Resurrecting the Idea of the Perpetual Decline of the US?
For much of the world, the decline of the United States was desired to clear the way for their own emergence. In other cases, it was schadenfreude. In yet other cases, it was the bitterness of once great nations that were replaced by a nation they regarded as clearly unworthy of leadership. The United States was the center of the global system, and the hope that it would fail resulted in regarding every failure as a portent of an American collapse. Similar hopes enfolded Alexandrian Greece, Rome, Britain and the Ottoman Empire. Each misstep or misfortune was seized upon as evidence that their fall was imminent. In due course, all these empires collapsed but not for many centuries. __ Geopolitical Futures
From the Beginning The US Had Almost No Chance
250 years ago, the idea of an independent United States of America was a pipe dream with almost no chance of success. And ever since the unlikely defeat of the British Empire in the American revolution, wizened pundits have been predicting the imminent decline and fall of the upstart American states. The “nation” was nothing but a bunch of quarreling colonies, deeply in debt, with tenuous trade links under continuous threat from the most powerful sea power of the age. The British were a bad enemy to have in the late 18th century.
For almost 100 years after the revolution, the British persisted in hoping to reclaim at least a substantial portion of the American colonies. But when the US war between the states concluded with the nation still in one piece, the UK was forced to sit back and watch the US become the world’s wealthiest nation around 1880, and the world’s most powerful nation in the 1940s.
After World War II, the USSR rose as a nuclear power with a global reach, and once again it was clear to journalists, historians, and social scientists that the US was in terminal decline. The humiliation of the US in Vietnam confirmed their certainty that the end was near. But the USSR could never produce enough toilet paper, and thus floundered by the wayside. That embarassing adventure in Afghanistan did not help, but seriously, the Soviet command economy was never cut out to compete with wild western capitalism in an age of rapid technological change.
Fortunately for the pundits, Japan was rising in the 1980s and early 1990s, threatening to surpass the US.
… even as the Cold War ended, the pundits and professors quickly identified another rival threatening American dominance: Japan. In October, 1990, the journalist Hobart Rowan wrote in The Washington Post: “Some feel that Japan in many ways is already No. 1, that Pax Nipponica has been replacing Pax Americana, and that the only question is how much worse for America the situation is going to become.”
What is particularly fascinating about these older predictions is that so many of their themes remain constant. What did our past Cassandras see as the causes of America’s decline? On the one hand, internal weaknesses—spiraling budget and trade deficits, the poor performance of our primary and secondary educational systems; political paralysis—coupled with an arrogant tendency toward “imperial overstretch.” And on the other hand, the rise of tougher, better-disciplined rivals elsewhere: the Soviet Union through the mid-’80s; Japan until the early ’90s; China today.
The image that comes through irresistibly is that of an aging, impotent America being outpaced by younger, more virile competitors. __ Always in Decline?
Declinism has come and gone in cycles, not for the past 50 years, but for the past 250 years.
The US Has Always Been in Doubt and Decline
… at least since the 1970s, we’ve been hearing that America was just about to have its lunch eaten by some emerging power. In the 1970s it was the Arabs; in the 1980s and early 1990s, it was the Japanese and the Germans; and after a brief bout of optimism, the Chinese became our betes noires. Each time, the narrative was largely the same: American market capitalism was a failure. The competitive model rendered us incapable of long term planning.
Dan Drezner channels Daniel Bell, who notes that pundits have been predicting the twilight of American power for at least half a century:
Harvard’s Samuel P. Huntington noted that the theme of “America’s decline” had in fact been a constant in American culture and politics since at least the late 1950s. It had come, he wrote, in several distinct waves: in reaction to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik; to the Vietnam War; to the oil shock of 1973; to Soviet aggression in the late 1970s; and to the general unease that accompanied the end of the Cold War. Since Huntington wrote, we can add at least two more waves: in reaction to 9/11, and to the current “Great Recession.”….
