America as a Superpower

America as a Superpower

Strayer University/Contemporary U.S. History

The United States’ frequent involvement in international relations has earned it the reputation of being ‘policemen of the world’. Acting as the world’s police force, the United States uses policy and practical military actions or missions in war or conflict-torn areas across the world to enforce global security. Recently, the United States has participated in various international events involving military interventions; some of the events in which the US has participated have led to much debate and controversy among the American public. This is because parts of the public have not supported US involvement while other parts have (Benhabib, 2008, p. 97).

In the past few decades, the U.S. has played a critical role in various international events. These events date back to a foreign policy created after the Civil War. These events include the military action that the U.S. has taken in support of a number of military missions across the world. A good example includes the Tunisian crisis, where the U.S. provided military aid comprised of helicopters and ammunition. This was done despite the human violations and abuse of power in the country. Another example is the Syrian conflict, where the U.S. publicly stood against Syrian political unrest.

Some aspects of U.S. history since 1865 that led to the rise of the U.S. as the world’s superpower police force was the development of foreign policy. Foreign policy determines how America conducts relations with other countries. It is designed to further certain goals. It seeks to assure America’s security and defense. It seeks the power to protect and project America’s national interests around the world. In 1898, after aiding the Cuban resistance and giving Cuba its independence after the Treaty of Paris, the U.S. took on their policing role. This also led the United States to being known as a superpower. Spanish possessions such as Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam were surrendered to the United States. These acquisitions aided the United States in further becoming more powerful; from then on, many countries were dependent on the United States for aid in any emergency situations. This help is still expected today from America. Another aspect is the empowerment of the U.S. presidency and power. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson explained his ideas about peace to the US Senate. He believed it was the duty of the United States to build peace permanently in the world. Wilson was successful in his speech; it was described as the most startling and noblest utterance that had fallen from human lips since the Declaration of Independence. Woodrow Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and had a penchant for idealism and stirring speeches. This was the beginning of America rising as a world superpower (Schultz, 2014, pp. 360-364). America’s high intelligence on global security also played major role in its superpower position. America had the world’s largest navy with largest number of aircraft carriers as well as bases all over the world. America also had the largest nuclear arsenal in the world during the first half of the Cold War. In addition, America had one of the largest armies in the world and also had one of the two largest air forces in the world (Schultz, 2014, pp. 431).

One international event that occurred in late 2012 was in Jordan. There were 150 U.S. troops deployed to Jordan to help it contain the Syrian Civil War within Syria’s borders. There was fear of Syria losing control of its chemical weapons. The task force, which was led by a senior American officer, was based at a Jordanian military training center north of Amman (Gordon, 2012). Many Syrian refugees crossed into the military training center and were using the resources provided by Jordon. Recent skirmishes had broken out between the Syrian military and Jordanians guarding the country’s northern border, where many families had ties to Syria. The Obama administration offered communications equipment and nonlethal assistance to the rebels of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (Gordon, 2012). Americans were also working to supply food and water to the Syrian refugees. This shows a recent policing role of the U.S. in just one country and one emergency situation.

Another international policing role event occurred in Turkey. This event was linked to the previous event. Like Jordan, Turkey was also supporting the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad. The United States sent 400 troops and two batteries of Patriot missiles to Turkey to prevent any missile strikes from Syria. Scud missiles were fired at some rebels which showed that the Assad government was not afraid to use force against the people for personal gains. American batteries were to be part of a broader push to strengthen Turkey’s defenses that also included the deployment of four other Patriot batteries — two from Germany and two from the Netherlands (Schmitt, 2012). Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed a deployment order en route to Turkey from Afghanistan calling for 400 U.S. soldiers to operate two batteries of Patriots at undisclosed locations in Turkey. Turkey was concerned that is was vulnerable to Syrian missiles, including Scuds that might be tipped with chemical weapons. 

There are also a number of international incidences after WWII where the United States took a policing role. In these instances, after WWII, the United States became a superpower, economically. Due to this new role, the United States had to take on a policing role to ensure that it remained in control of international events across the world. At this point in history, the policing role was a strategy to ensure that the U.S. was updated on what was going on across the world in order to arbitrate the prevailing circumstances (Schultz, 2014, p. 411).

The United States had taken on a policing role through participating in events like the Iraq war and ousting of Saddam Hussein, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the Afghanistan war. The participation of the U.S. in these events has sparked controversy within the American public regarding U.S. involvement within the country or countries affected by their involvement (Schultz, 2014, pp. 411, 499).

Some driving forces that fueled international policy decisions involving the international incidents were the formation of NATO, peace, and foreign policy. NATO, standing for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, decided through foreign ministers, to send out Patriot batteries to Turkey. NATO contains 28 countries and NATO membership is open to any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area. NATO’s essential purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. It provides a unique link between these two continents for consultation and cooperation in the field of defense and security, and the conduct of multinational crisis-management operations (Schultz, 2014, p. 433-434). During Woodrow Wilson’s time he had to convince the Senate to accept his peace strategy. Wilson wanted to end war once and for all. Although, he failed, with peace only lasting for 20 years between World War I and World War II, he was a staunch idealist. “Wilson argued that the goal of the war had to be the establishment of ‘community power’ and not a ‘balance of power,’ and to achieve ‘organized common peace’ instead of ‘organized rivalries.’ In other words, only a ‘peace without victory’ could bring the war in Europe to an end’ (Schultz,2014, p. 365). According to Stuart, after the 20th century wars including World War I, World War II, and Vietnam, most Americans requested strict limits on foreign policy. After World War I, it meant going into isolation and rejecting to participate in the League of Nations. After World War II, it meant embarking on one of the largest voluntary military demobilizations in world history. After Vietnam, it meant placing new restrictions on a president’s ability to conduct overseas operations (Gottlieb, 2012). However, the United States was being constantly forced back into being the global leader regardless of their efforts to drawback. This includes World War II, the Cold War, and the military build-up and proxy wars of the 1980s (Gottlieb, 2012).

In conclusion, this study has shown that the United States has actively taken part in international relations, giving the country the moniker ‘world’s policemen’. The United States redefined its foreign policy on international relations after WWII. Whether everyone agrees with this involvement or not, the US in now forced to make key decisions on its involvement in international affairs as opposed to the isolation strategy that was in place during WWI.


Benhabib, S. (2008). US Foreign Policy; The Legitimacy of Human Rights. Daedalus, Vol. 137, Issue 3, p. 94-104.

Gordon, R. M. (2012). U.S. Military Is Sent to Jordan to Help With Crisis in Syria. Retrieved from: military-sent-to-jordan-on-syria-crisis.html?_r=0.

Schmitt, E. (2012). U.S. to Send 2 Missile Units to Turkey to Deter Syrians. Retrieved from: missiles-to-turkey-to-deter-syria.html

Schultz, K. (2014). Volume II: US History Since 1865. (3rd ed., pp. 291-345). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

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