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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Turns Iraq Crisis Into Pax Americana

One day, there might be a statue to Saddam Hussein in Washington, as the unwitting architect of the new Pax Americana. Around the Pentagon and the foreign policy think-tanks, they understand that Iraq has presented a golden opportunity for the United States to garrison one of the world's most strategic areas.

"For years, we have been trying to station troops in that area, because it is so critical to us in terms of oil," argues Lawrence Korb, former assistant defense secretary, now at the Brookings Institution. "Since we are pulling 200,000 troops out of Germany, it's not a stretch to keep a few thousand in the Gulf."

A similar suggestion has now come from one of America's genuine military intellectuals, retired General William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, whose satellites and electronic listening posts are the real strengths of U.S. Intelligence. Odom sees the military gendarmeries of the Pax Americana stretching endlessly into the future.

The U.S. garrisons and bases in Germany and in Japan remain "the cornerstones of world order," says General Odom. And he urges the extension of this principle to "the only other strategically critical region" with another U.S. garrison in the Persian Gulf.

Certainly it can be done, and easily afforded, by a United States which is now spending just 3 percent of its annual gross domestic product on defense -- less than half the proportion it spent during the Cold War's final decade. The two recent massive military operations in Haiti and in the Persian Gulf (and so far without a single U.S. death in combat), suggest that the Pentagon cuts inflicted by both Bush and Clinton have not eviscerated the military.

And there are ways to use modern mobility to make up for the force cuts. U.S. troops and warplanes have been able to deploy fast enough to deter an invasion, because of the network of "ghost" bases established throughout the Gulf region.

A $30 billion complex of Saudi airbases, pre-positioned heavy weapons like guns and tanks, and supply and maintenance facilities meant that U.S. troops could fly in and be equipped for combat within hours. Twelve cargo ships, constantly loaded at the nominally British base of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, carried the heavy equipment for an entire 19,000-strong U.S. expeditionary force.

We do not yet have a phrase or a concept to embrace this emerging American role. It is not like the Pax Britannica, because it does not seek to rule. It is not a global benevolent despotism, because it is neither despotic nor global. It is not a modern Rome, because its spread is much wider. No historical parallel springs convincingly to mind. This is new strategic territory.

It has become a presidential clich? to declare that "America is not going to be the global policeman." And yet the lessons of Haiti and the Gulf are that the post-Cold War U.S. is becoming something almost indistinguishable: the UN's enforcer of last resort.

And it will be left to the caprices of American politics to determine where they will, and more important -- just plucking Moldova, Tajikistan, East Timor, Algeria, Yemen and Cuba from a long list -- where they will not intervene. The global cop picks his beats. But in the strategic heartland of the world's biggest oil supply, a new police station is now open for business.