Leading Article: A bigger truncheon for the world's policeman

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PRESIDENT CLINTON'S declared intent to pump more money into the American military is more significant than suggested by the political comment it has attracted. Mr Clinton is indeed a master of "triangulation", the art of political horse trading and stealing opponents' political clothes. With the Senate about to begin considering his alleged "high crimes and misdemeanours", more military spending constitutes a gesture to the Republican Party in Congress that it can still do business with him.

But Mr Clinton's announcement is more important for what it tells us about the US. It ensures that American personnel will be stationed around the globe, enforcing the pax Americana, long after this president's sexual infidelities are consigned to the history books.

The money being offered is on a grand scale: it might amount to $100bn (pounds 61bn) over a decade. This means that the 250,000 American service personnel currently stationed outside the US itself will not have to be withdrawn. But it also allows the US military to maintain its "stealth" capabilities, with which it can bombard most nations without taking casualties in return.

Such self-confident assertion is impressive, especially for a nation already spending more per capita than Europeans on defence. A nation has not been so dominant since the last days of the pax Britannica preceding the First World War. But no credible threat is on the American horizon. The Japanese economic danger that panicked Americans in the 1980s has dissipated; Russia is in chaos; China seems more interested in domestic economic reform.

Mr Clinton's local difficulties should not blind us to the reality that he still leads the only nation in the world with power to shape our destinies. One thing is certain for the coming century: American power will be pre- eminent.