Suicide of a Superpower

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Isolationism has come upon me lately for the very reasons laid out by P. Buchanan in 2013:

""Neo-isolationism is the direct product of foolish globalism. … Compared to people who thought they could run the universe, or at least the globe, I am neo-isolationist and proud of it.”

Those are not the words of an old America Firster, but the declaration of that icon of the liberal establishment Walter Lippmann in 1967, a year before he endorsed Richard Nixon.

In 1968, it was Nixon urging we stay the course in Vietnam, as Sens. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy were clamoring for retreat and swift withdrawal.

In 1972, it was Democratic nominee George McGovern who would run on the neo-isolationist slogan “Come Home, America!” and win the endorsement of the New York Times and Washington Post.

Today, neo-isolationism, bred of that “foolish globalism” of which Lippmann wrote, has made a comeback. For the first time since polling began in 1964, it is the dominant sentiment of the nation.

According to a new Pew poll, 52 percent of Americans believe “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Only 38 percent disagree.

Asked if the United States should think less in “international terms but concentrate more on our national problems,” Americans agree by 80-16, or a ratio of 5-to-1.

As Max Fisher of the Washington Post writes, this sentiment manifest itself decisively in the uprising last summer against U.S. intervention in Syria. Red line or no red line, the people told Obama, we want no part of Syria’s civil war. It is not our war. Obama belatedly agreed.

The roots of the new isolationism are not difficult to discern. There is, first, the end of the Cold War, the liberation of the captive nations of Europe, the dissolution of our great adversary, the Soviet Empire, and the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Cold War, our war, was over. Time to come home.

The Bushes and Bill Clinton said no.

So we let the New World Order crowd have its run in the yard. We invaded Panama, intervened in Haiti and Mogadishu, launched Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait, bombed Serbia for 78 days to force it to surrender its cradle province of Kosovo.

Came then the blowback of 9/11, following which we had the Afghan war to overthrow the Taliban and create a new democracy in the Hindu Kush, the invasion and occupation of Iraq to strip Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction he did not have, and the air war on Libya.

Others may celebrate the fruits of these wars but consider the costs:

A decade of bleeding with 8,000 U.S. dead, 40,000 wounded, $2 trillion sunk, Iraq and Libya disintegrating in tribal, civil and sectarian war, Afghanistan on the precipice, and al-Qaeda no longer confined to Tora Bora but active in Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. While America was caught up in these wars, China swept past Britain, France, Germany, and Japan to emerge as the second largest economy on earth. Using her$250-\$300 billion annual trade surpluses with the United States, she has been locking up resources across Africa, Latin America, Australia, and Asia.

Now Beijing has declared its own Monroe Doctrine to encompass the East and South China seas and all islands therein and to challenge the United States for hegemony over the Western Pacific.

Consider, now, what America was up to this past week.

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was in Kiev, egging on protesters demanding the resignation of the elected president, should he choose a Russia-led customs union over the EU.

Will someone explain exactly what business it is of the United States which economic union Ukraine chooses to join, or not join?

Even as we are pushing Kiev toward the EU, conservative and populist parties are rising across Europe to get their countries out of the EU, including in Britain where the Tories are demanding a vote.

John (“We are all Georgians now!”) McCain was also in Kiev threatening sanctions if the government clears its main square of squatters the way we cleared Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street.

The demand that Ukraine be gentle with its demonstrators was issued as the U.S. was lifting sanctions on Egypt’s army, which this year arrested President Mohammed Morsi, jailed thousands of Muslim Brotherhood, and mowed down hundreds in Cairo’s streets in an action John Kerry described as “restoring democracy.”

What hypocrites we must seem to the world.

Now, President and Mrs. Obama and Vice President Biden have, on the high moral ground that Russia has outlawed LBGT propaganda, declared they will not attend the Sochi winter Olympics.

Yet are we not courting Iran? Did not Obama bow to the king of Saudi Arabia? When was the last time they had a gay pride parade in Riyadh, Tehran, Mecca, or Qom?

