Some ask why prognosticators predict war over peace, as if it is blindly an easier and more provocative path to predict, rather than the harder path to achieve of world peace.
The answer lies in the historical pattern of power transitions between nations. While the world superpower period that we are in is unprecedented, regional superpower, empire, and hegemonic patterns are fairly well defined. As such, we are entering what historically has been the final phase of a hegemony, when a competing power grows powerful enough to wage war.
Hegemonies typically last for 3 to 5 generations. We are in the last generations historically of our hegemony. China already has way more people, acceptable manufacturing capacity, burgeoning technological ability, growing military strength, and a breadth of neocolonial trading relationships. The pattern for emerging war within a generation is concentrating.
Historically, when a nation emerges to wield similar capacities as the World’s dominant nation, and is not happy with the world’s economic and political systems that are designed to benefit the dominant nation, it sets the stage for war. The emerging nation attempts to bend the economic system their way, is met with opposing force of the dominant nation, and conflict erupts.
China is winning ground on all fronts. So, examining the historical patterns, the phase of our hegemony and China’s transition, and the pattern of conflict that has occurred consistently over the past millennium, some predict military conflict in the future.
A couple of trends oppose a classical war transition. One is the size of hegemonies involved. The U.S., being the most powerful hegemony that has ever existed, then requires a competitor to extend their capacity for war to unprecedented levels. Yet, China has been highly successful in gutting our military manufacturing capacity, which actually creates a more unstable environment that could lead to war simply because it equalizes power more quickly.
Another has been the resolve by which America pursues protection of hegemonic resources such as oil in the Middle East. Yet, our ten year wars have drawn us into the same economic drain that took down the Soviet Union. China, on the other hand, has been successful in creating new trading arrangements that circumvent the dollar as oil trading currency. These trends ultimately will prove the axiom of the taller you are the harder you fall, for as the greatest hegemony in history, America will fall the farthest if knocked down from our pedestal.
One hopeful trend that I discussed a few posts earlier is that the world is on the vertical slope of the information age, and gains in knowledge are progressing at light speed. It was hopeful that that Arab Spring was born from social media. The world’s citizens are connecting through the internet and are beginning to break down nationalist prejudices. There is the potential that people throughout the world will choose peace through knowledge.
Yet, history has shown that increased knowledge leads to military superiority, which leads to a higher probability of war if gained by the opposing force of the hegemony. This leads us back to why both China and the United States are attempting to fly up the vertical path of the world’s knowledge explosion to gain the upper hand. Hence, we have seen, thanks to folks like Snowden, the massive buildup of knowledge processing capacity by the NSA.
If mankind will make the leap toward removing worldwide bigoted barriers through an explosion of knowledge sharing, then Snowden will have earned a historical place as a true hero of world civilization. If, however, mankind follows our consistent historical pattern of technical superiority leading to armed conflict, then Snowden will be recorded by world history to have been simply another crack in the dyke of America’s hegemony giving way to war.