Thursday, June 1, 2017

The End of Pax Americana

Martin Schulz, leader of the German Social Democrats, tore into Trump this week in a way I'd never expect to hear from a prominent politician of an allied country. 

Today sealed it: we are witnessing the end of Pax Americana. Trump's refusal to commit to NATO's security guarantees last week combined with with his pulling out of the Paris Accords today means that he is serious about relinquishing America's status as a global leader. The die has been cast, because our allies now view the United States as too untrustworthy to stick with. Merkel and Macron have made that pretty obvious, and even Australia has signaled it may cast its lot in with China. Our broken political system and ignorant electorate make this nation much too unstable to be trustworthy.

It might be tempting to be happy about this. But the retreat of America on Trumpist grounds does not mean an end to imperialism, but rather an amoral Realpolitik grounded in the fickle whims of our idiot king. It also means a global power vacuum and coming instability. Just look up the end of Pax Romana in the third century CE. It wasn't pretty, and this shift won't be either.

Like any such sea change, it has taken time. The Dubya administration's illegal war in Iraq laid the groundwork, overextending American power and destroying any claims to moral superiority. There have been other signs. Brexit, for example, hit me hard since it looked like the beginning of the end of the postwar global order. My initial instinct about that appears to be correct. The question that WB Yeats asked in the chaotic aftermath of World War I is newly relevant today: "What rough beast, its hour come at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

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