How can a nation as polarized morally and paralyzed politically as ours lead the world? It cannot. The people sense what the elites cannot see.

The American Century is over. Time to restore the republic."

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?” Copyright 2013 Creators.com.

Among the history buffs on the forum, is this sort of thing normal for nations to go through? Or is it something particularly American?
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Splendid post.

In the 1930s The US declared that control of Middle Eastern oil was a vital interest of the United States. If we didn't need it at the moment, we at least wanted to decide who could have it and who could not. Is this policy defunct? What would really reduce our commitment to the Middle East is the collapse of oil's value owing to sufficient renewable power generation. We are not there yet, but what was unimaginable 25 years ago is now something we can just about plan on.

World Economic Domination requires either exclusive control of a vital substance (like the magical spice drug found only on the planet Arrakis) or it requires being everywhere. Rome was everywhere. The UK was everywhere; we are everywhere; soon the Chinese will be everywhere--the big new Silk Conveyor Belt project is about being everywhere.

Globalism is another term for world domination.

A question: Forced by circumstances, can the United States peacefully cede its role to the Chinese over the next few decades? Can it operate a sufficiently robust economy for 350,000,000 people without world economic domination? Or will we resist their expansion?

World Economic Domination isn't in the interests of most of The People, because the whole reason for going global is to find markets, cheap labor, and maximum profits. The benefits do not flow to the majority Working Class. The benefits flow to a small minority. On the other hand, we probably can't have a really good economy without selling abroad.

Globalism vs. isolationism isn't an abstract choice: It finds its concrete meaning in economics. How are we (the US) going to live? Maximize self-sufficiency? Go for a strong military profile or a modest one? Be everywhere, or just be in some places where we really have to be?
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What hypocrites we must seem to the world.

I don't know if we could win the Most Hypocritical Country" award, but we'd definitely put up a good fight.

The United States has never kept anything--not even itself--safe for democracy, but we alredy know that that phrase is ideological newspeak for keep the world safe for our own economic expansion, which it did with a vengeance throughout the 20th century. I know more about US policies in Latin America: the brutality of the hypocrisy was ghastly--for ex., who the US supported and what it allowed to happen in El Salvador in the 80s. Even inside its borders, the US has never championed the rights of its citizens--or, to put it another way, has never treated African Americans as citizens. But that's how ideology works: you can no longer see what's right in front of your face because you're so distracted by soma in all its potent forms.
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Among the history buffs on the forum, is this sort of thing normal for nations to go through? Or is it something particularly American?
It isn't particularly American, unfortunately.

Pessimism that the ruling elites now have lost their way totally and that the Great Power isn't anymore a Great Power, that it has lost it's way and should return to those old cherished values it earlier had is very typical, very common rhetoric. It's especially typical for a paleoconservative, and not only for one American like Buchanan. Besides, Buchanan is incoherent and illogical in his whining: if he wants to be a neo-isolationist, what the fuck is he caring about what China does? This actually shows just how Buchanan himself isn't actually really open for true isolationism. As typically these people aren't.

Anyway, about the 'suicide of a Superpower'...

The death of a Great Power doesn't happen like that. It happens when the Great Power truly loses face and understands it's not what it used to be. It simply isn't capable anymore. It's something like the Suez Crisis for the UK. That hasn't happened with the US. Thus all the whining from Americans that they shouldn't be involved in the affairs of other countries and the soldiers should come home, it's just talk.

It's when China builds naval bases in Mexico and in Colombia and asks to take care of the Panama Canal that you have lost the Superpower status. When you cannot do anything about it and nobody listens to what the American President says because nobody cares.

That's when you've lost not only being a Superpower, but also a Great Power. But hey, you'll be important to Canada! Yet...that's not going to happen.
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I think the US will be fine.

Economic power determines geo-political power, because among other things, it funds the military. And a strong military de facto gets you a good seat at the diplomatic table.

Future economic power will be determined by new technologies, especially AI. Whoever dominates that market, will pull ahead economically. And as it stands the US leads that race with Silicon valley. Maybe China can somewhat challenge the US with Shenzhen, but nobody else in the world comes close at this point.

