America’s unquestioned economic authority began to ebb in the 1960s and vanished completely when President Richard Nixon ended the Bretton Woods system in 1971. Since then globalization has begun to work without a guarantor, and America has returned to its older ways….. Yet it is also true that today, as before WWI, American military potential remains untapped. If the US were to spend as high a proportion of its money on defense as it did at the height of the cold war around 1960 it would account for about 2/3 of the military spending around the globe. The American power to fight, as with the American power to fight disease, remains in reserve…. The case of the world crisis of 1915-1945 teaches us that powerful nations must act occasionally, if not continuously, to preserve global openness if it is to last (Eric Rauchway, Favored Among Nations, pp. 170-172; abridged and paraphrased).
It seem to me he is saying 1.) that WWI and WWII were the result of America’s refusal to participate fully in the world system, 2.) that when Nixon went of the gold standard he did something terrible, 3.) that in recent years the US has been too passive with regard to the world economic order, and 4.) the US needs to more fully develop its military potential, despite spending more on the military than the next five or so nations combined.
None of this makes any sense at all. So what is Rauchway really saying? To me he sounds like Niall Ferguson.