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Author Topic: The Decline, Fall, and Resurrection of America  (Read 33590 times)
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« on: December 06, 2010, 12:42:03 PM »


I post this not because I agree with the inevitability of American decline, but because IMHO this is a serious piece deserving serious conversation.


The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
Four Scenarios for the End of the American Century by 2025
By Alfred W. McCoy

A soft landing for America 40 years from now?  Don’t bet on it.  The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines.  If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington's global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.

Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America's global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way, roughly from West to East" and "without precedent in modern history,” as the primary factor in the decline of the “United States' relative strength -- even in the military realm.” Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.

No such luck.  Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world's second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America's current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.

By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire.  It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington's last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China's global network of communications satellites, backed by the world's most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.

Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d'Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy's prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China's economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.

Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65% of Americans believed the country was now “in a state of decline.”  Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America's closest economic partners are backing away from Washington's opposition to China's rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama's Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”

Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington's wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council's own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today).  The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III.  While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.

Economic Decline: Present Situation

Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar's privileged status as the global reserve currency.

By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with just 11% of them compared to 12% for China and 16% for the European Union.  There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.

Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400% increase since 2000.  A harbinger of further decline: in 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based competitiveness” during the previous decade.  Adding substance to these statistics, in October China's Defense Ministry unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful, said one U.S. expert, that it “blows away the existing No. 1 machine” in America.

Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25- to 34-year-olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010.  The World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as once would have happened.  By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical shortage of talented scientists.

Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar's role as the world’s reserve currency. “Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S. knows best on economic policy,”observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world's central banks holding an astronomical $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to end “the artificially maintained unipolar system” based on “one formerly strong reserve currency.”

Simultaneously, China's central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global reserve currency “disconnected from individual nations” (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued, “to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order.”

Economic Decline: Scenario 2020

After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world's reserve currency.  Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget.  Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter.  By now, however, it is far too late.

Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace.  Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as the American Century ends in silence.

Oil Shock: Present Situation

One casualty of America's waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding by America's gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world's number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century.  Energy specialist Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will “set the pace in shaping our global future.”

By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world's natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could “emerge as energy kingpins.”

Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP's sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone saw on “spillcam”: one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what Klare calls “tough oil” miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.

Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers. Even if fossil fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are almost certain to rise -- and sharply at that.  Other developed nations are meeting this threat aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources.  The United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports.  Between 1973 and 2007, oil imports have risen from 36% of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66%.

Oil Shock: Scenario 2025

The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock.  By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill.  Angered at the dollar's plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a “basket” of Yen, Yuan, and Euros.  That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further.  At the same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the Yuan.  Meanwhile, China pours countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran's exploitation of the world largest natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.

Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new Gulf alliance and affirm that China's new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman.  Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.

With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the “Carter Doctrine,” by which U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025.  All the elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region -- logistics, exchange rates, and naval power -- evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover only an insignificant 12% of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry, and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.

The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights, making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas bases.

Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on the American Century.

« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 09:19:17 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2010, 12:42:36 PM »

Military Misadventure: Present Situation

Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures.  This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.

Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting disasters large and small in this guerilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.

Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014

So irrational, so unpredictable is “micro-militarism” that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.

It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U “Spooky” gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.

Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse.  Taliban fighters then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.

Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf.  This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this “America's Suez,” a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.

World War III: Present Situation

In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western Pacific, once considered an American “lake.”  Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain's global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.

With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a “national interest” in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing's officialGlobal Times responded angrily, saying, “The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be.”

Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds “the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean” and target “nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States.” By developing “offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities,” China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls “the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” With ongoing development of the powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides toward an “independent” network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.

To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance.  Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones -- reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.

Last April, the Pentagon made history.  It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet.  The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.

World War III: Scenario 2025

The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can gain “a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare,” and so begin to imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.

It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand's operations center in Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China's People's Liberation Army.

The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese “malware” seizes control of the robotics aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. “Vulture” drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan.  It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous 400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea, effectively disarming this formidable weapon.

Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike.  Confident that its F-6 “Fractionated, Free-Flying” satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, ordering them to launch their “Triple Terminator” missiles at China's 35 satellites. Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits.  The launch codes are suddenly inoperative.

As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware's devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.

A New World Order?

Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.

As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.

Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic.  They will combine in thoroughly unexpected ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.

As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order.  At one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts, regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to succeed the U.S.

In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all.  While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands.