So the likely scenario is that the pie will be divided largely between the US and China, but since China still remains somewhat isolated ideologically, the US will probably find allies more easily if it behaves somewhat reasonably going forward.

Among the history buffs on the forum, is this sort of thing normal for nations to go through? Or is it something particularly American?

It's not all that surprising...

Still I don't think it needs to end as badly for the US as with all other empires in history, because times are very different now.
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Forced by circumstances, can the United States peacefully cede its role to the Chinese over the next few decades? Can it operate a sufficiently robust economy for 350,000,000 people without world economic domination? Or will we resist their expansion?

I really don't know. I'd like your thoughts. What happens to the global economy if the US isn't there as a peace keeper? That would tell us what happens to the American economy, wouldn't it?

World Economic Domination isn't in the interests of most of The People, because the whole reason for going global is to find markets, cheap labor, and maximum profits. The benefits do not flow to the majority Working Class. The benefits flow to a small minority. On the other hand, we probably can't have a really good economy without selling abroad.

We have soy beans. :grimace:

Globalism vs. isolationism isn't an abstract choice: It finds its concrete meaning in economics. How are we (the US) going to live? Maximize self-sufficiency? Go for a strong military profile or a modest one? Be everywhere, or just be in some places where we really have to be?

Maximize self-sufficiency and have the most powerful military on the planet in case Russia needs to have a new asshole exploded in it. What do you think?
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but we alredy know that that phrase is ideological newspeak for keep the world safe for our own economic expansion, which it did with a vengeance throughout the 20th century.

Yep. As BC stated, globalism is another word for global domination. I never really understood that before.

It's when China builds naval bases in Mexicossu

That would be a strange thing to do. So you're saying the US can't step down from a role of continuous interference in the affairs of other nations which we justify because we think the people would really rather have some coca cola and stand in line voting for a puppet we installed?

Still I don't think it needs to end as badly for the US as with all other empires in history, because times are very different now.

The US is an empire?
• 14
Is this normal? Of course.

Ideally, the natural evolution of culture would refine us all for the better. Cities would become better places to live, countries would prosper, and the world would be a better place. At least that's the evolutionary process we're encouraged to believe, but look beyond to the larger context of civilization.

As a rule, civilizations rise, stagnate, and decline. That inevitable fall is commonly devastating with displacement of populations and economic collapse. That which might have been considered social progress can be offset by death and suffering. A vibrant culture can become insipid.

As globalization intensifies, there is every indication of growth and benefit. There is also every indication of a widening gap between those who benefit and those who suffer loss. Should we expect this cycle to expose that never-before-seen virtue of broad collaboration and mutual benefit?
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Prosperous empires lasting over half a millennium have not been a few. We're only getting started.
I lean towards believing chances are fair-to-good that living conditions favorable for human life on this planet will be decimated before the imperial status quo crumbles.
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I lean towards believing chances are fair-to-good that living conditions favorable for human life on this planet will be decimated before the imperial status quo crumbles.

China and US are certainly doing all that they can to guarantee it.
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Should we expect this cycle to expose that never-before-seen virtue of broad collaboration and mutual benefit?

They did it on Star Trek. But point taken. Is there no point in worrying about it because we can't influence such large-scale events?
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It's not all that surprising...

You're aware that the picture you're sharing here is literally fascist propaganda?

Ideally, the natural evolution of culture would refine us all for the better. Cities would become better places to live, countries would prosper, and the world would be a better place.

In the last century, that has by and large been the case.
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These numbers do not take into account that most personnel are contractors, and that it is these contractors who get to do the really dangerous work:

Report: Contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan 3-to-1

In fact, they even misreport the number of contractors, because not all such paid personnel are included in the statistics:

The data, compiled by the Congressional Research Service ...

