America has entered a new phase in its Iraq operations, one that represents the end of the "lost war" to many, the non-combat continuation of nation-building to others, and a vague sense of a never-ending global security commitment to just about everyone. Americans, who crave clear definitions of success or failure, aren't sure what to make of this turning point, especially since for many, their attention has already shifted to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Meanwhile, some pundits sound the alarm with cries of "permanent war," even though we haven't officially declared war on anybody since 1943. As for the rest of the planet, humanity currently enjoys the most systematically peaceful period in its recorded history.
So what are we to make of this world that features the unprecedented -- and peaceful -- rise of a global middle class and yet continues to demand of its great powers a sustained effort at frontier-integration across a wide swath of developing regions? While everybody seems to be benefitting from that middle class' emergence, only the West feels the need to export security in the form of boots on the ground and military cooperation to the most persistently troubled hotspots. The rising pillars of the East and South -- such as Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, India and China -- while speaking of themselves in great-power terms and building up their military might, continue to free-ride on the West's efforts. What's more, they prefer to describe us as more problem than solution, while offering no serious alternatives of their own.
In short, as the world experiences fantastic structural change, an aging, post-industrial West still covers all security "bets" while the surging, rapidly industrializing East and South lack the military maturity and strategic vision to step up and lend a much-needed hand. So we watch demographically moribund Europe struggle to recast its relatively small militaries as expeditionary forces, while cash- and manpower-rich China stockpiles advanced weaponry useful only for fighting fellow great powers.