If the United States falls off its perch, no one will be able to claim it came as a surprise. The warnings have come from all corners and they've been loud and clear. Bacevich, Zinn, Chalmers Johnson, and so many others have put a spotlight on their America and shown it on the path to the end of the Republic.
Their warnings are reinforced by Tom Friedman's latest opinion piece in the New York Times, in which he observes how the WikiLeaks docu-dump reveals how America's global influence has waned thanks to its addiction to Middle Eastern oil and Chinese credit.
Geopolitics is all about leverage. We cannot make ourselves safer abroad unless we change our behavior at home. But our politics never connects the two.
Think how different our conversations with Saudi Arabia would be if we were in the process of converting to electric cars powered by nuclear, wind, domestic natural gas and solar power? We could tell them that if we detect one more dollar of Saudi money going to the Taliban then they can protect themselves from Iran.
Think how different our conversations with China would be if we had had a different savings rate the past 30 years and China was not holding $900 billion in U.S. Treasury securities — but was still dependent on the U.S. economy and technology. We would not be begging them to revalue their currency, and maybe our request that China prevent North Korea from shipping ballistic missile parts to Iran via Beijing airport (also in the cables) wouldn’t be rebuffed so brusquely.
And in today's Asia Times Online, A.W. McCoy writes that America's decline could actually come in the form of a surprise collapse.
If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.
Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.
Future historians are likely to identify the George W Bush administration's rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America's downfall.
...Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world's second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America's current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.
By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington's last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence.
McCoy's piece is a thoughtful examination of what lies ahead for the United States and the rest of the world, notably China and India in what was to have been the "new American century."
And, on this theme, I'll leave you with Bill Maher's appearance on yesterday's Fareed Zakaria GPS. It's well worth watching: