EDITOR'S NOTE: As an assignment in the UND honors class "What Does Peace Through Strength Mean Today?," students wrote op-ed pieces on the topic of United States security, with potential categories of military, cybersecurity, and trade or climate issues. The Herald selected three for publication.
By Gracie Lian
For the first time since World War II, America is facing a challenge for the title of Supreme World Superpower. China and Russia are testing the boundaries our nation has set in order to see if they can make a grab for the title, and a world where two or more superpowers are competing for dominance has never been a peaceful place to live. To avoid this impending power struggle the United States needs to come up with a game plan, immediately. That plan cannot reside solely in the technological world.
Contrary to popular belief, developing and using the most advanced tech is not the only thing that is going to allow the U.S. to maintain her position as a hegemonic superpower. Underlying the race to develop and implement the best technology is a critical need for solidarity, both within America's borders and between our allies. Solidarity is my answer, and that leads me to the problem.
Our problem is polarization - with strong nationalistic tendencies added in to make a poisonous mix. How can we combat and address actual national threats if we see our American brothers and sisters as the enemy? How are we supposed to address Chinese and Russian aggression if we are busy squabbling with those countries that are supposed to be our allies?
Russian hacking in the 2016 election catapulted America into an uproar, and instead of decisively condemning Russia's actions, American leadership and at-large citizens alike spent valuable time and resources arguing whether American intelligence was correct and debating if the hacking had actually influenced the election. Yes, Russia's ability to hack our elections spoke to an issue with our cybersecurity, but our national response to the cyberattacks was the real problem. We became our own enemies instead of uniting against the real one, and that speaks volumes.
The problem polarization poses to international relations and the detriments of its nationalistic tendencies are embodied perfectly within the example the United Kingdom set in its ongoing struggle with Brexit. Three years ago, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union - a decision dubbed "Brexit" - in an unprecedented move. Scholars agree that the "leave" vote originated from strong nationalistic tendencies as the UK became increasingly frustrated with the economics of the EU and the lack of sovereignty that their member status created. Now, the deadline for negotiating a withdrawal agreement has been extended multiple times, the political parties are fighting within themselves, the country is steeped in uncertainty, the pound has fallen in worth, and GDP growth has slowed considerably. Polarization between parties and the decision to leave the EU has left the UK internally unstable with its allies questioning whether they are allies or not. This is the exact type of situation a power-hungry country like China or Russia would look to take advantage of.
The 2018 Global Risks Report, put together by the World Economic Forum, identified the same trends that I have identified and called them "Identity Geopolitics," where "the twin forces of national identity and self-determination are growing in disruptive capacity." Russia and China
aren't facing internal fracturing in the same way free and democratic countries are. Their all-powerful governments have made sure of it.
We need to remember how to unite under a common cause and how to work with other nations again. A state that is fracturing internally is much more vulnerable and much less threatening. You can't work a weapon if the inner parts are broken, and China and Russia will count on that. Rising tensions in the South China Sea between China and smaller nations and election hacking will seem like minor problems compared to what we could face.
The fix to our problem lies in changing our political culture, and that begins within leadership. It's time for Americans to elect a moderate, a leader who can work with both Republicans and Democrats to accomplish national goals. We need leaders committed to our allies and our treaties. No more strong-man politics, no more murmurings from the executive branch about drastic moves like pulling out of the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Sure, we are all sick of the petty and polarized partisan politics. But the importance of ending in- fighting now goes beyond that. As citizens we need to reprioritize our political agendas. We need to be better at recognizing and acknowledging when we get distracted by petty accusations and we need to learn how to love our American brethren again. It is only once we recognize our real adversaries that we can begin to ensure the stability of our nation for centuries to come.
Gracie Lian, of Grand Forks, recently was elected to be the next president of the UND student body.