In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up.  He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-style slums worldwide (rising to two billion by 2030) will make “the 'feral, failed cities' of the Third World… the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century.” As darkness settles over some future super-favela, “the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression” as “hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”

At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020 and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.

Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would dominate its immediate region -- Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control of the former planetary “policeman,” the United States, might even become a new global commons, controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.

All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.

If America's decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.

If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high.  Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country's role and prosperity in a changing world.

Europe's empires are gone and America's imperium is going.  It seems increasingly doubtful that the United States will have anything like Britain's success in shaping a succeeding world order that protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.

Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Copyright 2010 Alfred W. McCoy
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2010, 09:53:34 PM »

24 Signs That All Of America Is Turning Into Detroit
Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse | Dec. 7, 2010, 10:37 AM

For years, people have been laughing at the horrific economic decline of Detroit.  Well, guess what?  The same thing that happened to Detroit is now happening to dozens of other communities across the United States.

From coast to coast there are formerly great manufacturing cities that have turned into rotting, post-industrial war zones.  In particular, in America's "rust belt" you can drive through town after town after town that resemble little more than post-apocalyptic wastelands.

In many U.S. cities, the "real" rate of unemployment is over 30 percent.  There are some communities that will start depressing you almost the moment you drive into them.  It is almost as if all of the hope has been sucked right out of those communities.

Meanwhile, the economic downturn has been incredibly hard on the finances of state and local governments across the United States.  Unlike the federal government, state and local governments cannot use the Federal Reserve to play games with their exploding debt burdens.  Facing horrific budget deficits, many communities have begun adopting "austerity measures" in an attempt to slow the flow of red ink.  All over the nation, deep budget cuts are slashing police departments, fire departments and other basic social services, but it seems like no matter what many of these communities try the debt just keeps growing.

So when you combine economic hopelessness with drastic budget cuts, what you get are hordes of communities from coast to coast that are becoming just like Detroit.  In the city of Detroit today, there are over 33,000 abandoned houses, 44 schools have been permanently closed down, the mayor wants to bulldoze one-fourth of the city and you can literally buy a house for one dollar in the worst areas.  Many Americans thought that it was funny to make fun of Detroit, but little did they know that what happened there would soon start happening everywhere.

The following are 24 signs that all of America is becoming a rotting, post-industrial, post-apocalyptic wasteland just like Detroit....
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2010, 11:27:02 AM »

The difference between unempolyment in the 30's and now is that in the 30's people would do any kind of work.

Now there are jobs available but no one wants to work at these jobs.  It is understandable that no one wants to get up in the AM if they can sit home and get unemployment for around the same amount of money.  That is human nature.   The endless unemployment benefits are making things worse IMO.  And all the while we have people who don't belong here getting and taking work.

Our country is falling apart from within.   Our schools are failing.  Our family situation is crumbling thanks to "progressivism" thus education which really starts at the home is not preparing children for a much more competitive world.

All the while big liberalism is making it worse.

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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2010, 12:00:58 PM »

I appreciate Crafty's comment to kick off the discussion: "I post this not because I agree with the inevitability of American decline, but because IMHO this is a serious piece deserving serious conversation."

Decline of America is a policy choice.  Each political issue has some role in it.  Today it is the unemployment extension.  It sounds good, but if you are long term unemployed and your unemployment insurance benefits ran out, then the rest is welfare, not unemployment insurance benefits, and we already have a myriad of programs.  It does not take a new act of congress to enroll the new people, if necessary. Tax rates under the deal will now hold mostly steady.  That's better than huge increases, but there is no excuse except totally inept mis-management for not knowing next year's tax rates up through early to mid-December.  Unmeasurable economic damage was already done.  People didn't know if they could afford to die much less hire someone.  

Regulations are up there with tax rates for damage, probably worse.  When Clinton added Family Leave legislation to OSHA, workman's comp, unemployment insurance, payroll witholding, IRS filings, ICS issues, EEOC compliance, new healthcare mandates, zoning, EPA and every other regulation, it looked like a freebie.  How can anyone oppose spending time with your newborn or elderly parent in need?  And who could oppose making a great big fat rich employer pay for it.  Except that you can't.  They don't HAVE to hire people or build a new plant in this country.  Family Leave alone didn't kill us economically but the combination of all of them did, more so than even corporate double taxation and unbelievable commercial property tax rates. It killed the competitive advantage of the companies that were already providing that benefit and it killed the potential expansion for companies who can't yet afford that commitment.  Now employers are afraid to hire because not only of higher overhead, but also the cost of firing.  Hiring is a decision with huge costs that is very hard to reverse in a regulatory jungle if it doesn't work out because of either the employee or the economy.  

