America the Omnipotent

A few weeks ago, Matt Yglesias wrote an excellent post about how neoconservatives seem to think of the US as some sort of all-powerful superhero. It was funny, with a lot of truth to it, but part of me doubted that even neocons are that delusional. Now it seems that that self-proclaimed realist, Niall Ferguson, is outdoing even PNAC:

Like Superman, the United States has vast potential strength. If it wants to be, it really can be “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” It is richer by far than the other countries. It has mind-boggling firepower, enough to incinerate Iran and North Korea in an afternoon.

Is he serious? He really thinks that wars with Iran and the DPRK would be pieces of cake? An invasion of Iran would obviously be a disaster; we would have to pacify 70 million people, fight an insurgency far larger than any we’ve faced in Iraq, and muster the troop strength needed to not lose within a day. None of that is possible. In North Korea, we wouldn’t have the occupation problem (we could just reunite it with the South), but the invasion itself would be horrendous. Kim would probably use his massive artillery installments against the South (these alone can level Seoul). He might use nuclear weapons against the South or against Japan. In any case, he would cause such significant damage to America’s allies (and to American troops in the South and in Japan) as to make the whole endeavor extremely costly, even if we did succeed in conquering the country.
I really don’t know what Ferguson is smoking, but I have a feeling I could make a fortune selling it.

4 thoughts on “America the Omnipotent

  1. What he means is that the United States has a lot of nuclear weapons. He isn’t even quite saying that they should be used. He is only citing that power to argue for respect for America.
    Okay, I agree that Ferguson’s essay is lame, just for somewhat different reasons than your point here.

  2. What he means is that the United States has a lot of nuclear weapons. He isn’t even quite saying that they should be used. He is only citing that power to argue for respect for America.
    I hadn’t thought of that interpretation. But Ferguson’s a smart guy. He has an endowed professorship at Harvard, for chrissakes. He knows very well that the vast quantity of nukes in America’s possession are not really of much consequence when it comes to a hypothetical invasion of Iran or North Korea. And he knows our ability to eliminate their respective populations has no bearing on anything whatsoever.

  3. He has an endowed professorship at Harvard, for chrissakes.
    <cough> <cough>
    Have you heard this one? If you see a guy with 30 items in the 9-item express lane in a supermarket in Cambridge, it means one of two things. Either he is from Harvard, and can’t count; or he is from MIT, and can’t read.

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