Thursday, July 13, 2017

"What happens when the United States becomes irrelevant?"


Before we completely forget, amidst the rank fumes of scandal emanating from his doofus son, the Cheato impersonating a president met world leaders in Europe last week. A few observations. Fred Kaplan summed up at Slate:
Trump clearly displayed that, unlike all other American presidents since the end of World War II, he has no interest in being the leader of the Western world.
For someone like me, who has spent a lifetime inveighing against the cruelties of U.S. empire -- whether in southeast Asia, Latin America, or the greater Middle East -- that should be a mind-boggling moment. And it is is. It's been obvious as U.S. wars increasingly proved merely futile and inconclusive -- as well as murderous for populations in their path -- that empire was on the wane.

In Donald Trump we seem to be seeing an end. Given the source, it is hard to be as happy about this as I might be otherwise. Or as confident as I might be that the consequences will be an improvement.

But when an international order fades, what comes next? On Deep State Radio, Episode 11 Rosa Brooks posed the question she found implicit in the G20 meetings: "what happens when the United States becomes irrelevant?"

I've created a sort of abbreviated semi-transcript of Kori Schake's answer here (go listen to it all for the full flavor):
There seem to be three paths ...

1) The U.S. might become marginal to the advance of progress -- that would be the validation of the international order America built since World War II. That order -- free trade and institution-based rule of law -- would be perpetuated beyond our leadership ...

2) We might see greater entropy, leading to fraying of that order around the edges. The U.S. doesn't notice the fraying much, because we have such a wide margin of error, but other countries we care about start to get sucked down the drain of this entropy -- leading to regression from democracy and toward autocracy.

3) The world sees the rise of new and different rule-giver -- whether consensually (meaning Merkel and the E.U.) or forcefully (meaning China, Iran, or Russia)
The Deep State folks are far more sure than I can be that U.S. hegemony has been on balance a good, but they name the reality in front of our faces. We're likely to be occupied with events at home (and enjoying that margin of error) for some seasons, but this pivotal moment should be noted.

I vote for Merkel, but as usual when it comes to who is head empire, most of us don't get a vote.

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