97% of our oil is still off limits.  We don't produce it.  We ship it in from far away, enrich others and then we tax it to death.  Great policy. (sarc.)  Besides oil production and needed pipelines, we refuse to get going with new clean coal and new nuclear plant, which have lead times up to 10 years.   Having the lights on consistently used to be one reason you didn't move all your manufacturing to a low wage country.  Instead of building on our great strength, we emulated the third world countries that lack reliable power, grid or other infrastructure.

The pictures from Detroit are fact, not a fictional horror movie. 33,000 abandoned homes, Wow!  If you could buy one, what is the value? Zero, until someone else buys or tears down the other 32,999 homes also available for nothing, and then an employer moves in. What could save Detroit, some great new industry?  What is the main industry of Detroit, or the south side of Chicago, north Minneapolis or east L.A.?  Government.  As posted elsewhere, even if taxes were zero, government is stealing the resources from the private economy on the spending side, not just with taxes and regulations.  What employer can compete for a day's work at low wages with a public sector that will pay you same or better without a day's work and not judge your performance or lack of productivity?  How many laws does a lemonade stand violate?  In Minneapolis we had a church-based free clothing outlet closed down around Christmas time a few years back for a zoning violation (you die quickly outside here in December without warm clothing).  Maybe the 'regulation' out of the city hall to its enforcement division should have been 'use common sense'!

Clever comment in my election day email from a politically 'moderate' friend mocking conservatism, he wrote: "I thought the ' keep fear alive' slogan would appeal to you."  In return, I offer no denial.  Decline isn't some exaggerated scare tactic, it is happening in front of our eyes.  Detroit today is a fact and so are state government bankruptcies and national U6 unemployment at 17%. For black teenagers, that is close to 50% ( - high enough to make people pursue other options!  Coming are higher interest rates and who knows what for inflation.  This will spiral out of control if we don't change course.  Decline is a choice.  Every policy decision has pro-growth vs. economic decline with good intentions aspects.  It takes courage to put trust in the people, private enterprise and private charities and to turn away from a nanny state mentality, but it is exactly the government guarantee us everything mentality that makes us incapable of guaranteeing anything.  Nanny state government is the antithesis of a vibrant economy.
tim nelson
Posts: 23

« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2010, 05:30:06 PM »

The IEA just announced that peak oil happened in 2006, when 2 years ago they said it was 35 or so years away. And "peak oil experts" have been saying this for years now. I am listening more closely to what else they are saying.

Decline of American Empire, it's no surprise, is it? Every empire has fallen. I think the difference here is that there likely won't be another one to take its place. I am speaking of worldwide collapse of all the little empires. the resources are not present to support growth as in the past. Where as a nation falls down (argentina, russia)there was global infrastructure to still ship and manufacture oreos (commercial goods) to be sold. But when the dominoes keep falling, what happens when there aren't any more oreos? In a nutshell I think most people are afraid to face life without what we have become accustomed to as a first world nation or even a third world, and that amounts to opinions that come from underground where heads are stuck, hiding.

 I have been living a life that could be viewed as survival preparedness for most of my adult life, and in my opinion I say it will be harder to live without supermarkets (if it happens) than most preparedness people think.

The soap box is stomped now.
tim nelson
Posts: 23

« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2011, 12:38:31 AM »

this guy    says he lives in argentina and went through their economic collapse, i like what he says and i think he's pretty level headed. and he comes from another viewpoint that is not purely doom and destruction of everything modern. if nothing else a different angle is refreshing.
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2011, 10:37:55 AM »


Intersting post.  May I suggest that it probably would fit better on the Survivalism thread?
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2011, 01:05:53 PM »

What decades of democrats in power gets you.

Coming soon, pictures from California.
tim nelson
Posts: 23

« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2011, 11:14:59 PM »

sure, i did a quick search for relevant categories, apparently i didn't check survivalism, i'll post it there.     tim
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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2011, 07:28:07 AM »

January 2011

Dependence Day
by Mark Steyn

On the erosion of personal liberty. Burke was right!

If I am pessimistic about the future of liberty, it is because I am pessimistic about the strength of the English-speaking nations, which have, in profound ways, surrendered to forces at odds with their inheritance. “Declinism” is in the air, but some of us apocalyptic types are way beyond that. The United States is facing nothing so amiable and genteel as Continental-style “decline,” but something more like sliding off a cliff.

