|This one lasted about 100 years on top.|
In his 1985 state of the union address, Ronald Reagan said “We must stand by all our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth.”
How dated does that sound, 28 years later?
Many are now saying the USA is in decline. And it is true. Not necessarily economically or culturally; but it has definitely declined on the world stage over the past few years, in terms of its diplomatic power.
This might seem surprising only twenty or twenty-five years after the US won the Cold War, “ending history” as we know it and establishing itself as the sole world hyperpower. Shouldn’t we now have total American world hegemony? Instead, almost at the instant of its greatest success, America is retreating everywhere.
|The last days of the Berlin Wall.|
But there should be no surprise at this. The dynamic here is inevitable; it is why we need never fear any kind of world hegemony or one world government. The whole idea is a will-o-the-wisp. It’s all swamp gas. For better or for worse, it can’t happen.
It takes a sense of clear and present danger to motivate any group of people to pay the price and bear the burden to arrive at great power. Otherwise, it just isn’t worth it; especially for a democracy. The game is never worth the candle. As a result, there is no way to move from a bipolar to a unipolar world. The instant all serious opposition is overcome is the instant any organization either drops its guard and stops taking care of business, or splits into warring factions.
Conversely, any nation or movement that suddenly lunges for world power will automatically arouse opposition substantial enough to make it unlikely to succeed—as it begins to appear to others as a clear and present danger. So any nation that openly seeks world power won’t get it; any nation that gets close to world dominance will be there because it does not want it.
In Reagan’s day, the Soviet Union still looked like a world-wide threat; an "evil empire," or empire of evil. His call for sacrifice made sense to the American people. Now, it does not. If there is a threat to the US from Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda is in the end just a handful of conspirators. An evil gang, not an empire. Moreover, the simpler way to avoid the threat seems to be to withdraw from the Middle East, rather than continue to fight. China’s rise may trouble some geopolitical thinkers, but it is a hard sell to the American public, so long as they derive obvious and immediate benefits from that rise, in cheap goods.
So in the natural course of things, the US will probably fall back now into isolationism. We will slip back from a unipolar world to a multipolar one, as before WWII, but with new players.