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tv   Great Decisions in Foreign Policy  PBS  April 19, 2018 12:00am-12:31am PDT

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ical music) - [narrator] the past 70 years has been the era of pax americana. - this new structure of peace is rising up on strong foundation. (cheers) - mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. (cheers) - [man] three, two, one. (energetic classical music) - [narrator] a period of relative stability thanks to the influence and ballast provided by the united states. (energetic music) washington's grand strategy of promoting
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democratic values while backing it up with military might, has been the dominant strategy since world war two. but with renewed russian aggression, and a rising china, is it showing signs of strain? pax americana, the american peace, next on great decisions. (energetic music) - [narrator] great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association in association with thompson reuters. funding for great decisions is provided by price waterhouse coopers llp. (dramatic music) - [narrator] world history is marked by the rise and fall of empires. some remembered as periods of stability and progress,
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others for turmoil and war. - [man] this was the great fire in the city of london. (dramatic music) - [narrator] eras when the world was free of great power conflict stand out. pax romana, when the roman empire extended through much of europe. or pax britannica, when the sun never set on the british empire. - the original pax is pax romana, the roman empire and the peace that rome spread. pax britannica, in the 19th century, really describes the british led world order that was underwritten essentially by the royal navy. - at particular points in history there's been one unusually strong power, and that power has made many of the rules for what passes for an international world system. - [narrator] pax americana was born out of the
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preponderance of power the us enjoyed in the aftermath of the second world war. - dean acheson, truman's security of state, he described in his very famous memoirs, present at the creation, that creation of a new order and that new order was an american led and upheld order that involved the creation of the united nations. the world bank. the international monetary fund. separate but equally important nato. the world trade organization. these were really the sort of key pieces of architecture of the us led global order that we've all known throughout our lifetime. - pax americana is i think more honestly rendered as the so called liberal international order that we helped to structure. and we did it for selfish american reasons. it was the cheapest way for us to accomplish our goals.
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and what made it cheap? allies. - [man] a general assembly of the united nations meets at lake success for a dramatic session. - to ask the distinguished delegate of the soviet union to limit himself strictly to the point of order. - it became clear that in the face of the soviet veto that the united nations wasn't gonna be able to solve the most pressing global problems. as a result, america, we focused that institutional energy on building things like nato, like the european union, that would create stability of rule based institutionalized stability. - [narrator] the cold war rivalry with the soviet union compelled the us to promote its system of liberal democratic values, free markets, and free trade as a global standard to be emulated.
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- what the soviets held out was a model of global integration that was connected to social and economic progress for those at the bottom. let's say the american model, liberal internationalism, made a different case. argued that it was not so much the language, the equality of all peoples, but rather the liberty of all people. free speech, freedom of assembly, what we would recognize as american national norms now being exploited worldwide. (foreign chanting) - the united states was worried that the revolutionary rhetoric of communism, that called for a worker revolt, would essentially overturn the sort of established more liberal market oriented border in europe. - we planted ourselves in europe and we said we are going to maintain a bridge head,
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freedom in democracy in europe and we're gonna protect it from soviet encroachment. and we held that line until the collapse of the soviet union. and then we expanded the western alliance, nato, the european union, all these institutions, we expanded them eastward into the former communist countries. - [narrator] washington is the largest shareholder in the international monetary fund and the world bank, giving it massive sway over the global economy. - these particular monetary institutions were enshrined after the second world war, and they are very much tied up in this notion that with better commercial ties, also comes more peace. - we were able to create a single international political and economic space in which economic and social, any one development could proceed much more rapidly and far further than ever was the case before in history. (dramatic music) - the second half of the 20th century was the most glorious period in human history ever.
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three billion people lifted out of abject poverty. - [narrator] to some, the collapse of the soviet union in 1991 represented the end of history, the moment when the american democratic system would become the prevailing political and economic order in perpetuity. - there was this view when the cold war ended that we were at the end of history and the end of history was a path towards liberal economies and democracies. and there was a huge explosion of democracy across the globe. - the end of history is a phrase that was coined by francis fukuyama, essentially to mean that up until 1989 and the end of the cold war, history was dominated by a series of ideological struggles.
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is that fukuyama himself was signaling in that idea of the end of history, that there would be a problem, or there might be a risk. and the risk would be that liberalism did best when it had a rival. without a rival liberalism ran the risk of becoming intellectually flabby, lazy. - [narrator] now, that liberal order is showing signs of strain on a number of fronts. china has emerged on the world stage with its own model, eager to extend its influence. and russia has grown increasingly assertive in the use of its military power. - clearly the international liberal order that was ushered in by europe and the united states in the post world war two period is in a crisis mode and is certainly under attack.
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and countries like russia and china, but also others, see this as an opportunity to carve out a place for themself. - the russians worry about liberal ideology and how that might endanger putin's government. in iran there's a strong sort of dislike of the american backed order in the middle east. then you have al qaeda and you have isis and the broader movement of jihadism that rejects the kind of world that american policy's been trying to build. - the pax americana is definitely showing signs of strain. you can see it in russia's invasion of crimea. you can see it in the world's struggle to respond to transnational problems like climate change and cyber theft. - [narrator] a shifting political dynamic has prompted many to wonder if pax americana is on the wain.