In the days when I used to write for Fleet Street, a lot of readers and several of my editors accused me of being anti-British. I’m not. I’m extremely pro-British and, for that very reason, the present state of the United Kingdom is bound to cause distress. So, before I get to the bad stuff, let me just lay out the good. Insofar as the world functions at all, it’s due to the Britannic inheritance. Three-sevenths of the G7 economies are nations of British descent. Two-fifths of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are—and, by the way, it should be three-fifths: The rap against the Security Council is that it’s the Second World War victory parade preserved in aspic, but, if it were, Canada would have a greater claim to be there than either France or China. The reason Canada isn’t is because a third Anglosphere nation and a second realm of King George VI would have made too obvious a truth usually left unstated—that the Anglosphere was the all but lone defender of civilization and of liberty. In broader geopolitical terms, the key regional powers in almost every corner of the globe are British-derived—from Australia to South Africa to India—and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you’re better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: Why is Haiti Haiti and Barbados Barbados?

And of course the pre-eminent power of the age derives its political character from eighteenth-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than the mother country was willing to go. In his
sequel to Churchill’s great work, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Andrew Roberts writes:

Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no-one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire–led and the American Republic–led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately.

If you step back for a moment, this seems obvious. There is a distinction between the “English-speaking peoples” and the rest of “the West,” and at key moments in human history that distinction has proved critical.

Continental Europe has given us plenty of nice paintings and agreeable symphonies, French wine and Italian actresses and whatnot, but, for all our fetishization of multiculturalism, you can’t help noticing that when it comes to the notion of a political West—one with a sustained commitment to liberty and democracy—the historical record looks a lot more unicultural and, indeed (given that most of these liberal democracies other than America share the same head of state), uniregal. The entire political class of Portugal, Spain, and Greece spent their childhoods living under dictatorships. So did Jacques Chirac and Angela Merkel. We forget how rare on this earth is peaceful constitutional evolution, and rarer still outside the Anglosphere.

Decline starts with the money. It always does. As Jonathan Swift put it:

A baited banker thus desponds,
From his own hand foresees his fall,
They have his soul, who have his bonds;
’Tis like the writing on the wall.

Today the people who have America’s bonds are not the people one would wish to have one’s soul. As Madhav Nalapat has suggested, Beijing believes a half-millennium Western interregnum is about to come to an end, and the world will return to Chinese dominance. I think they’re wrong on the latter, but right on the former. Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military.

According to the cbo’s 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the U.S. government will be paying between 15 and 20 percent of its revenues in debt interest—whereas defense spending will be down to between 14 and 16 percent. America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have advanced from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers.

What does that mean? In 2009, the United States spent about $665 billion on its military, the Chinese about $99 billion. If Beijing continues to buy American debt at the rate it has in recent years, then within a half-decade or so U.S. interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. This year, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military build-up, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft-carrier R&D program intended to challenge American dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it. Answer: Mr. and Mrs. America.

Within the next five years, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the U.S. Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers. When they take Taiwan, suburban families in Connecticut and small businesses in Idaho will have paid for it. The existential questions for America loom now, not decades hence. What we face is not merely the decline and fall of a powerful nation but the collapse of the highly specific cultural tradition that built the modern world. It starts with the money—it always does. But the money is only the symptom. We wouldn’t be this broke if we hadn’t squandered our inheritance in a more profound sense.

Britain’s decline also began with the money. The U.S. “Lend-Lease” program to the United Kingdom ended with the war in September 1946. London paid off the final installment of its debt in December 2006, and the Economic Secretary, Ed Balls, sent with the check a faintly surreal accompanying note thanking Washington for its support during the war. They have our soul who have our bonds: Britain and the world were more fortunate in who had London’s bonds than America is seventy years later. For that reason, in terms of global order, the transition from Britannia ruling the waves to the American era, from the old lion to its transatlantic progeny, was one of the smoothest transfers of power in history—so smooth that most of us aren’t quite sure when it took place. Andrew Roberts likes to pinpoint it to the middle of 1943: One month, the British had more men under arms than the Americans; the next month, the Americans had more men under arms than the British.

