David Kuhn, in an article at RealClearWorld, bemoans the loss of the so called Pax Americana and the apparently inexorable decline of the nation as a whole. This is something I disagree with in a couple of levels:

It’s prosperity, stupid: If America is declining it’s only in relative terms. As Fareed Zakaria pointed out last year in Newsweek, it’s less a matter of America going down the tube and being relegated to the dust bin of history as it is that other countries, who were told to aspire to American ideals of economic freedom and prosperity, have grown closer to fulfilling their potential and are now catching up to us in terms of income and standards of living. China and India are now the world’s fastest growing economies, and though Russia still has its problems it can no longer be written off as a dysfunctional cesspit. The decline of America, at this point, only heralds the prosperity of the rest of the world, and beleive it or not this is a good thing. I’m going to make a gross oversimplification, but but generally speaking better living standards in previously poor countries means less dependence on foreign aid as well as reduced radicalism, making the world that much safer for everyone.

By The Sword: the vaunted “Pax Americana” largely coincides with the cold war and was built less on excellent American stewardship of the world than the fact that the two superpowers had enough nukes to end the solar system pointed at one another and were quite willing to manipulate/crush anyone that got out of line and threatened the delicate balance between them. Yes America was alone at the top during the so-called “Unipolar Moment” following the collapse of the Soviets, but after being skillfully opened by Bush I with Gulf War I it was subsequently squandered by the Clinton and Bush II administrations, culminating in the ironic bookend that is Gulf War II. World peace only reigned (and only relative to world war II) during this period because any move towards WWIII would have ended the human species.

It’s All Relative: As I said before America’s decline is only relative to other nations, but before the next superpower is crowned it needs to be said that, though we all have our problems, America is the most stable of the current set of great powers: India is rising but has crushing poverty and hugely inadequate infrastructure. China is going to face a population crisis in the next 30 years as they realize they’ve cleansed a generation of women, to say nothing of their burgeoning middle class that was demanding more economic freedom even before the Reckoning. The EU is still a very loose organization and given European reticence towards force looks more like a smaller-scale UN. Russia is only strong to the extent that the man at the top is, so while they’re not in a bad position now it’ll be interesting to see what happens once Putin leaves the scene, and also relies on being surrounded by pliable nations, so as its former client states continue fleeing to the EU and NATO and it’s sphere of influence deflates things are going to get tricky for them.

America is no longer the force it once was. The world no longer dances solely to our tune. But the international community still wants to see the US as a leading force in the world; if this weren’t true Obama wouldn’t have been greeted across the globe with a joyous fervor we probably won’t see again until the second coming. This country has gone through rough patches and crises before; we fought a bloody civil war for fuck’s sake. Even with the Reckoning America remains by orders of magnitude the most powerful and prosperous nation state humanity has ever built. We will not be felled by the mistakes of one Texan who got in over his head and a gaggle of spectacularly greedy douchebags. Our time will one day come to join the British and the French and the Romans in the annals of extinguished superpowers, but that day has not yet come.

-We’re all in this together