Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A World without America

In accordance with my recent posts about the fate of America and the world if we don’t get out of our funk, this post is about the “World without America” that many people seem to think is the solution to all the world’s problems. Fareed Zakaria has an article in Newsweek about the trouble this is already causing and some warning about the future if it doesn’t stop. He mentions several issues that have already appeared, such as global trade talks are collapsing as France refuses to allow Europe to sign on to the agricultural subsidy cuts the US proposes in exchange for developing world fully opening its financial sector. Any possibility of reducing global pollution is gone as India and China demand the same per capita pollution levels as Europe. However, he only really covers those two problems that are the favorites of Western internationalists, globalization and global warming. Beyond these there are more pressing problems that are developing as the mice realize the cat will no longer wake up.

Absent US intervention, Darfur continues to be the scene of mass slaughter. Sri Lanka’s war with the LTTE has flared up again despite decades of Euro soft power intervention. As America’s resolve has slackened, Russian pressure on former Soviet Republics that we were helping like the Ukraine, Georgia, and Kazakhstan is increasing. Probably the most deleterious effect on future global stability is the loss of the Pax Americana that underpinned the low defense budgets and free trade that we saw in most of the world. The cause of the relative peace we’ve seen for the last 15 years was the reality that any country that attacked another would simply be destroyed by the US military. No matter how much money any country spent (Japan and Germany aside) they could never hope to match even a single American carrier and division. With zero chance of victory there was no reason to try. In a world without an active America that calculation changes drastically. There are still national hatreds and disputed territories to fight over around the world. Places like Arica, Kashmir, the Crimea, Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and the Fergana Valley are potential scenes of centuries old grudge matches. This can also be seen by the growing defense budgets and the purchases of advanced military weapons by countries around the world. Just because Alsace-Lorraine, Silesia, the Skane, and Tirol are not at the moment disputed and Euro defense budgets are presently inadequate doesn’t mean conflict is a thing of the past. Zakaria ends his article by quoting Niall Ferguson about what may be in store for the “World without America”,
“In a provocative essay in Foreign Policy three years ago, the British historian Niall Ferguson speculated that the end of American hegemony might not fuel an orderly shift to a multipolar system but a descent into a world of highly fragmented powers, with no one exercising any global leadership. He called this "apolarity." "Apolarity could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age," Ferguson wrote, "an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism, of economic plunder and pillage in the world's forgotten regions, of economic stagnation, and civilization's retreat into a few fortified enclaves."”

Something for Americans should remember, even if we aren’t exposed to the sort of depravations that Europe, Africa, and much of Asia will be, we’ll still be part of that world and it will far worse for us than anything Iraq can be imagined as. This is something that I've written about since the earliest days of this blog (all of 8 months ago). The earliest being my 8th post back in May 2006 about that contrary to what the left says we will have to fight and win this struggle and contrary to what some on the right say this isn’t the last great conflict, we’ll have to do it again and again. This post from June covers my general agreement with the top British strategist who warned the West is looking mightily like the Roman Empire at its end these days. Also from June are two posts, one dealing with how the insistence on treating every “nation” equally is creating many of the world’s problems that are then being fanned by the fatigue we are now showing in spades, and the other dealing with the problem of relying on Europe for our alliances in the future as the Democrats desire. There are other ones that deal tangentially with this topic but that should show that isn't something recent or surprising.

I should add that one of my quibbles with the article is that he states the power of the US and Europe in the world is declining. In my view there are two types of power, theoretical and real. Theoretical power is the total potential power of a nation realized or not while real power is that power which a nation is willing to use. Europe’s power, however you define it, is on the decline so I don’t dispute that point. As for us it is true that our real power is on the decline as we seem intent on no longer exercising the full breadth of our capabilities. However, our theoretical power is essentially unchanged. Our economy grows at roughly the world average so there isn’t much change there. Our population is growing at near the world average and will actually likely be above the world rate soon. Our military holds as big if not a bigger share of global military power than ever before, as we are the only nation with a fully combat experienced force, our weapons and tactics are proven in combat, and we dominate global R&D spending (both military and civilian). This is what is so disheartening about the current mood in America, we have the power of Britain in 1870 at the height of the Pax Britannica, yet we are behaving and electing politicians like the Britain of 1970 at the ebb of her power (when even France and Italy! were richer than England, may that never be said about us).


