The so-called shale revolution might finally achieve what every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has placed on the top list of strategic priorities: energy independence. If this occurs, what happens to the current consensus about the desirability of American global leadership? Energy independence raises the question of whether "national interest" will continue to be a guide for American action in the world.

The Realist Prism: Energy Independence a Game-Changer for U.S. Defense Posture

By , , Column

For the past 60 years, there has been convergence between the strategic logic of America's strategy of forward deployment in key regions of the world and the economic imperative of securing the nation's prosperity. Despite the constant protests on college campuses about "banana republics" and "no blood for oil," there was, in fact, generally a strong correlation between the places where the American military was engaged and those areas that were seen as vital to the economic health of the country. Opposition from naturally isolationist tendencies of the American body politic was overcome, in part, by the argument that prosperity at home could only be secured by guaranteeing access to markets and resources abroad.

By the 1990s, this approach had reached its apex in the emergence of a truly global system of trade, defined by "just in time" supply networks and the outsourcing of many of the stages of manufacturing away from the U.S. homeland. American politicians could no longer argue against the U.S. global presence by claiming that problems abroad had no impact on domestic prosperity. True, the average American might not be able to locate particular countries on the map. But with oil flowing from West Africa and the Persian Gulf, high-technology components shipped in from East Asia and Europe and a veritable flood of low-cost consumer goods flowing from China and other low-wage centers around the world, U.S. strategists could easily educate the general public about how U.S. involvement could be translated into low prices at the pump and at the store. The idea that America had to take the lead in protecting, patrolling and defending the so-called global commons because U.S. prosperity was at stake was even reflected in recruiting campaigns for the U.S. military. ...

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