Foreign Policy Blogs

The World without US (2008)


Now that the U.S. has been poised to strike Syria militarily, it is helpful to consider the United States’ role in the world.

The premise of this documentary is intriguing: what if the United States removed all of its troops and military hardware from the dozens of bases it has all over the world?

The movie starts by showing a fictional U.S. presidential candidate recording a campaign commercial where he claims he will not only bring all the troops home but that he would slash the defense budget from $420 billion annually to half that and would, as a result, reduce the federal income tax.

The documentary would have been much better if it has stayed with the engaging idea of a U.S. military-free world. What the viewer gets is a list of places where the United States has intervened since World War II.
One segment deals with the United States in Europe.

It shows how the U.S. left the Bosnian question up to the European Union to solve with disastrous results. More than 1 million people were murdered, raped, and displaced in the small Balkan country between 1992 and 1995, when the Dayton Accord was reached.

The EU effectively did nothing to stop the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. What that illuminates is that Europe has relied on the U.S. military since the end of World War II and has no experience making decisions about war. It cannot share the risks the United States takes in the region.

When Kosovo erupted in 1998, the U.S. (acting through NATO) took military action against Serbia to head off what could have become another Bosnia. British historian Niall Ferguson, who figures prominently in this documentary, calls the kind of intervention in Kosovo “human rights imperialism.” He notes that, given that the U.S. is an empire, it’s better to have one that intervenes when gross human rights abuses are taking place than one solely concerned with oil and military presence.

The film also shows U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Asia. Back in 1990-1991, the U.S. ejected Iraq from Kuwait after Saddam Hussein attempted a post-Cold War land grab.

The documentary also shows how the world has not become safer as a result of U.S. engagement but instead a place with many people who hate the U.S. presence in their countries or regions.

One continent that has seen precious little U.S. involvement has been Africa, where millions of people have been killed, maimed, and displaced in recent years.

All told, The World without US is instructive but not illuminative. It has the option of casting light on a fictional, multipolar world but instead simply rehashes instances of U.S. involvement in the affairs of other nations.

The World without US is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]




Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;