a group that are willing to commit suicide.

      It was Obama's total withdraw out of Iraq that caused the rise of ISIS. That was part of the lead from behind theory...

      How is that working out?

      If not the US, who would you have to be the one super power?

    • mybillypilgrim profile image

      Granville Bennet 23 months ago from Portland Oregon

      I beg to differ with jacklee Im on this, as it is that same American military might that totally destabilized the entire middle east in the first place, due to the invasion of Iraq under fraudulent pretenses undertaken by the Bush administration. Conservatives now blame President Obama and Hillary Clinton for the formation of ISIS, but it is just one of the many tragic and yet to be reconciled consequences of our greatest military blunder, and the blame falls entirely on the previous administration.

      Obama has NOT been leading from behind, he has actually taken the time and forethought to not make a horrible situation even worse.

      This is no time to be bragging about any kind of exceptional behavior. We own this thing because we screwed it up.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 23 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Good insight. I am one of those Americans that believe in American exceptionalism. America is by no means perfect. However, the world needs a strong leader and America has taken that role like it or not. Our world is troubled, both economically and with Islamic terrorism of ISIS.

      It is the strength of the American military that is keeping our world stable both in wars and in peace and in natural disasters.

      Those who believe in leading from behind as President Obama has, now realizes the mistake of that world view.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for highlighting these important facts on how America remains the Super Power it is. Good presentation.

    • mybillypilgrim profile image

      Granville Bennet 2 years ago from Portland Oregon

      Bravo, Tom

      Well written. As an Anti- Trump isolationist, I welcome the European viewpoint that most Americans seem to either despise or fear. That is, American domination in world power is misguided and disingenuous. I can't stand the concept of "American Exceptionalism" that our conservatives expouse, as if we are better than everyone else.

      I think we Americans need to concentrate on our crumbling infrastructure and stop building weapons and bases overseas.


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