The baton of global leadership had been passed. And, if it didn’t seem that way at the time, that’s because it was as near a seamless transition as could be devised—although it was hardly “devised” at all, at least not by London. Yet we live with the benefits of that transition to this day. To take a minor but not inconsequential example, one of the critical links in the post-9/11 Afghan campaign was the British Indian Ocean Territory. As its name would suggest, it’s a British dependency, but it has a U.S. military base—just one of many pinpricks on the map where the Royal Navy’s Pax Britannica evolved into Washington’s Pax Americana with nary a thought: From U.S. naval bases in Bermuda to the Anzus alliance down under to Norad in Cheyenne Mountain, London’s military ties with its empire were assumed, effortlessly, by the United States, and life and global order went on.

One of my favorite lines from the Declaration of Independence never made it into the final text. They were Thomas Jefferson’s parting words to his fellow British subjects across the ocean: “We might have been a free and great people together.” But in the end, when it mattered, they were a free and great people together. Britain was eclipsed by its transatlantic offspring, by a nation with the same language, the same legal inheritance, and the same commitment to liberty.

It’s not likely to go that way next time round. And “next time round” is already under way. We are coming to the end of a two-century Anglosphere dominance, and of a world whose order and prosperity many people think of as part of a broad, general trend but which, in fact, derive from a very particular cultural inheritance and may well not survive it. To point out how English the world is is, of course, a frightfully un-English thing to do. No true Englishman would ever do such a ghastly and vulgar thing. You need some sinister rootless colonial oik like me to do it. But there’s a difference between genial self-effacement and contempt for one’s own inheritance.

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« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2011, 07:33:12 AM »

Not so long ago, Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian and soi-disant Islamophobe, flew into London and promptly got shipped back to the Netherlands as a threat to public order. After the British Government had reconsidered its stupidity, he was permitted to return and give his speech at the House of Lords—and, as foreigners often do, he quoted Winston Churchill, under the touchingly naive assumption that this would endear him to the natives. Whereas, of course, to almost all members of Britain’s governing elite, quoting Churchill approvingly only confirms that you’re an extremist lunatic. I had the honor a couple of years back of visiting President Bush in the White House and seeing the bust of Churchill on display in the Oval Office. When Barack Obama moved in, he ordered Churchill’s bust be removed and returned to the British. Its present whereabouts are unclear. But, given what Sir Winston had to say about Islam in his book on the Sudanese campaign, the bust was almost certainly arrested at Heathrow and deported as a threat to public order.

Somewhere along the way a quintessentially British sense of self-deprecation curdled into a psychologically unhealthy self-loathing. A typical foot-of-the-page news item from The Daily Telegraph:

A leading college at Cambridge University has renamed its controversial colonial-themed Empire Ball after accusations that it was “distasteful.” The £136-a-head Emmanuel College ball was advertised as a celebration of “the Victorian commonwealth and all of its decadences.

 Students were urged to “party like it’s 1899” and organisers promised a trip through the Indian Raj, Australia, the West Indies, and 19th century Hong Kong.

But anti-fascist groups said the theme was “distasteful and insensitive” because of the British Empire’s historical association with slavery, repression and exploitation.  The Empire Ball Committee, led by presidents Richard Hilton and Jenny Unwin, has announced the word “empire” will be removed from all promotional material.

The way things are going in Britain, it would make more sense to remove the word “balls.”

It’s interesting to learn that “anti-fascism” now means attacking the British Empire, which stood alone against fascism in that critical year between the fall of France and Germany’s invasion of Russia. And it’s even sadder to have to point out the most obvious fatuity in those “anti-fascist groups” litany of evil—“the British Empire’s association with slavery.” The British Empire’s principal association with slavery is that it abolished it. Before William Wilberforce, the British Parliament, and the brave men of the Royal Navy took up the issue, slavery was an institution regarded by all cultures around the planet as as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky. Britain expunged it from most of the globe.

It is pathetic but unsurprising how ignorant all these brave “anti-fascists” are. But there is a lesson here not just for Britain but for the rest of us, too: When a society loses its memory, it descends inevitably into dementia. As I always try to tell my American neighbors, national decline is at least partly psychological—and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline. Thus, Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom, which he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944:

There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.

 The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

Within little more than half a century, almost every item on the list had been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (some 40 percent of Britons receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and
authority”—the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something.” American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government without a similar descent, in enough of the citizenry, into chronic dependency.

What happened? Britain, in John Foster Dulles’s famous postwar assessment, had lost an empire but not yet found a role. Actually, Britain didn’t so much “lose” the Empire: it evolved peacefully into the modern Commonwealth, which is more agreeable than the way these things usually go. Nor is it clear that modern Britain wants a role, of any kind. Rather than losing an empire, it seems to have lost its point.