There are no statistics on dead and wounded contractors. They avoid compiling that data, and they do everything to make it impossible to compile. The books are seriously cooked.
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Ah, Pat Buchanan. The man Bill Buckley concluded was an anti-semite. Speechwriter for Spiro Agnew. Thought we should just have let the Nazis alone. Yes, quite a fellow, Pat.

But nobody can be wrong all the time, can they? And others less cranky have noted the dangers of imperial thinking in God's favorite country.
• 14
The graphic is a historical summary, not an ideology. You might perhaps look again ...

"In the last century, that has by and large been the case."

Of course. A century of progress isn't unusual. There have been only a few civilizations that finished a third century, however.

The key in every case was not technology or industry, not the type of governance, or of resources. The essential element for a stable civilization is the virtue of the culture, the willingness of the people to live fairly and cooperatively together. As that particular virtue declines, so does the civilization.
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You're aware that the picture you're sharing here is literally fascist propaganda?

No I wasn't aware of that... But does it matter where it comes from?
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No I wasn't aware of that... But does it matter where it comes from?

Not in and of itself, but in this case it directly supports a view of history of cyclic, where "strength" and "weakness" are the governing factors, and where men need to be kept "strong" by rigid discipline and hardship.
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[...] it directly supports a view of history of cyclic, where "strength" and "weakness" are the governing factors

Fascism aside, this seems like a pretty reasonable and accurate view of history to me.
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Not in and of itself, but in this case it directly supports a view of history of cyclic, where "strength" and "weakness" are the governing factors, and where men need to be kept "strong" by rigid discipline and hardship.

I think, on the face of, it doesn't imply that, there's nothing in the picture that says that that is the only contributing factor. And there's certainly nothing in the picture as far as I can tell that implies a certain kind of normative or political action (which is not to say that that wasn't the original intent).

I intended it purely descriptive, as I captures some element that I think is true of history... though I shouldn't have posted it on a philosophy forum, because ultimately it is a merely an oversimplification... and not all that clarifying really.
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Fascism aside, this seems like a pretty reasonable and accurate view of history to me.

Which would explain a lot of your other views. It's not accurate in the slightest.

I think, on the face of, it doesn't imply that, there's nothing in the picture that says that that is the only contributing factor. And there's certainly nothing in the picture as far as I can tell that implies a certain kind of normative or political action (which is not to say that that wasn't the original intent).

I intended it purely descriptive, as I captures some element that I think is true of history... though I shouldn't have posted it on a philosophy forum, because ultimately it is a merely an oversimplification... and not all that clarifying really.

Fair enough. Since I know it's origins, I cannot really see what it would tell you if you didn't know it. I understand that viewing history as some kind of great cycle is appealing to many, though I don't think the facts actually support it.
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Fair enough. Since I know it's origins, I cannot really see what it would tell you if you didn't know it. I understand that viewing history as some kind of great cycle is appealing to many, though I don't think the facts actually support it.

Some things appear to be kind of cyclical, some are definitely not, like say technological progress. I didn't mean to imply some sort of general deterministic cyclical theory of history, which is why I shouldn't have posted the image because it certainly can be interpreted that way. But to be fair to myself :-), I did nuance it directly below the image:

Still I don't think it needs to end as badly for the US as with all other empires in history, because times are very different now.
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It's not accurate in the slightest.

There's an entire political school of thought that supports it: realism.
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There's an entire political school of thought that supports it: realism.

Oh snap. I am thoroughly defeated by your command of one-liners.
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That would be a strange thing to do. So you're saying the US can't step down from a role of continuous interference in the affairs of other nations which we justify because we think the people would really rather have some coca cola and stand in line voting for a puppet we installed?
No.

What I'm saying is that those who cherish the idea of isolationism typically really don't think it over just what that splendid isolation and detachment from the World would really mean. Even with the so-called isolationists there is this naive egocentric idea that everything evolves around the US, hence the US is guilty of if not all, but nearly all of the bad things that happen in the World. Which is nonsense.

