During the early 1900s as America overtook England as the new century hegemonist, Europe was embroiled in colonization efforts to fend off the inevitable transition to America’s rise. Europe’s diminished capacity to deal with domestic consequences of the transition created the impetus for a chaotic shift of world leadership, just as every shift of empires in world history. In this case, it led to a world war.
The war left citizens in Weimar Germany impoverished and subjugated to the rest of Europe, setting the stage for Nazi atrocities. International banking policies including the Fed’s precipitated a great recession from which Japan turned militaristic. The hegemonist of the era, the United States refused to share our contracted oil and other commodities required for Japan’s military success in Manchuria, so Japan drew America into the war ending in the single greatest bombing devastation imposed on a civilization.
The end of WWII marked the end of what was clearly a severely chaotic transition to America’s hegemony. America emerged from WWII the dominant economic leader of the free world. However, just because every empire’s transition in history has been as chaotic as the transition to America’s time, does all of history prove that we will also experience a chaotic transition in the 21st century? Or will America’s fall from power be a unique exception?
We were unique in our treatment of Europe and Japan at the beginning of our reign. Throughout history there have been benevolent kings and despotic ones, and America’s king turned out to be benevolent. With a unique historical sharing of wealth through the Marshall plan, a plan that hastened America’s demise as this century’s hegemon, the United States seeded the economies of Europe and Japan so that all could prosper.
Perhaps it was America’s ecumenical roots that persuaded such global altruism. Perhaps it was our European heritage and our desire that Japan be a strong deterrent to the Soviets, or perhaps it was self interest in gaining market share of war torn countries. No matter the reason, America proved her unique qualities in that era. Could we expect a repeat of this uniquely historical benevolent treatment from China after emerging through a yet unknown chaotic transition?
A factor which may unfortunately lead the world once again through such a transition is the life curve of oil that will be decreasing during the transition period. When America rose to power, Europe and Japan could both share in the benevolence that oil bestowed on all industrialized economies. The life cycle of oil however has now peaked and is in its declining phase.
At the world’s current usage, only one barrel of oil is being found for every barrel consumed. With China’s exponential growth occurring during the quickly receding life of oil, that ratio will quickly worsen to a crisis stage as China’s usage doubles in the next five years. While America flirted with the idea of developing a comprehensive energy policy back when we had time to achieve one, nothing we can do, given our political circumstances, will prepare us for the coming world tsunami of oil demand.
With far reaching international oil and other commodity contracts, China has positioned herself to prosper as she escalates her prosperity into her interior. Unlike the United States and Europe, China has a ready market for her next phase of escalated growth, her own interior. How will EurAmerica react as our civilized defenses of international law act against us as China secures oil that has helped us sustain our current world standings?
The lack of any viable alternatives to wealth creating fuels will likely make for an equally volatile transition this empire turnover. Will the transition lead to the death of our nation? How quickly can we modify our energy footprint while keeping our lifestyle intact? How will our diminishing middle class respond? How aggressively will our military complex react to greatly diminished budgets? How comfortable will the world be in turning over hegemonic control to China?
No matter our comfort level, the law of exponential growth states that China will propel herself rapidly beyond the economies of the United States and Europe in the coming decade and will boost herself into the next higher orbit. The question for our economies is what we will do as her rockets suck up the remaining rocket fuel reserves on earth. Unlike the United States and Europe, China has an economic booster rocket that can be ignited by the mere flip of a switch. All China needs to do to proclaim readymade wealth is to dial in her currency valuation as required. While it may make her exports less competitive, she already has an impatient interior market waiting for her goods.
So now the stage has been set for the transition and we have five years to position ourselves. Five years is but a day for finessed diplomacy. With our level of political discourse, five years is but an hour for national strategic planning. Without time to create such precise tools for our western civilization, how will EurAmerica react? Will we revert to the thuggery of gunship diplomacy for which we are all too well known by the East?
One response to “Was America’s Empire but a Shooting Star?”
Again you continue to write vibrant words.
My fear Clif, is not so much that America may just have been a shooting star, but all of mankind.
As a species dependent upon certain parameters for existence our world is constantly at risk of altering some of these parameters. Some of these alterations are caused (or will be caused) by us and some by good old Mother Nature. Not all of these alterations have solutions, but a good many of them do.
I hope that China, if it takes the reins of Global Dominance, which it is in a good position to do so, will look back (or even at the present) and learn that transparency in all affairs will lead to the best possible future for all of us.