We have covered Turkey in context and how it will be the economic and military heavyweight of its region. And that what Japan cares about is in two regions the Western Hemisphere and Southeast Asia, with only one itty-bitty problem, Japans dealing with China. We now, will ad an overview that also places the USA in its context.
Few recognize just how beneficial and transformative the global Order has been to the world writ large, much less their personal lives. Globalized food supplies and manufacturing supply chains often seem too complicated or distant to feel like part of day-to-day life. Here’s something a bit more tangible, and probably more than a bit more terrifying. The fact that most people now consider the Germans and the Japanese to be nothing more problematic than rude tourists, as opposed to crazy-eyed armies committed to eating the horizon, is a testament to the Order’s profound success. Wars of expansion haven’t been fully eliminated, but since 1946 they have been rare.
The level of development most countries enjoyed before World War II will be firmly out of reach for most. The Order’s impact has been deep and pervasive, so singularly effective that it suffused itself into every aspect of human existence, nearly erasing every previous structure. Its absence will not be merely non-Order, but instead a new kind of chaos. In the Imperial Age when people were miserable, they were just the same kind of miserable they had always been. But in the Disorder, the sense of achievements lost will be palpable. People will remember a degree of security and wealth that they will never be able to achieve on their own.
The collapse of economic norms will shatter political norms. Among democracies, this will, at a minimum, require an overhaul of the social contracts that underpin modern society. Calling it “disruption” is to undersell the scope of what’s happening, much less what’s coming. The changes on the deck are not evolutionary but revolutionary. Even if leaders guide their countries perfectly, this sort of adaptation takes time. The European imperial centers required centuries of political, social, economic, and military development to reach their pre–World War II heights. Nearly all the institutional advantages they once had are now seven decades gone, either destroyed outright in the war or forcibly dismantled by the Americans in the aftermath. It will take a decade (or more) for most to find their feet. In the meantime, popular uprisings will be the norm. Even that prediction assumes that tensions are contained within individual countries, a painfully unlikely development. Centuries of deep-seated rivalries and hatreds are not wiped away by something as simple as a few decades of prosperity.
Even among the soon-to-be neo-empires of the Disorder’s winners’ circle, none will be as powerful as the pre-Order empires before them. In part, again, it’s a simple issue of time. Even rapid geopolitical expansions, such as the westward march of the American pioneers or the vast sweeps of the Mongolian hordes, were measured not in years but decades. But more important is that in the 2020s and 2030s there will not be vast technological gaps in transport and warfare. There will be no twenty-first-century equivalent of an industrialized power exploiting vast nonindustrialized territories. Countries can and will fall, and their remnants can and will be preyed upon, but even where civilization itself is collapsing, like Syria and Venezuela, firearms aren’t hard to find.
The neo-imperial expansions will be more incremental, looser, and more dependent upon collaboration. From countries with no experience in running an imperial system (Argentina), those whose expertise is limited to history books (Turkey), or those whose instincts are for hands-on management (France), we can expect lots of mistakes, too heavy a hand, or both. The Americans are not so much passing the torch as dropping it. It will start quite a few fires before someone picks it up.
For the four new regional powers—Turkey, Iran, Japan, and Argentina—allaying American concerns and courting American goodwill will be essential to long-term success.
Retrenchment, indifference, and isolationism are not the same as sequestration. The United States’ military evolution since 1992 has been toward tools with greater range and precision, while its political evolution has been toward viewing military tools as more reliable than economic or diplomatic tools. Argentina can probably pull off mollifying the Americans with a nice steak dinner; France, with a few cases of wine and some intelligence sharing. Turkey will need to be a bit more forward-looking to forestall American intervention in Turkish plans. Japan, as both the most capable new power and the one most likely to step on American toes, will need to tread very lightly. After all, above all the United States is a naval power. No matter how much America withdraws from the world, it can steam sour, and as tends to happen when the Americans get involved, Japan’s reality convulses.
For the shortlist of countries likely to remain in the Americans’ inner circle of allies, the whole situation is actually pretty good. For the shortlist of countries likely to seek American alliance as a hedge against the new crop of regional powers, life isn’t so clear-cut. For everyone else, waking the eagle is something to be avoided. Even if the US military wasn’t more lethal and unfettered than ever, Americans’ views of the world have shifted. The “America First” of the hard right is reflexively hostile to the world.
The “America First” of the hard left is reflexively hostile to American involvement in the world. The “America First” of the middle just finds the world exhausting.
However, Americans believe that the world is not their problem and that America’s military strength will keep the world from hurting them. While a deep dive into context and history and capabilities and geopolitics can find lots to quibble within such a simplistic assessment, for at least the next couple of decades it will be mostly true. Nearly all evolutions of Americans’ views on the world lead to the United States that is no longer holding up civilization’s ceiling, and if poked in the wrong place, the Americans could well knock down what pillars remain.
Finally for the energy-rich, demographically stable Americans in their splendid isolation, this is all rather academic. Even in the worst-case, the United States’ trade disruptions will be a shadow of those suffered by Ireland or Germany or Korea or China, and they won’t affect the supply of energy or food. Instead, America’s economic basis will widen and deepen as it becomes one of the few locales with markets and security and a population and financial stability, while other states must grapple with the streams of radicals and refugees that failing states generate.
Even on that last point, Americans face more opportunities than challenges. Living as Americans do in an age of gun violence and backlash against mass migration from Central America, it is difficult to envision them reclaiming their “Shining City upon a Hill” aura, yet that’s precisely what will happen. For example, think of the last time challenges on the scale of what’s coming struck Germany: in the 1930s the state became so hateful that Albert Einstein felt compelled to defect and seek American citizenship. A generation of wildly educated people desiring an escape from dark futures will crave new homes somewhere you can’t reach by walking or swimming. If only by process of elimination, most will come to America. Just imagine the volume of Chinese skilled labor that will attempt refuge when the Chinese Dream proves ephemeral.
The stories of their journeys and the death of their hopes will close the chapter on the third age of history, the age of wealth untold, of security unparalleled—the age when all seemed possible. That age was never much more than a moment, historically speaking, and its demise was always inevitable. But the end of an age is not the same as the end of history. It simply marks a new beginning.
The Americans excel at missing opportunities due to domestic squabbling, but there is nothing in what’s left of the international system that will threaten the American heartland either militarily or economically before 2050.