Lambert At Central
America is the largest and most powerful empire history has known.
As such, it works to preserve that position by watching closely for any rising powers that could threaten the nation and its resources, said Christopher Jespersen during a lecture Tuesday night.
The presentation at the Sharon Forks Library was part of the ongoing "Great Decisions" series sponsored by North Georgia College & State University.
Jespersen was charged with discussing U.S. national security in the 21st century. As a historian, the dean of the college of arts and letters described his lecture as "a mixture" of history and present happenings.
"We need to understand why things happened and how they impact us today," he said.
Jespersen focused on the United States' conflicts with the Middle East and historical events which, over the course of the 20th century, led up to them.
He said the major issue surrounding U.S. conflicts in that portion of the globe is access to the region's oil supplies.
"The [Middle East] has most of the oil, but the U.S. is the primary consumer of oil," he said. "We use 25 percent of the world's total oil consumption, yet we're only 6 percent of the world's population."
Jespersen said the U.S. issues with the Middle East can be traced back to communist powers as far back as the early 20th century.
"All the way back then, our leaders were already thinking what do we have to do to protect our resources," he said.
Jespersen gave a brief overview of the history of communist conflicts with the U.S.
He said in 1943, the U.S. was allies with Russia since "the Nazis and even Japan" were considered greater threats at that time.
"But that alliance fell apart after World War II," he said, noting the U.S. then entered the Cold War, which lasted until 1989.
During that time, communism was seen as a threat to the U.S. oil supply.
"It was called the domino theory," Jespersen said. "If one country falls [to communism], they all fall and good-bye access to our oil."
Jespersen said despite being in a so-called "Cold War," the U.S. entered into many active conflict situations.
"We are the greatest empire the world has ever seen," he said. "We do work to prevent future global competitors from rising."
The first conflict was the Korean War from 1950-53, followed by the Vietnam War from 1954-75.
In the early 1970s, however, the U.S. began to shift its focus on potential threats from Asia to the Middle East.
Some conflicts around that corner of the world, Jespersen said, included the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Iranian Revolution and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-88, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
While conflicts in the Middle East continue, Jespersen said some in our country are beginning to worry about China becoming a super power and a threat to the U.S.
However, he said he doesn't believe China to be a threat.
"The U.S. has the world's most powerful military by far," he said. "... We spend more than the rest of the world combined on our military. China only spends 8 percent of the total.
"China is not a threat to us. They don't have the military we do and they can't project the power that we can."
Sally Colkett, one of about 75 people who attended the lecture, said she found Jespersen to be a "fabulous speaker."
"I thought he presented a very balanced view of the world," she said. "It was interesting to see how events from the early 20th century played into what our position is now."
The series will continue next week at 6:30 p.m. at Sharon Forks library with the "Horn of Africa."