6 Sustaining America’s Strategic Advantage In a similar vein, Thomas Friedman has written several books detailing his central thesis that globalization has empowered individuals, activ- ists, communities, innovators, entrepreneurs, and others at the expense of more traditional hierarchical structures of state and industrial power.9 Meanwhile Moisés Naím has taken this argument further, suggesting that power is not only more diffuse but is rather decaying, that “power no longer buys as much as it did in the past . . . power is easier to get, harder to use . . . and easier to lose.”10 Globalization has enabled the three revolutions that are central to Naím’s theme of decaying ­power.11 The “more” revolution (the growth in global population and greater resource availability) has challenged the state’s ability to control “peo- ple, resources, and land.” The “mobility” revolution (the greater mobil- ity of people, goods, and ideas) has both increased global standards of living and increased political instability. Finally, the “mentality” revolu- tion (manifested in the rapid spread of technology, the proliferation and vulnerability of information, and the interconnectedness of ideas) has increased the pace of change and challenged the ability of existing power structures to react.12 Contemporary examples of this diffusion of power are abundant and painfully evident in the inability of overwhelming U.S. conventional power to achieve strategic success in either Iraq or Afghanistan despite twenty years of massive diplomatic, economic, and military investments. Stiff Ukrainian resistance against a numerically and technologically supe- rior Russia in 2022 also reflects that diffusion of power. The spread of advanced military and civilian technologies in missiles, drones, and cyber warfare have allowed far weaker competitors (as measured by traditional means of power) to threaten U.S. interests both globally and regionally. Past assumptions of U.S. technological superiority are therefore suspect.13 Examples include Chinese economic espionage14 and cyberattacks on U.S. private15 and defense technology companies,16 Russian, Chinese, and Ira- nian hacking of the 2016 US election campaign,17 attacks by Iranian and Russian-backed militia on U.S. forces in Syria,18 and ongoing drone19 and ballistic missile strikes20 on U.S. forces in Iraq by Iran and Iranian-backed forces. U.S. conventional military superiority alone is simply incapable of easily delivering strategic success against opponents taking advantage of this diffusion of power and employing these asymmetric means of com- petition. Of course, these same dynamics can also work against China and Russia. In Ukraine, demonstrably smaller and relatively poorly equipped Ukrainian forces have (at least for now) not only stalled21 Russia’s mas- sive invasion but have begun to undertake offensive counterattacks22 to retake lost territory in certain areas. U.S. political and military leaders are certainly watching these developments closely and drawing lessons that might be useful in bolstering the defensive capabilities of Taiwan, thereby deterring a Chinese invasion.23
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