  1. Very interesting post. I think America is actually in a better position than Britain/1870, simply because, at that time, the Royal Navy had not been truly tested in almost 60 years. The Pax Britannica was build on a memory, whereas the Pax Americana was build on muscle.

    Americans need to wake up, realize that they have the strength to win the war against Islamist fascism, and that the fight will not be easy. When that happens (hopefully, before the next round of 9/11s), we'll see some real action.

    Until then, it looks like America wants to bury its head in the sand.

  2. Thanks for the comments, glad you liked the post. I agree with all your points there. Britain always appeared much stronger than she really was because of her Empire, but her Empire wasn't something that could permanently be relied upon. It was a wasting power, when used it would cause it to be lost. Our capabilities are thus not only greater, but they are also concentrated into a single nation so we won't have to worry about the same effect. Though we do have to worry about fatigue, but the British had to also as could be seen during the Crimean War and the 2nd Boer War.

    Although I oppose it and think it's wrong, it is understandable why the desire to go to sleep is so powerful here. With thousands of miles of ocean between us and the Arabs and Iranians and NoKo's it seems to be a simple matter of leave them alone and our nightly news can get back to the fun things like the Beckhams coming to LA and the Olson twins' weight problems instead of the scary stories about nuclear weapons and Arabs blowing up Arab school children every night. Won't stop either of them from happening, but we don't have bombs going off in our cafes, rockets landing in our cities, or a nutcase wannabe Hitler a missile's throw away promising a second holocaust to finish the job of the first holocaust (that never happened according to him) to constantly remind us of the dangerous world out there.

    I thought 9/11 made most American's realize that in the modern world those thousands of miles of oceans no longer protect us as they did before, but it's something that's been ingrained in our national psyche since Washington was President. Again, doesn't excuse it and the President has certainly failed in the communication effort that was needed to convey this new world to the people, but I do what I can on the blog (which isn't much but was more than I did before the blog).

  3. Interesting post. A world without America.... have to give that some thought.

  4. Glad to hear you also liked the post Lucy. Just try not to enjoy those thoughts too much.

  5. I may not always agree with what you write but i do enjoy reading it.
    If America was to sink into the sea tomorrow, the most obvious loser would be Israel and all the ramifications that would lead onto.
    Israel could not afford to keep up its present military obligations and would either implode trying or be forced to seek out a peace agreement with its neighbours. A weakened Israel would not last long in the Middle East.
    As for Europe, Britain would be the biggest loser with its closeness to the states and the big hitters in the EU would quickly sideline us.
    Russia i could see becoming more aggressive in its tactics and China would certainly snatch Taiwan.
    It is an intruiging thought and really depends upon your point of view according to whether you saw America vanishing as a good thing or not.
    Personally, i wouldn't like to see it go but i wish it could be less militaristic and more of a force for good.

  6. Sorry to take so long responding, Blogger hasn't been letting me see my blog for some reason. Thanks for the compliment, which I gladly return. I don’t have much to add to your assessment of a post-America since I largely agree with it. I do have one question, hasn’t Britain always and essentially permanently been sidelined by the bigwigs of the EU (i.e. France)?

    I wouldn’t argue that America’s existence (more accurately active engagement with the world) is good for everyone. Certainly Russia, China, and Iran would find a more favorable world situation without us. Countries like Japan, Taiwan, Britain, India, the Ukraine, Poland, etc would find themselves in a worse spot. There are obvious disagreements over the goodness of certain American policies but overall since we can’t please everyone I would prefer being a benefit to the second group of nations than the first.

    At any rate we are likely going to see what a world with a less engaged America is like soon, I think it'll be quite disappointing to people advocating it here and abroad though (for many of the reasons you outlined above).