What the long history of American “declinism” — as opposed to America’s actual possible decline — suggests is that these anxieties have an existence of their own that is quite distinct from the actual geopolitical position of our country; that they arise as much from something deeply rooted in the collective psyche of our chattering classes as from sober political and economic analyses.
They Can’t Help But Wish for America’s Fall
The view of a burning building — or a collapsing “empire” — is a compelling sight. Who can turn his eyes away from the dynamic image of something turning into nothing? And with the devastation left in the wake of the Chinese virus, the world is on the edge of its seat waiting to see the next shoe drop.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, China had been catching up to the US economically for decades. According to the wisdom of the world’s journalists, academics, and political minds, it was only a matter of time before the US was left in China’s wake. So what happens now?
China is economically and militarily much weaker than the United States. But its manipulation of the perception of its power is skillful, sufficiently so that the Turks and the Europeans tend to see the coronavirus as a transit to Chinese power. It is said that perception is reality. It really isn’t. At a certain point, the pretense of power leads an adversary to believe in that power, and that can lead to an economic, political or military conflict that the perceived power can’t win. Perception warfare is good for buying time. But carried out too long, the perception warrior is believed, feared and engaged.
… China’s strong suit is dependence on a supply chain that relies on cheap labor. But the coronavirus has demonstrated to the businesses that created the supply chain that excessive dependence on any one country, as is the case for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, can destroy a company. The crisis has turned this into a weakness, rather than a strength, as American businesses shift their supply chains away from China. In some cases, this is not a complex or costly thing to do.
China focuses on perception to compensate for weakness. Strange ideas like building an overland transportation system to Europe (i.e., the Belt and Road Initiative) are aimed at demonstrating a nation’s capability. Showering loans on countries does the same, even when the loans don’t fully materialize. At relatively low cost, China positions itself as a financial power. __ Geopolitical Futures
US as an Accidental Superpower
Back in the 1770s, no one would have predicted that the US would become the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation. But on the back of a long series of accidents, the natural wealth of the land combined with the potential wealth of the people, to create a momentous nation 250 years later.
In his series of books, The Accidental Superpower, The Absent Superpower, and Disunited Nations, Peter Zeihan presents a number of explanations for the rise and persistence of the US as a global power.
Modern westerners have no idea how most of the world is forced to live under dictatorship — either the dictatorship of poverty and/or the dictatorship of political tyranny. People of mainland China know dictatorship, and always wonder if they will wake up the next day with their “freedom” and internal organs intact. People of Africa and much of Asia and Latin America know dictatorship of poverty and tyranny. People of Russia know life under dictatorial courts and policing. And increasingly, people of Europe and much of the Anglosphere are beginning to experience the tyranny of dictatorial political correctness.
As an idea, the US was meant promote the rule of law against government tyranny. But the US was never expected to last for more than a few generations before it, too, succumbed to the corruption that tends to sink all well-intended ships of state that sail too close to the conventional winds of governance. The only reason the US has lasted as long as it has with its circa-1900 size, is its “can-do” prosperity and its capacity when riled to respond to existential challenges, that it has exhibited up until now.
It should be noted that after about 1900, the US largely stopped acquiring new territory, even though the US did not become the world’s superpower until several decades later. This is not the typical behavior of an Imperial power, and suggests the US had other priorities that set it apart from most other superpowers the world has seen.
Enemies Without, Enemies Within
With the coming of Chinese coronavirus, the US is experiencing an emerging infestation of “self-defeatism” that has not been seen to this degree before. This suicidal self-defeatism is being exhibited largely by the skankstream media and corrupt political elements of federal and state governments. But it is also being fed by large segments of academia, foundations, and the portions of the public that make their living off the deep state swamp and other parasitic social institutions. Some of these activist institutions are being supported by the communist regime in Beijing.
