What the presidential choice could mean

By Martin Wolf 

We are all Americans now. By this I do not merely mean that the leadership of the US shapes the world in which we live. The world we live in is the world the Americans or, more precisely, the Anglo-Americans have made. The US will retain a huge influence. How will it use it? That is the question we should ask about the presidential election. The choice also seems clear: it is between those who expect a world of conflict and those who believe in seeking co-operation.

In a brilliant new book, Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations places today’s US in a tradition of global power which originated in the Netherlands of the 17th century, developed in the Britain of the 18th and the 19th centuries and continued in the US of the 20th century.* Theirs, he says, is the “Anglo-American” system.

What is this system? It has three central features: it is maritime; it is global; and it combines commerce with military power. The Anglo-Americans have a distinctive civilisation: civilian, yet bellicose, commercial, yet moralistic, individualistic, yet organised, innovative, yet conservative, and idealistic, yet ruthless. To its foes, it is brutal, shallow and hypocritical. To its friends, it is the fount of freedom and democracy.

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