Living in Latin America, and having spent much of my working life in Asia, as well as many uears in the Potomac Rome, I now watch with considerable care the portentous and rapid currents of change in the world. I suppose the news business is an addiction. Perhaps there should be a twelve-step program. Yet tThere is much to watch. We are seeing the end of the age of European dominion. It is quite a show.
Europe and its overweening child, America, had quite a run, of about five centuries. Britain eventually conquered most of the world with the lesser Eurocountries grabbing the rest in lesser predattion. The British collapsed consequent to the European habit of constant warfare, and now America, moribund but unaware, waits to drown under the rising Asian tide.
Yet Washington, or much of it, seems not to notice. It breathes, as it has for decades, a curious imperial self-assurance, a calm certitude that the sun can never set on the best of all possible countries. We are born to rule, the attitude says, smug, parental, impenetrably condescending and hubristic. Yet the sky darkens. The Euro-Americans again eat themselves, this time with Americans using Europeans and Ukrainians to attack Russia. NATO girds its loins for war with China, Washington threatens invasion of Mexico. This will not end well, but it will end soon.
Few in the enchanted city seem to take this seriously, or seriously enough. Asia awakes. Not just China, but Asia–lands with many times the population, many times the educable brains, and economies surging as if someone had pushed a button. Yet in the Sacred City, provincial lawyers posing as congressmen evince the class sense of superiority, the same belief in their divine right to instruct, to command, to rule.
A wag once described Washington as a federal conclave surrounded on all sides by reality. In this there is much truth.It is a city isolated from what it doesn’t want to know, wallowing in its supposed indispensability and unaware of how much of the world wants, and intends, to dispense with it.
The dispensing-with goes apace, mortal but not spectacular. From David P. Goldman of Asia Times: “Central Asian countries increased imports from China in March by 55% over the year-earlier month, beating the 35% jump in Chinese shipments to Southeast Asia reported previously...There’s another geopolitical consequence of China’s export prowess in Central and Southeast Asia: China’s exports to the Global South and BRICS countries in March reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $1.6 trillion a year…That’s nearly four times China’s exports to the United States and more than the combined total of China’s exports to the US, Europe and Japan…That represents a geopolitical point of no return of sorts, the moment when China’s economic dependence on the United States in particular and developed markets in general slipped behind its economic standing in the developing world.”
The European show is over, the curtain beginning to fall, and people get up to leave the theater. Yet in Washington they still talk of America as a shining city on a hill, not and Anglo favela. The center of gravity of economy, technology, science, and finance moves eastward
Why this quietly demented confidence? Many of those in power are now long in the tooth, as am I. We grew up in an age not now easily imagine, but one that still shapes the behavior of many. When we were children, America had just won the war. The country was supreme. As we were relentlessly told, it was the strongest, most free, good, fair, and scientifically potent country the world had ever seen. Much of this was true. Much wasn’t. In school every morning we recited the pledge of allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. Prosperity reigned. When Superman jumped from a window with a great whooshing, he was described as, “A strange visitor from another planet, fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” which we were encouraged to regard as coextensive.
I am not being cute, not parodying. We believed it, deeply and without examination. We were not fools. The evidence was there. Airliners, moon landings, hydrogen bombs, automotive supremacy, the greatest economy. Other countries existed, at the edges of consciousness, but didn’t amount to much. Europe was quaint, a place for the rich to visit. The Chinese were funny little yellow people who made pencils and toys and talked funny, but weren’t good for much else. Mexicans? “Oh Ceesco! Oh Pancho! There was no crime. You could leave your bike anywhere and it would be there when you came back. Sanity was rampant.No massacres in school We thought we were on to something. And were. Then, yes, but now is not then..
That is how Biden, Bolton, Pompeo, Bush II, Buchanan, and recentl forerunners grew up. It proved fertile ground for the belief that America is exceptional, invincible, immortal, and should rule the world. Americans did not doubt, and largely do not doubt, our moral superiority and thus our duty to instruct others on proper international behavior, on a democracy we do not have, and on managing their economies in a manner beneficial to us. This, believe me, is doctrine in much of Washington.
Another source of belief in America’s godlike powers is that the country has not been in a war dangerous to itself since 1865. To Americans, war is something we do to strange little countries on the other side of the world where US forces bomb defenseless peasants. The military is in fact not very good, but that is another and long subject. Nothing bad ever happens to the homeland. Thus military leaders blandly say that in a war with China, America would conduct deep strikes on command centers far within China. We are allowed to bomb them, but not vice versa. Of course China has submarine-launched cruise missiles that could make scrap of the Pentagon and carrion of most of those in it. We are not used to thisenemies who can hit back.Nor can Washington imagine, say, a shattering Tsushima Strait naval defeat near Taiwan. And so Pentagon generals blandly speak of war with China in 1925, as if it were a minor house-cleaning with an assured outcome.
And so in a decade or two the European Epoc comes to a close, whether with bang or whimper, who knows, but it ends. America will accelerate its decline by spending furiously on the military while allowing the country to fail internally. As sometimes happens in imperial demise, both the US and the Old Continent suffer heavy immigration from populations of other civilizations. The economies approach collapse. That entrancing sound in the distance? It’s the Fat Lady singing.without.