This has consequences. To go back to Cambridge University’s now non-imperial Empire Ball, if the cream of British education so willingly prostrates itself before ahistorical balderdash, what then of the school system’s more typical charges? In cutting off two generations of students from their cultural inheritance, the British state has engaged in what we will one day come to see as a form of child abuse, one that puts a huge question mark over the future. Why be surprised that legions of British Muslims sign up for the Taliban? These are young men who went to school in Luton and West Bromwich and learned nothing of their country of nominal citizenship other than that it’s responsible for racism, imperialism, colonialism, and all the other bad -isms of the world. If that’s all you knew of Britain, why would you feel any allegiance to Queen and country? And what if you don’t have Islam to turn to? The transformation of the British people is, in its own malign way, a remarkable achievement. Raised in schools that teach them nothing, they nevertheless pick up the gist of the matter, which is that their society is a racket founded on various historical injustices. The virtues Hayek admired? Ha! Strictly for suckers.

When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the modern British welfare state in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want,” to be accomplished by “cooperation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from the vicissitudes of fate, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams: Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity. Churchill called his book The History of the English-Speaking Peoples—not the English-Speaking Nations. The extraordinary role played by those nations in the creation and maintenance of the modern world derived from their human capital.

What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what LBJ’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.

Plucked at random from The Daily Mail: A man of twenty-one with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers’ money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute. Why not? His social worker says sex is a “human right” and that his client, being a virgin, is entitled to the support of the state in claiming said right. Fortunately, a £520 million program was set up by Her Majesty’s Government to “empower those with disabilities.” “He’s planning to do more than just have his end away,” explained the social worker.

“The girls in Amsterdam are far more protected than those on U.K. streets. Let him have some fun—I’d want to. Wouldn’t you prefer that we can control this, guide him, educate him, support him to understand the process and ultimately end up satisfying his needs in a secure, licensed place where his happiness and growth as a person is the most important thing? Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights.”

And so a Dutch prostitute is able to boast that among her clients is the British Government. Talk about outsourcing: given the reputation of English womanhood, you’d have thought this would be the one job that wouldn’t have to be shipped overseas. But, as Dutch hookers no doubt say, lie back and think of England—and the check they’ll be mailing you.

After Big Government, after global retreat, after the loss of liberty, there is only remorseless civic disintegration. The statistics speak for themselves. The number of indictable offences per thousand people was 2.4 in 1900, climbed gradually to 9.7 in 1954, and then rocketed to 109.4 by 1992. And that official increase understates the reality: Many crimes have been decriminalized (shoplifting, for example), and most crime goes unreported, and most reported crime goes uninvestigated, and most investigated crime goes unsolved, and almost all solved crime merits derisory punishment. Yet the law-breaking is merely a symptom of a larger rupture. At a gathering like this one, John O’Sullivan, recalling his own hometown, said that when his grandmother ran a pub in the Liverpool docklands in the years around the First World War, there was only one occasion when someone swore in her presence. And he subsequently apologized.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” But viewed from 2010 England the day before yesterday is an alternative universe—or a lost civilization. Last year, the “Secretary of State for Children” (both an Orwellian and Huxleyite office) announced that 20,000 “problem families” would be put under twenty-four-hour cctv supervision in their homes. As the Daily Express reported, “They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.” Orwell’s government “telescreen” in every home is close to being a reality, although even he would have dismissed as too obviously absurd a nanny state that literally polices your bedtime.

For its worshippers, Big Government becomes a kind of religion: the state as church. After the London Tube bombings, Gordon Brown began mulling over the creation of what he called a “British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July,” a new national holiday to bolster British identity. The Labour Party think-tank, the Fabian Society, proposed that the new “British Day” should be July 5th, the day the National Health Service was created. Because the essence of contemporary British identity is waiting two years for a hip operation. A national holiday every July 5th: They can call it Dependence Day.

Does the fate of the other senior Anglophone power hold broader lessons for the United States? It’s not so hard to picture a paternalist technocrat of the Michael Bloomberg school covering New York in cctv ostensibly for terrorism but also to monitor your transfats. Permanence is the illusion of every age. But you cannot wage a sustained ideological assault on your own civilization without profound consequence. Without serious course correction, we will see the end of the Anglo-American era, and the eclipse of the powers that built the modern world. Even as America’s spendaholic government outspends not only America’s ability to pay for itself but, by some measures, the world’s; even as it follows Britain into the dank pit of transgenerational dependency, a failed education system, and unsustainable entitlements; even as it makes less and less and mortgages its future to its rivals for cheap Chinese trinkets, most Americans assume that simply because they’re American they will be insulated from the consequences. There, too, are lessons from the old country. Cecil Rhodes distilled the assumptions of generations when he said that to be born a British subject was to win first prize in the lottery of life. On the eve of the Great War, in his play Heartbreak House, Bernard Shaw turned the thought around to taunt a British ruling class too smug and self-absorbed to see what was coming. “Do you think,” he wrote, “the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?”

