What happens when a superpower dies? What happens when the geopolitical order that has stabilized the world for several decades crumbles?
We are all about to learn firsthand.
For most of the past century, the United States of America has been the world’s single greatest guarantor of global stability. Without American might in World Wars i and ii, Britain, France and the rest of Europe would have been trampled under the boot of a German-led military takeover. After the Second World War, America stimulated the fastest period of growth in Europe’s history, providing massive aid that propelled the ravaged continent toward cooperation and prosperity. America rebuilt and stabilized war-torn Asia, significantly helping Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, China, India, Taiwan and other neighboring nations recover. Simultaneously, America checked the spread of communism in Eastern Europe and throughout Asia, countering Soviet aggression and eventually bringing down another totalitarian empire with globalist ambitions.
It’s called Pax Americana: the period of relative world peace that dominant American power has produced. It prevailed in the Western Hemisphere for most of the 20th century. It reigned throughout the Western world since World War ii in what is also felicitously referred to as “the long peace.” Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States has been the sole superpower, again presiding over two decades free of any major wars between great powers.
But now, Pax Americana joins Pax Britannica and Pax Romana: It’s history.
America’s ability to influence other nations is in tatters. Its credibility has been shattered. Its will to cause political change in other nations is broken, particularly if doing so involves large deployments of soldiers. The era of the United States is over.
You may realize that America just isn’t what it used to be. But you probably do not grasp half the magnitude of this historical turning point.
America’s critics and enemies are heartened. They are thrilled to watch America fade—and are working hard to erase its influence completely.
Remarkably, even most Americans are relieved that the U.S. is relinquishing its powerful role.
The decline of American power has been years, even decades, in the making. But this past November saw a sequence of events that effectively marked its end.
The stage was set with President Barack Obama’s handling of the crisis in Syria. First he promised to attack the regime because Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons; then he hedged; then he accepted a sham “peace” plan that kept Assad in power and supposedly put the banned weapons under international control—a plan orchestrated by Russia.
Soon after, President Obama personally phoned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, showing his desperation for a deal over Iran’s nuclear program. (Read Gerald Flurry’s article “The Most Shameful Phone Call in American History” in the December issue for his analysis.) This move sent shock waves through the international community: America has been the number one constraint on the world’s biggest terror-sponsoring nation obtaining regional supremacy and nuclear power; Washington’s decision to abdicate that responsibility utterly changes the landscape of the Middle East and beyond. Iran’s primary neighboring enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are beside themselves.
Finally came what Israeli journalist Caroline Glick called “the most significant international event since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991″—Washington offered Tehran relief from the economic sanctions it is suffering for its nuclear program. What made this so significant? Glick explained: “The collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the rise of the United States as the sole global superpower. The developments in the six-party nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva last week signaled the end of American world leadership” (Nov. 14, 2013; emphasis added throughout).
And the wreckage of American foreign policy lies scattered even further afield across the Middle East.
In Egypt, Washington’s push to dethrone Hosni Mubarak opened the door for the Iranian-aligned Muslim Brotherhood to take over. Now the military has reasserted its power and is trying to keep a lid on the post-Mubarak turmoil. Meanwhile, Egypt’s alliances with the U.S. and Israel lie in tatters.
In Libya, America’s intervention to oust Muammar Qadhafi ended with extremists in power and a lethal terrorist attack on America’s outpost in Benghazi. Libya is now ruined and lawless, aligned with Iran and violently hostile to America.
All these endeavors started with noble rhetoric about squashing extremism and nurturing the blossoms of democracy and peace. But Americans can’t name one place where that promise has truly materialized. The U.S. has become Midas in reverse: Everything it touches turns to ash.
Now, Americans are tired of failure. The nation is $17 trillion in debt (officially—not counting unfunded liabilities). Why borrow money to fight foreign wars that end badly, or that never end? We have enough problems at home. What are we even doing over there, when it’s clear our presence is unwanted?
A Pivot to Nowhere
America’s impulse to retreat from the world is evident everywhere you look.
The Obama administration said in 2011 that it would pivot its attention away from the Middle East and toward Asia. Yet all its signals reveal its desire to withdraw from there as well.
Rather than boosting aid to the region as promised, U.S. foreign assistance to Asia for 2012-2013 dropped 19 percent from the 2009-2010 level, according to State Department figures. The main military component of the pivot was an agreement to deploy 2,500 U.S. marines to Australia’s northernmost city of Darwin by 2016; so far, only 200 troops have arrived there for a six-month rotation. The president promised to increase the number, but many people have their doubts.
“American foreign policy is in unprecedented free-fall,” wrote analyst Daniel Pipes, “with a feckless and distracted White House barely paying attention to the outside world, and when it does, acting in an inconsistent, weak and fantastical manner. If one were to discern something so grand as an Obama Doctrine, it would read: ‘Snub friends, coddle opponents, devalue American interests, seek consensus, and act unpredictably’” (Nov. 12, 2013).
Domestically, Mr. Obama is amassing unprecedented powers for himself. But in the international arena, he has become the post-World War ii era’s weakest president. “Even the in-over-his-head Jimmy Carter was more of a factor in foreign affairs than Barack Obama,” Forbes wrote on October 30. “Diplomats are still astonished, for instance, at how little prep work Obama engages in before international conferences. He doesn’t arrive with much of an agenda, nor does he interact with other leaders in advance to line up support. He more or less just shows up. This is deliberate. The president … wants to reduce [America’s] footprint on the world stage to something the size of Belgium’s or Albania’s.” This is one goal that the president is achieving with conspicuous success.
Yes, America still possesses unmatched military might, but it has no will to use it. Rather than exercise enough power to stabilize nations and solidify lasting change, modern America treads gingerly. Washington’s longing to appease the various bickering voices in the international community is undermined by its lack of will to stabilize trouble spots with force. The naive desire to avoid any criticism from the UN trumps the desire to defeat enemies. What was once decisiveness became apology. Now the apology has become retreat and retrenchment. America’s will is inarguably broken.
What Happens After Pax Americana?
Before Pax Americana was Pax Britannica, the century that preceded World War i during which Britain ruled the seas and much of the world. The passing of the baton from one to the other was perhaps the smoothest, most seamless transition of superpower ever. In fact, historians have difficulty even pinpointing exactly when it occurred; some say it was in the middle of World War ii when America’s troop count exceeded that of the Brits. In many outposts of the British Empire around the world, America simply stepped in and took over, preserving order and stability with very little disruption.
“[I]n the future no one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire-led and the American Republic-led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-18th and the 21st centuries,” wrote historian Andrew Roberts. “It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity …” (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900).
How smooth and seamless do you think the next transition of global dominance will be?
Look at the powers that are poised to take over in America’s absence, and it quickly becomes clear: Two centuries of Anglo-American rule are about to be superseded by something very different.
Full article: What Happens After a Superpower Dies? (The Trumpet)