2.9. The Legacy of World War II

The global, geopolitical order that came out of that postwar period is still largely the order we have today.

Winning World War II was not the heroic, happily-ever-after story that it’s often portrayed to be.

Yes, the good guys won. And it could’ve been way, way worse.

But it was the second time in just 30 years that the whole world had gone to war with itself.

Over sixty million people had died. The Soviet Union had essentially taken over eastern Europe. And we now had new weapons of mass destruction with which to kill each other.

The global, geopolitical order that came out of that postwar period is still largely the order we have today.

It was designed to intertwine the fates of the United States and the western European powers, so they would be unified enough to deter the Soviet Union, and never again tear the world apart fighting with each other.

The United States, with its overwhelming resources, has of course been the driving force in this geopolitical order—even more so since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The U.S. spends over $600 billion per year on its military—more than the next seven nations combined, and a full one-third of the whole world’s military expenses.

Look objectively at how the world has fared under this order, and the results are mixed.

On one hand, we haven’t had any of those major, cataclysmic, species-threatening wars.

On the other hand, the U.S. has been involved in plenty of smaller wars and interventions in the past 70 years. Eighty-five of them, by one academic’s count, in 44 different countries.

The reasons for these interventions have ranged from really good to really selfish, exploitative, or boneheaded.

So much of the discussion in the United States is about whether we should spend more or less on military, or whether we should intervene in this or that place. I think we should be talking about how to improve this global geopolitical order.

America really has been the world’s policeman for the past 75 years. There’s no doubt we’ve put out some small fires that could’ve gotten out of control. But we’ve also, in less than a century, fired shots or blown stuff up in nearly 25 percent of all the countries on earth!

It bothers me, as an American, that I’m one of only 4 percent of people in the world who gets to have a say in how so much of the world’s military might should or shouldn’t be used in so many of the world’s countries.

There’s a word for when a small group of people get to have so much power, and nobody else gets to have a say. And that word is undemocratic.

This is a global world. And we need a more integrated, global mechanism for maintaining order.

We need to figure out how to give more people a say in how the world’s military might should be used.

Because as long as America is effectively the world’s policeman, global stability depends on the American government choosing to use that power benignly, acting in the world’s best interests instead of taking advantage of its lofty position.

And that, the people of the world are starting to realize, may not be something we can depend on…


This is the 37th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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