In our time, to be born a citizen of the United States is to win first prize in the lottery of life, and, as Britons did, too many Americans assume it will always be so. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of America because you were born in it? Great convulsions lie ahead, and at the end of it we may be in a post-Anglosphere world.

Mark Steyn’s most recent book is America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It (Regnery).

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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2011, 08:06:11 AM »

The Arab revolution and Western decline

By Ari Shavit

Two huge processes are happening right before our eyes. One is the Arab liberation revolution. After half a century during which tyrants have ruled the Arab world, their control is weakening. After 40 years of decaying stability, the rot is eating into the stability. The Arab masses will no longer accept what they used to accept. The Arab elites will no longer remain silent.

Processes that have been roiling beneath the surface for about a decade are suddenly bursting out in an intifada of freedom. Modernization, globalization, telecommunications and Islamization have created a critical mass that cannot be stopped. The example of democratic Iraq is awakening others, and Al Jazeera's subversive broadcasts are fanning the flames. And so the Tunisian bastille fell, the Cairo bastille is falling and other Arab bastilles will fall.

The scenes are similar to the Palestinian intifada of 1987, but the collapse recalls the Soviet collapse in Eastern Europe of 1989. No one knows where the intifada will lead. No one knows whether it will bring democracy, theocracy or a new kind of democracy. But things will never again be the same.

The old order in the Middle East is crumbling. Just as the officers' revolution in the 1950s brought down the Arab monarchism that had relied on the colonial powers, the 2011 revolution in the square is bringing down the Arab tyrants who were dependent on the United States.

The second process is the acceleration of the decline of the West. For some 60 years the West gave the world imperfect but stable order. It built a kind of post-imperial empire that promised relative quiet and maximum peace. The rise of China, India, Brazil and Russia, like the economic crisis in the United States, has made it clear that the empire is beginning to fade.

And yet, the West has maintained a sort of international hegemony. Just as no replacement has been found for the dollar, none has been found for North Atlantic leadership. But Western countries' poor handling of the Middle East proves they are no longer leaders. Right before our eyes the superpowers are turning into palaver powers.

There are no excuses for the contradictions. How can it be that Bush's America understood the problem of repression in the Arab world, but Obama's America ignored it until last week? How can it be that in May 2009, Hosni Mubarak was an esteemed president whom Barack Obama respected, and in January 2011, Mubarak is a dictator whom even Obama is casting aside? How can it be that in June 2009, Obama didn't support the masses who came out against the zealot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while now he stands by the masses who are coming out against the moderate Mubarak?

**Read it all
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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2011, 07:27:17 AM »

"It's hard for many people to remember just how discouraged many Americans felt in 1980. In the previous decade, the United States had suffered a humiliating loss of nerve, if not outright defeat, in Vietnam. We'd witnessed Soviet expansion in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central America. Fifty-two Americans were being held hostage in Iran -- for more than a year -- after attempts to rescue them had failed miserably, leaving eight American servicemen dead in the desert. The economy was in recession; mortgage rates were 13 percent and the prime rate went over 20 percent during the year; inflation was running at almost 14 percent and unemployment at 7.5 percent. Reagan gave Americans hope -- but he also changed the country, dramatically and quickly. His policies reined in inflation, allowed Americans to keep more of the money they earned, and helped create jobs in the private sector -- the largest peacetime expansion since World War II -- by lowering tax rates. But even more importantly, in my view, Reagan rebuilt the nation's defenses, helped stop the expansion of communism in our own hemisphere, and advanced the development of new weapons that made it impossible for the Soviets to keep up, which hastened the fall of the Soviet Union. ... Happy Birthday." --columnist Linda Chavez

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« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2011, 09:24:53 AM »

Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Today's Reading Assignment

..Mark Helprin, writing in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal, on the continued decline of our Navy--and the potential consequences. Among his observations:

With the loss of a large number of important bases world-wide, if and when the U.S. projects military power it must do so most of the time from its own territory or the sea. Immune to political cross-currents, economically able to cover multiple areas, hypoallergenic to restive populations and safe from insurgencies, fleets are instruments of undeniable utility in support of allies and response to aggression. Forty percent of the world's population lives within range of modern naval gunfire, and more than two-thirds within easy reach of carrier aircraft. Nothing is better or safer than naval power and presence to preserve the often fragile reticence among nations, to protect American interests and those of our allies, and to prevent the wars attendant to imbalances of power and unrestrained adventurism.