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- the west isn't done yet. the west is still in this fight. but clearly there are trends and shifts in the international system that are no longer going to be centered around western hegemony. - we've seen a great reordering of global power. the biggest story of our time has been the rise of china. certainly as an economic and military power, but there's still no question that in the modern world today the united states is still the strongest economy, strongest military, most influential country politically. (dramatic music) - [narrator] in recent decades the us has fought a number of costly wars. (dramatic music)
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often in the name of maintaining order and putting force behind liberal ideals. - the world felt like the united states military could do whatever it wanted. (dramatic music) after 2001 as we first flexed and used our military power it became pretty obvious how long the dog's leash was. and there was always a leash on the dog, there always is. there were limitations to what you can and are willing to do. so, the more those limitations became known, actually our military power goes down. - i've got no barometer as to when interventions are good, when interventions are bad.
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we were rollin' in iraq. it didn't turn out so well. we were half in in libya, that didn't turn out so well. we didn't go in in syria, that didn't turn out so well. - [narrator] today, american exceptionalism is being examined with a more critical eye and economic disparity is on the rise in the us. - the root of american exceptionalism is of course a story about the people governing themselves. and that in itself has spread and thereby made the us just by the rising, say, standards of global governments less exceptional. more negative consequences, i would say, emerged from the 1980s from massive defense expenditures, which actually started under kennedy, increasing our deficit, a preoccupation with military affairs and a reduction in our global diplomatic efforts.
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- the iraq war, many people feel it was an unnecessary war, and afghanistan is a war which has gone on since 2001. long beyond the killing of bin laden. so, i think there's a sense of fatigue, a sense of rejection of us foreign involvement. - the financial crisis, which by short hand, many people in emerging markets say came from the united states, came from western industrialized countries, i think has also lent itself to a lot of skepticism about the free market capitalist model. so, the fact that income and equality has widened considerably over the past 30 years in the united states also lends itself to the criticism that free liberal democratic political lens are not sustainable over the long term. - the general trend in all countries since the 18th century is for capital
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to accumulate more rapidly than gdp growth. and that by necessity means ever greater income disparity. our state structure, our institutions, our central banks are all geared to tweak the system to protect the value of labor in the national account as opposed to capital, but that all since the 1970s has started draining away. - [narrator] as other nations rise with different models, the us lead has been diminished, causing some to question whether democracy is necessary for prosperity. - we found increasingly, especially in china, and to a lesser extent russia, is that you can have authoritarian free market capitalism that creates prosperity, that does lift people out of poverty, while at the same time reinforcing a one party system. so, arguably, the chinese are presenting a serious challenge,
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a return of history. - so you see lots of countries that are perhaps in the middle that aren't exactly democracies but they're not dictatorships, they're deciding which way are we going to go. this chinese model can be quite seductive. - the danger is that we will have an economic order of interdependent parts with a political mosaic that's very uneven in the degree of freedoms. - [narrator] with the costs of global leadership beginning to wear on the us, there's a growing debate over whether a policy of restraint would better server american interests. - one of the key selling points for restraint is the extent to which it speaks to public sentiment today, after many years of these grueling wars that have been inconclusive at best. - we have to stay out of wars if our vital interests are not in parol, they're not threatened.
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you had to go into afghanistan, for example, to take down the taliban but stickin' around and tryin' to rebuild afghanistan so that it looked like vermont, great mistake. - one of the things our new president has decided, and what he ran on, is that the united states would no longer think that we have to dominate the whole world. the era when the united states was the policeman of the world and a welfare worker of the world, that era's coming to a close. - [narrator] president trump was among those to argue that the us spends too much insuring other nations security. siting nato as an example. - in many ways, what president trump has called european allies to do is to contribute 2% of their spending to defense is not illegitimate. the europeans are starting to think much more soberly about their own ability to defend themselves if the united states may no longer be there. and that may not be a bad thing. - i don't think there is a threat now
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that justifies our expenditures in nato. for example, spending several billion dollars more next year to put more tanks in europe. where we have tanks in europe. i was just in europe. - it's quite clear that there's a new consciousness that all is not well, and politicians and bureaucrats who would not normally be talking about increasing defense spending, increasing defense efforts, finding ways to do things without the united states, are now thinking and talking about it. - we complain that allies are not paying 2% of their gdp into defense, whereas we're paying 3 1/2% of ours, and we call that difference free riding. there's something in that. on the other hand it's worth remembering to follow the same metaphor that they may be free riding but we get to steer the bus.
