It is a safe statement that America is the world's current hyperpower. America is taking a turn as the world empire manager. We assumed responsibilities from the British after WW2. The British seemed to do a better job at it. They were obsessed with trade, but they managed to export God and civilization to countries compared to the USA which exports Big Macs, God and KFC. Yanks seem to be obsessed with making a quick buck compared to the Brits. This could be the difference of a small island nation compared to a continental power with limited historical identity. Looking at the American Empire, we run it on a capital loss. While the Brits had trade, civilization and gold as their measure, the US has freedom and debt. The difference is that the Brits ran an empire to export civilization and seed population elsewhere. America runs a global protection racket.
Protection rackets come in different forms but the basic set up is a powerful agent provides protection for weaker subjects from 3rd parties when they feel they can not protect themselves or rely on a legal authority. The protection racket also has the grey area of really being a shakedown scheme so that the weaker party kicks money to the powerful to prevent being messed with by the powerful protector. There is a legitimate use if the law enforcement is weak for a region or even for a specific community (cops who left immigrant slums alone in pre-war NYC). This is America. America on the global stage is the world leader and chooses to act like a Mafioso.
America's government deficits are a problem. America's trade deficits are a problem. As the reserve currency, we do need to run some form of deficit so that other countries stockpile our currency as reserves (in theory). These are trillion dollar deficits that need annual funding. We fund those deficits through foreign purchases of our debt. Oil exporting nations are perfect for this. They are small, unstable, and have a resource that can easily reward a new dictator. In another era, the USA would have just wiped out the Saudis, sent experts there to work the oil fields and act as frontiersmen colonizers, defended the area and pumped the oil as ours. In our protection racket set up, we set the Saudis up nice, sent Americans to work there in technical fields, created SAMA to manage their wealth, and recycled the oil profits back into the USA through arms deals and bond purchases. We keep the Saudis in the network by providing protection. "Saddam is a wild card, we'll be right there to defend you, just as long as you keep pumping oil like we want; no more oil embargo antics like in the '70s."
The US uses a natural problem child to scare the countries that fund our deficits that can linger on for decades due to an antagonistic patron. Look at major purchasers of US debt (government + private). The US can use Iran to scare Saudis, Kuwaitis and small Arabian kingdoms on huge oil and gas deposits (Iran leans on Russia/China). China is a weird case, but it is a convenient threat to use against the Taiwanese (whom I respect immensely). The US has North Korea to scare Japan and South Korea (NK has China). We are witnessing one psy-ops scare mission currently with North Korea's nuclear missile fraud. South Koreans growing a manufacturing and tech center makes no sense for normal Americans, except for elite money managers though global wage arbitrage, foreign investment avenues + cheap import reasons. South Korea is stepping out of line with gold purchases and diversification out of dollars in their reserve hoard. North Korea's new leader wants to flex a bit to show he can handle leadership, so instead of dismissing him immediately, the US can play with it in the global media. Could the Korean missiles reach the US? Maybe. Could the North Koreans destroy much of Seoul quickly and launch missiles at them and Japan, most definitely. "It's a nice country you've grown here South Korea, it'd be a shame to see those pukes up north ruin it. Maybe you could buy some bonds and slow down the gold grabbing?"
This is just one of the reasons why America's form of empire sucks. Why even seek power beyond controlling sea trade? We have no guiding principle that sticks. We don't even protect Americans abroad. If a Brit was attacked in a foreign nation, the Royal Navy would show up as a threat to the local leaders. The US sends its daughters to volunteer in the Peace Corps and get raped by the locals... and we continue the program. We have half of our leadership that is self hating. We don't strip mine the 3rd world as much as we could. If we wanted to, we could be the capitalist demon that the left envisions America truly is. Our form of empire is completely self serving not for our gain but for employment of little NGO and government shits and the consumer economy. The consumer economy chugs along with cheaper goods and lower interests rates for more consumption. Our empire helps keep our middle and lower classes down. We started by extracting resource wealth to feed our productive economy (kind of smart). When we junked the productive economy, we switched to a more Roman "consume everything and use slave labor just beyond our shores" system. Foreigners will work for the system though because the Godfather will be their friend. This protection racket system does call upon the Mafioso to come through when needed (Gulf War I). Even instances like Israel's bombing of Syria's nuclear reactor shows the world that US weaponry and goods beat Russian goods. A protection racket also calls upon the Mafioso being reliable enough to keep contenders at bay. An unreliable protector can be dumped if a steady alternative rises. Maybe not now, but we may have to fight for it in the future. For the time being, kiss the ring.