It's like an excess of otherwise healty criticism of one's countries foreign policy that leads to a situation where all the positive things are forgotten.
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I appreciate that. But I think a situation evolved during the Cold War. It became ok to ignore certain domestic problems because the standing of the US in the world was a matter of national security. Look at recent events where the US gave funds to Ukraine to it can defend itself. Meanwhile, there are people in the US who don't have healthcare.

It's just illogical until you see who's benefiting from this arrangement. BC nailed it. Globalism means global domination and it's not really the USA that dominates. It's certain entities who've learned to use the USA as a tool. That will change as nations learn not to trust the USA, when they realize they need to look to Russia or China for their defense instead of the US.
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The foregoing posters mixed up three concepts: isolationism in politics, isolationism in trade and economy, and isolationism in war.

The OP nailed the first one. @Bitter Crank nailed the second one, the economic one. The third one can't be done.

The US economy has been sustained on a growth basis because excess production of goods was diverted to military production. The same idea Hitler invented, without the persecution of Jews, and which nullified the Marxian Overproduction Crises in the USA. The Great Depression ended because weapons production kickstarted the economy.

Plus the historically strongest American value has been to work. Everyone must work.

In Europe, with the feudal past, people can morally afford to be lazy and not work. So Western Europe avoided the overporduction crises by socializing the lazy. In America it's impossible, so they have married, on a continual basis, strong work morals with military world domination.

The excess workers became soldiers, and the economic overproduction was diverted into war stuff.

So America needs warring, no matter what. Without an external enemy, the war effort is futile and would look stupid.

So no, although economically and politically American would benefit at this point in time from isolationism, they need a global area to drop bombs and decimate the local population.

"Come home and have a one-night stand... go kill the yellow man. Born in the USA." -- Bjorn (Bruce) Springsteen. (He was actually Bjorn in Norway, but only very few know that.)
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It's just illogical until you see who's benefiting from this arrangement. BC nailed it. Globalism means global domination and it's not really the USA that dominates. It's certain entities who've learned to use the USA as a tool. That will change as nations learn not to trust the USA, when they realize they need to look to Russia or China for their defense instead of the US.

I don't think that will change that easily. I think a lot of people have known for a very long time what the US was up to… the Marshal Plan wasn't exactly that altruistic act to save the European allies from their demise. Its goal was in the first place to create a strong buffer to contain the communist threat (and saveguard US position as a superpower) and to create a market for the excess production capacity the US had build up during the war. It's all there in the historic record.

Europe will continue to follow the US, not necessarily because they trust the US, but because it's the best option they have. It's not as if China or Russia are to be trusted, as nobody really is in geopolitics. Besides, ideologically Europe, and a large part of the world for that matter, is much closer to the US than to China or Russia, and that still amounts to some trust everything else being equal.
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Besides, ideologically Europe, and a large part of the world for that matter, is much closer to the US than to China or Russia

Yes, but most of the Asian and South East asian countries understand the Chinese more than they do the USA, and Europe borrowed most of its modern cultural icons from the Russian Bolshevik revolution. They would much rather stick with their free and superb medicare, the idea of which had been inherited from communist states, than to introduce sky-high private fees which is the order of the day in the USA. They much rather invest in education and welfare goods, learned from the Russian system, than to introduce abject poverty in their homelands, like in the USA. They much rather have no guns in the hands of private citizens, except for Switzerland, than to have the American dream of having randomly shooting up or bombing by private citizens their kindergartens, post offices, sporting events and music concerts, as is the grass-root folk tradition these days in the USA.

I don't think you know what you are talking about when you claim that most of the world feels closer to the USA than to Russia. Most of the third world is scared shitless of the USA, and most of the people in the developed world detest US domestic and foreign policy.
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But didn't Merkel say it was time for Europe to start finding new allies (can't remember how she put it). Was that just bluster?
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None of that matters all that much, we come from the same catholic cultural root.

And seriously, Europe borrowed most of it's cultural icons from Russia? Social democrats and communists have allways been sworn enemies, because the social democrats betrayed the revolution.
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They much rather have no guns in the hands of private citizens,

I dont think they want guns at all. They want windmills.
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