The Case for Goliath | Michael Mandelbaum

Summary of: The Case for Goliath: How American Acts as the World’s Government in the Twenty-First Century
By: Michael Mandelbaum


In ‘The Case for Goliath: How American Acts as the World’s Government in the Twenty-First Century’, Michael Mandelbaum contends that the term ’empire’ is a misnomer to describe the United States in the modern world. Instead, he asserts that the U.S. provides global governmental services, including assuring security, fostering a stable business environment, and protecting citizen health. The book traces the evolution of the U.S. into its current role, examining key historical events such as World War II and the Cold War that shaped its domestic and foreign policies. The introduction will prepare readers for a fascinating exploration of how the U.S. became the world’s ‘order-maker’ and the differing perspectives on its role in the global community.

America, a Global Government Provider

Some statistics confirm that the U.S. could be the world’s modern empire, but this title does not reflect how America conducts its affairs worldwide. Instead, it provides governmental services such as security, creating consumer demand, protecting intellectual property, among others. Despite being labeled as an unpopular move, the U.S. serves as the provider of international government and the only superpower today. The country evolved into this role as a result of various events that transpired due to the outcome and aftereffects of World War II.

The Making of the World’s Government

The United States’ involvement in World War II led to significant domestic and foreign policy changes that established the country as the world’s government. It also resulted in economic and security institutions to address the Soviet threat and drew more adherents to its international policies. The U.S. launched the Marshall Plan to help European economies recover, and on the military side, the country confronted the Soviets through a policy of mutual deterrence. As a result, the U.S. became the globe’s “order-maker,” which led to the creation of global economic policies, including the Bretton Woods Agreement, GATT, and the WTO, to allow market forces to determine trade policies. Today, free markets, democracy, and peace have become the widely accepted cultural institutions in human history.

U.S. Policies and State-building Efforts

In the aftermath of the Cold War, the U.S. implemented reassurance and deterrence policies to prevent misunderstandings and invasions among nations. This included keeping a military presence in potential hotspots to dissuade Soviet and Chinese intervention. The U.S.’ use of nuclear weapons also led to the development of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Despite the success of promoting a Kurdish government in northern Iraq, the U.S.’ state-building efforts in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq have largely failed. The U.S. also assigned financial responsibility for state-building to American taxpayers rather than the nations receiving aid. The U.S. did not actively assume a state-building role in its humanitarian outreach and assigned on-site responsibility to the military rather than a government agency. Ultimately, it is up to the American government and public to decide the extent and duration of policies and efforts towards global governance.

The US-Saudi Relationship and the Cost of Oil

The Persian Gulf is home to about two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves, and the US has been cultivating its relationship with Saudi Arabia since World War II to secure access to this resource. The US has gone to great lengths to protect the Saudi monarchy, including using its land for military bases and paying for billions of dollars in military costs. This cooperation came at a cost, however, with fourteen of the nineteen hijackers in the 9/11 attacks being Saudis. Despite this, the US has not opposed the Saudi royal family for fear of an uncertain replacement. Today, the US remains dependent on Saudi oil but is seeking alternative energy sources in anticipation of increasing global demand.

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