Beyond the corrupted institutions of the US, large numbers of people living inside the US actually want the US economy to fail, in order to bring about regime change. The death toll from such a failure as these people and factions are working to bring about, would be far higher than the death toll from Chinese coronavirus alone, no matter what policy or strategy was used to oppose the virus.
More ominously, considering the alternative regime that is being offered to replace the current one, it is clear that subservience to communist China by the US, is only an election away.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the early 2000s and then as veep, Biden helped along China’s geopolitical rise. Bernie Sanders is thus right to criticize Biden for supporting the grant of Permanent Normal Trade Relations status to China in 2000.
A decade later, Biden said: “A rising China is a … positive development not only for China, but for America.” Tell that to the 1 million Uighurs in Chinese concentration camps. Tell it to Asian democracies menaced by Beijing’s bullying. Tell it to the American factory workers who lost good jobs while Hunter got $80,000 a month for his princeling sinecure.
Oh, and what did Biden do about the growing Chinese-fueled fentanyl crisis while “overseeing the China portfolio,” as he says he did in the Obama administration? Nada.
What Biden did do was to contribute mightily to Team Obama’s record of appeasement and failure to counter Chinese aggression from cyber-hacking to island-building. __ Source
Obviously, much of the talk about the impending decline of the US amounts to a self-fulfilling prophecy, since it is meant as yet another emotional lever to help bring about regime change.
Tyranny on an Unimaginable Scale
If you can imagine a world with the US subservient to China, you can imagine a world where no one’s internal organs are safe as long as a high party official is in need of a replacement organ. You can imagine an Orwellian world where something is only true as long as it benefits the ruling clique. You can imagine a world where academics who speak out against the ruling regime are routinely “disappeared,” often permanently (although their organs may show up in other people’s bodies).
It is a world all too easily attainable at this stage, if the wealth and power of the US is turned over to the current political opposition — the kowtow cabal. And with an electorate that has been steadily dumbed down over the past 50 years by increasingly insipid offerings from the academic and media communities, who can expect anything better?
The incessant bowing and apologizing to foreign leaders that was typical during the Obama years, can easily return to dominate US foreign relations. And that is a gift that China would not decline. For China is intensely engaged in the battle to dominate all the aspects of global power, and only in Donald Trump has China met a truly serious threat to its goals of supremacy.
Too many otherwise intelligent persons of influence are behaving as if the triumph of China — and the Chinese way of achieving and maintaining power — would be just another routine variable to factor into the cost of doing political and economic business. Boy, will they be surprised!
The only Americans “supporting” China are our media and maybe a few businessmen with supply chains still in China. Everyone else, both Republican AND Democrat, has moved on. China’s f*ckery with Corona has sealed their fate.
Only time will tell if the US is in decline — but it is certainly obvious that We the People in the US have allowed our Betters to take their eye off the ball. When we have allowed ourselves to depend on China for most of our medications, and for most of our Rare Earths, and for the computer chips in our military planes, we have definitely not been paying attention.
Something history teaches is that nations decline from within. The US Political Class is largely Anti-American Europhiliac, and behaves as if it is in the pocket of Chinese interests. If We the People can put an end to that travesty, then the US will not decline. If …
But we should not under-estimate the Chinese. They don’t suffer from our Betters’ fascination with multi-culturalism or political correctness or open borders. In only a few decades, they have gone from next-to-nothing to being the world’s #1 shipbuilder and #1 automobile manufacturer and #1 steel-maker. China has some of the most modern infrastructure in the world — airports, freeways, mag-lev trains, subways. And China is making vast investments in serious education, as shown by the European, Australian, & North American universities that now depend on revenues from Chinese students; those students are not taking Womyn’s Studies or Lesbian Dance. Perhaps most importantly, the Chinese understand us much better than we understand them — some have estimated there are more good English-speakers in China than in England.
China is a serious competitor, with world-leading industrial capabilities and growing Research & Development facilities. It is time for us to wake up and start putting our own house back in order.