The Economist Magazine 17th December 2021 Eighty years ago Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. It was a grave error, bringing the world’ s mightiest country into the w ar and dooming the Japanese empire to oblivion. A cle arsighted Japanese admiral supposedly lamented: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Today Japan is peaceable, rich and innovative (see Leader). It was the Japanese who rebuilt their country , but their task w as made easier by the superpower that defeated them. Not only was America midwife to a liberal, capitalist democracy in Japan; it also created a world order in which Japan w as free to tr ade and grow. This order was not perfect, and did not apply everywhere. But it was better than anything that had come before.
Unlike previous great powers, America did not use its military dominance to win commercial adv antage at the e xpense of its smaller allies. On the contrary, it allowed itself to be bound, most of the time, by common rules. And that rulesbased system allowed much of the world to avoid war and grow prosperous.
Unfortunately, America is tiring of its role as guarantor of the liberal order. The giant has not exactly fallen asleep again, but its resolve is faltering and its enemies are testing it. Vladimir Putin is massing troops on the border with Ukraine and could soon invade. China is buzzing Taiwan’s airspace with fighter jets, using mockups of American aircr aftcarriers for target pr actice and trying out hypersonic weapons. Iran has taken such a maximalist stanc e at nucle ar talks that many observers expect them to collapse. Thus, two autocr atic powers thre aten to seize land currently under democratic control, and a third threatens to violate the NonProliferation Treaty by building a nucle ar bomb. How far would America go to prevent such reckless acts? The Economist Magazine 17th December 2021