Wednesday, May 02, 2012

the end of pax americana; how western decline became inevitable

TheAtlantic | When great powers begin to experience erosion in their global standing, their leaders inevitably strike a pose of denial. At the dawn of the twentieth century, as British leaders dimly discerned such an erosion in their country's global dominance, the great diplomat Lord Salisbury issued a gloomy rumination that captured at once both the inevitability of decline and the denial of it. "Whatever happens will be for the worse," he declared. "Therefore it is our interest that as little should happen as possible." Of course, one element of decline was the country's diminishing ability to influence how much or how little actually happened.

We are seeing a similar phenomenon today in America, where the topic of decline stirs discomfort in national leaders. In September 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed a "new American Moment" that would "lay the foundations for lasting American leadership for decades to come." A year and a half later, President Obama declared in his State of the Union speech: "Anyone who tells you that America is in decline . . . doesn't know what they're talking about." A position paper from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated flatly that he "rejects the philosophy of decline in all of its variants." And former U.S. ambassador to China and one-time GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman pronounced decline to be simply "un-American."

Such protestations, however, cannot forestall real-world developments that collectively are challenging the post-1945 international order, often called Pax Americana, in which the United States employed its overwhelming power to shape and direct global events. That era of American dominance is drawing to a close as the country's relative power declines, along with its ability to manage global economics and security.

This does not mean the United States will go the way of Great Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. As Harvard's Stephen Walt wrote in this magazine last year, it is more accurate to say the "American Era" is nearing its end. For now, and for some time to come, the United States will remain primus inter pares--the strongest of the major world powers--though it is uncertain whether it can maintain that position over the next twenty years. Regardless, America's power and influence over the international political system will diminish markedly from what it was at the apogee of Pax Americana. That was the Old Order, forged through the momentous events of World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. Now that Old Order of nearly seven decades' duration is fading from the scene. It is natural that U.S. leaders would want to deny it--or feel they must finesse it when talking to the American people. But the real questions for America and its leaders are: What will replace the Old Order? How can Washington protect its interests in the new global era? And how much international disruption will attend the transition from the old to the new?


Uglyblackjohn said...

"The first generation makes the money, the second generation spends the money, the third generation is worse off than the first began." Maybe we have far too many who imagine themselves as being born into the third generation. Today, many of the poor don't even realize that they are poor.

Sabrinabee said...

" Regardless, America's power and influence over the international political system will diminish markedly from what it was at the apogee of Pax Americana."

If not diminish, Russia is certainly calling a check on it.

And our benefactor China, is getting a bad taste in their mouths as well.

South America doesn't have a lot of kind things to say these days either.

John Kurman said...

Russia? All boozed up and dying young. When the citizens of Eastern Siberia refer to consumer products using Chinese words (which they do ), that pretty much sums things up for Russia. But America does have to face the fact that the economic center of gravity is shifting  through sheer numbers, and there is nothing we can do about it. A decade ago, the US was third of the global economy. today, it's a quarter. And, unless you wanna release a slate-wiper plague on places like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, that trend continues. But don't look to China. In many ways, they the most fucked of all. The fact that they are desperately, feverishly, trying to build infrastructure to get themselves out of the water shortage hole, while the living planet itself conspires to deny them water. Of course, the Romney/Paul Plan for the US, more casinos, more prisons, more servile jobs to make the lives of the elite more comfortable, is not much better.

Sabrinabee said...

" Russia? All boozed up and dying young."

I don't know, I wouldn't sleep on Russia. They do have what we appear to be in need of..bodies. Foreign war is no longer fashionable to many Americans. I suppose thus is why Marco Rubio is dangling allowing immigrants entry if they consider joining the military. I don't think they have been sitting idly after the Cold War loss.

None of them are. Individually they may not be able to make a dent but, as a coalition? They've already made moves towards those ends economically.

And with America's global defense shield plans, they are making them nervous.

I agree that the Romney/Paul plan doesn't entail anything good but for the very few. But neither is Obama's Bush clone plan and neither was Clinton's "save my ass from impeachment" plan.

CNu said...

America BEEN pushing, prodding, and flexing for this confrontation for quite some time now

This long war must be brought to its inevitable conclusion.

Sabrinabee said...

" This long war must be brought tomits inevitable conclusion."

Probably, but i doubt it will go they way we think it will.

Big Don said...

BD has known some Russians from back in the USSR/Communism days.  The only way you could survive there in those days was by breaking the rules.  For example, if your apartment plumbing needed repair, a request to fix it thorough normal ministry channels might have taken years to get action.  But if you were a butcher, you could slip a plumber some meat
 under the table and get the job done quickly.  The system was/is totally corrupt. It was why so little of anything, food or merchandise, was available in the stores.  It was all illegal but there was little prosecution. Rule-breaking was/is deeply embedded in Russian culture, it is their nature, and it's why Russian immigrants to the USA commonly formed into criminal gangs.   If a better outcome for ones-self could be achieved by breaking the law, hey, go for it....

So the last thing we need in the USA is more Russian immigrants.  Ranks right up there with that brilliant idea 400 years ago to import labor from Africa....

Gee Chee Vision said...

Slavery was the financial backbone of our society. So I don't think the shoe size even exists for your analogy.

Big Don said...

Australia and New Zealand were settled by White folks from Europe.  Today, they do not have the welfare dependency, OOW Breeding, crime-saturated city, IQ-75 destroyed public school problems found in the USA.  Didn't have to fight a Civil War either (how much American progress did *that* set back?).
BD gives you today's classic link--->  

Gee Chee Vision said...

Actually I meant to say that slavery *IS* (not "was") the financial backbone of our society.
See this weeks postings, CIA Contras and
So crime pays...if you're a law maker.

BD, America truly has a unique & fantastic history (in a Stan Lee tone). Like Greece & Rome, we are of the five great slave societies in the history of the world. As for Australia & whatnot, I'll start w/ some Mick Dodson before jump'n straight into Crocodile Dundee narratives.