Rule 3 of Twenty-first-Century Global Politics:
Never underestimate the ability of Great Powers to combine - and in some cases even merge - their resources.
There is fervid debate in high circles these days over whether the United States is in permanent decline - and if so, which if any of its principal contenders is best positioned to replace it.
My question: Why talk about replacement at all? In a globalizing era, isn't there room at the top for everybody, provided they're big and oafish and mean enough?
Since when are mutual jealousy and vindictiveness always the topmost sentiments among Great Powers? Powerful states have long found all sorts of reasons to combine as well as compete. Recall the growing warmth between America and Britain at the beginning of the 20th century. And between Britain and Russia in the course of the same decade. I can think of periods, too, when nothing has done more to produce fraternal feeling among the "Great" than a common loathing of the small and weak. Remember: It was the perceived strength of the British Empire, and not its actual weakness, that made Britain an attractive possible ally to Hitler in the late '30s (and in particular its ability to keep "all those colored races" in subjection). And if I'm not mistaken, more than a few on the appeasing side in Britain cherished similar hopes of Nazi Germany. To say nothing of the hopes of the delusionary
Stalin . . .
Even now, in this still-globalizing age, there is no Iron Law decreeing that the Globalizers must inevitably collide rather than collude. So . . . anyone up for a Sino-Euro-Saudi-American axis? Personally I can't think of any combination of powers more likely to show real tenderness of heart to the world's "lesser" and "declining" nations. Unless of course it be Putin's Russia. And speaking of the former Soviet Union, I wonder if it isn't so much globalization itself that has derailed, but merely the Trotskyist first phase of its career. "Worldwide globalist revolution" may have reached the end of its road. But who knows what chances yet remain for a Stalinese "globalization-on-one-continent"? And think of it: Our own beloved America may yet go down (in this case literally) in history as its midwife . . .
"And what, pray, is your first rule of 21st-Century Global Politics?"
Never take for granted the unity and power of the American Nation.
Let's face it: Many if not most politically articulate Americans would much rather hate each other than confront an enemy who genuinely hates and wants to destroy them both. Apparently it's much more fun to play soldiers in a domestic War on Error than it is to prosecute intelligently a global War on Terror. In any case, serious engagement with an enemy whose aim is to destroy our sense of common citizenship is not a thing to be undertaken lightly. Good heavens, it might actually increase our sense of common citizenship! And with God knows what irreparable consequences for our decidedly uncivic-minded American civilization -
"Yes, yes, and your second rule?!!"
Never underestimate the exportability of the American Model.
In other words, what 19th-century Americans did to the North American interior can be duplicated, albeit with some difficulty and much blood, on other continents. Maybe even - who knows? - on the biggest of all continents: The one comprising those places we call "Europe" and "Asia." And once again, just as the Western Powers were able to combine c. 1900 for the joint exploitation of Imperial China, so I don't think it's beyond the resources of today's globally-minded Europeans, Arabs, Chinese, etc, to collaborate peacefully - at least with each other - in the development of their common Eurasian frontier.
And all of it, perhaps again as in early 20th-century China, under the most generous American auspices. And why not? We Americans have been not unknown to encourage fair play and good sportsmanship among the Goliaths of the world, however bullying we may be towards its Davids. In this case however - unlike the coasts of Imperial China - the region to be exploited would be all but entirely inland. And America would be alone among the interested powers - Europe, Russia, China, etc - in having less-than-direct physical access to the Eurasian interior.
The unintended(?) effect may be to create such an overwhelming pan-Eurasian global preponderance as will sideline the US on the world stage - politically, economically, militarily - for generations to come. If not for ever. In which case the United States will have the further glory of being remembered as the Nation that sacrificed its own sovereign place and influence in the world - for good or ill - for the sake of its "idea".
Once again, God heal America.