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- [narrator] as other nations capabilities grow, so do calls to ask more of others to maintain stability. - for those who are arguing for the united states to be more restrained in the use of force, there's an equal belief that other actors will become more involved and many of those actors are good actors, are our friends. so, call it restraining or call it just common sense or call it the iraq syndrome, i think that goes a lot longer way in sort of explaining how the united states behaved in syria and is likely to behave in the future. - the europeans love relying on the united states. you can look at their defense budgets and their military planning, not just in the cold war but the post cold war, they love relying. if you give them a chance to rely on the united states, they're gonna take it. - the argument i'm making is not for disarmament, the argument i'm making is not for isolationism, rather the argument i'm making is that the pattern of behavior to which the united states has adhered
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since world war two, is no longer relevant to the world we live in. - [narrator] others are concerned that it won't be american allies that fill the vacuum left by us restraint. - the most dangerous idea of our time is american restraint. the natural state of the world is conflict. and it takes an enlightened powerful hegemon like the united states to produce a degree of order. - nature abhors a vacuum. power. leadership. abhors a vacuum. something will fill that vacuum if the united states discontinues its leadership role in areas. - the period between the first world war and the second world war is the relevant comparison to look at. where we had this gap between an exhausted britain and a reluctant america, this vacuum was filled. and my concern is that if america is pulling back, retrenching,
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stepping down from its role, then other, less benign forces are going to take its place. - [narrator] the conflicts in syria and yemen are in many ways proxy wars between the iranians and the saudis as they battle for regional dominance. china meanwhile is also working to increase its influence in the asia-pacific region. - china is throwing its weight around in building roads and railroads in africa and putting together a trade pact for other east asian nations as well, so i think there's a sense, obviously china is the world power of the future, in some ways of the present as well. - china's certainly trying to project influence in its region, from the south china sea to the asian infrastructure investment bank, to resep, trying to find a way forward on trade, particularly after the united states pulled out
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of the transpacific partnership. - the nature of america's role in that global system is changing. countries increasingly feel that they may have somewhere else to go if they don't like what america is offering. - this is very much what's at stake right now. whether we are able to push through and build or rebuild, reimagine a multilateral order premised on some sense of equality between societies or whether we break down into regional blocks with dominant players controlling their spheres of influence. - [narrator] whether an illiberal shift is underway in the world, and what is driving it remains up for debate. - it does seem like it's a worldwide trend. we see authoritarian populism in russia, in turkey, in venezuela, although in venezuela it's collapsing. to some extent people would say that it has happened here in the united states.
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you see it in europe, and viktor orban in hungary, there are questions about poland as well. - those who won the cold war believe that their model had triumph and it just turned out that others didn't agree. they liked parts of it, they liked the capitalist part, they liked the trade part, they liked the technology part, they don't necessarily like the democratic part. they may not like the migration part. - i think the biggest rejection of the post world war world order is actually within america itself. - [narrator] the election of president trump came amid a rise of global populism that saw a surge of enthusiasm for far right nationalist leaders. - you take these four things together, economic stagnation, large scale immigration, unmediated social media, and creaky old sclerotic governants and what you have is a recipe for populism
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on a world stage. - one of the things that has been striking about the last 10 years is the rise of identity politics in the western liberal democratic world. nationalism. ethnicity, religion. nationalism was an atavism to us and now it's in our own politics. - [narrator] to some, the drift is a sign that the us should redouble efforts to stand in defense of liberal values. to others it is time for america to put her own house in order and let regional powers address regional problems. - there is a crisis of confidence around the world for democracy and you see that in places like hungary and poland that are gradually dedemocracizing, and unless we can find a way to answer that material concern about the future of work and the future of the middle class in the developed world, this problem is likely to persist. - it is up to us who live in the free world
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to maintain the instruments of power, the arrangements, the alliance systems, the structures that would be able to spread democratic forms of government, and you can't do that unless you have a powerful united states. - the substitute for hard power is creative statesmanship that in accommodating the core interests of important powers can lead to an order tolerable to all. - if the united states is perceived as backing off the idea of reciprocity, which is key to understanding interdependence, then everybody else will start to play that game as well. that is exactly what happened after 1929, and the results were cataclysmic. - [narrator] the us finds itself at a crossroads. while washington wants to retain a position of leadership, some believe deep engagement may no longer advance american interests.
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time will tell if the us is able to alter its foreign policy while keeping the benefits of the post world war two order it helped to create. - [narrator] great decisions is america's largest discussion program on global affairs. discussion groups meet in community centers, libraries, places of worship, and homes across the country to discuss global issues with their community. participants read the eight topic briefing book, meet to discuss each topic, and complete a ballet, which shares their views with congress. to start or join a discussion group in your community, visit greatdecisions.org or call 1-800-477-5836. great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association in association with thompson reuters.
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funding for great decisions is provided by price waterhouse coopers llp. - [narrator] next time on great decisions, to his detractors, vladimir putin is an autocrat, crushing any threat to his power or that of his cronies while renewing soviet styled expansionism. to his supporters, putin represents russia's redemption as a global superpower and an alternative to the liberal democracy espoused by the west. russia's foreign policy, next time on great decisions. (dramatic music) (light music)
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here's what's coming up. health apps -- the dos and don'ts of digital medicine why doctors of the future will make house-calls online. and, how to use medical information on the web wisely. carsten: hello, and welcome to "in good shape." the new global digital report says that more than four billion people are using the internet, and every one of us is using it for about six hours on average per day. this new era even affects my field as a professional health care provider. patients are googling their symptoms, and are checking their bodily functions on a smart phone. is the clock ticking for

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