And yet the fleet has been made to wither even in time of war. We have the smallest navy in almost a century, declining in the past 50 years to 286 from 1,000 principal combatants. Apologists may cite typical postwar diminutions, but the ongoing 17% reduction from 1998 to the present applies to a navy that unlike its wartime predecessors was not previously built up. These are reductions upon reductions. Nor can there be comfort in the fact that modern ships are more capable, for so are the ships of potential opponents. And even if the capacity of a whole navy could be packed into a small number of super ships, they could be in only a limited number of places at a time, and the loss of just a few of them would be catastrophic.


As China's navy rises and ours declines, not that far in the future the trajectories will cross. Rather than face this, we seduce ourselves with redefinitions such as the vogue concept that we can block with relative ease the straits through which the strategic materials upon which China depends must transit. But in one blink this would move us from the canonical British/American control of the sea to the insurgent model of lesser navies such as Germany's in World Wars I and II and the Soviet Union's in the Cold War. If we cast ourselves as insurgents, China will be driven even faster to construct a navy that can dominate the oceans, a complete reversal of fortune.

As we noted in a previous post, signs of our naval decline were on display in recent weeks, as the Libyan crisis began to unfold. Instead of sending a warship to rescue American citizens from that country (as the British did), the U.S. hired a commercial ferry. One reason: there was only one U.S. warship in the Mediterranean at the time, although a carrier battle group and an amphibious group were only three days away, in the Red Sea. Those assets have since re-deployed to the Med.

We neglect our Navy at our own peril. A few years back, the Royal Navy, which ruled the waves for centuries, held a review of the fleet. The Queen was there, along with most of Britain's senior defense officials. Wags said the only no-show was the British fleet; the largest vessel that passed in review that day as an oiler.

America's Navy hasn't reached that point--yet. But in an era when federal spending must be reduced, it is very easy to say we have "no peer competitors" (to use Dr. Gates's phrase) and use that as an excuse to downsize the military. A modern Navy is expensive to build and expensive to operate. Yet, it represents an essential investment, not only for the United States but for the west as a whole.

Did we mention that China is currently building five fleet carriers which will join the PLAN by 2020? Beijing is building a Navy for the future, while ours continues to decline. We've been down this road before (think Japan in the 1930s) and paid dearly for our mistakes. The next time, we may not be as lucky.
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« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2011, 09:44:46 AM »

We are also in a cultural decline thanks to the progressives.  Huckabee's comments about the single pregnant movie star were very reasonable.  But of course low and behold the MSM goes wild making sure he looks insensitive.  It is absolutely no problem women having babies out of wedlock is rampant.  It is no problem that rich gays can adopt - remember (I think Crafty's post - no longer should we use mother and father - it should be "parents").

Let's not forget that the second largest demographic as a percentage of their overall group supporting the Democrats behind Blacks are SINGLE mothers.  They want big government to be their sugar daddies.  Most of these low wage or totally unskilled mothers.  Who is going to pay for the health care.  Who is going to pay for the food the clothes the rent?

To them it should be the "rich", it should be businesses, corporations.  Huckabee is totally right but of course, his point is ignored and he is made into some sort of angry, wrong headed, insensitive religious zeolot.  I don't know if it is too late or not for America.  The liberals have evolved into such a powerful force in the media, academia, and bribing too many voters, and in politics.  I just don't know.
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« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2011, 11:40:57 AM »

CCP, Huckabee's statement looked like a slip up but I think it was very calculated for the reasons that you state.  You aren't get to get 70-80 million voters emotionally involved and motivated with concepts like millions, billions, trillions, unfunded liabilities, deficits and continuing resolutions.  It has to be tied to what we can see and touch.
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« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2011, 12:45:47 PM »

It is sad to watch the MSM go after Huckabee though.  Calling for him to apologize etc. instead of taking heed of his point(s).  Yet, perhaps this will backfire on them rather than on Huckabee.  You have a good point suggesting this IS the kind of thing we need to get taxpayers to wake up.  Why should the state be paying till we are broke for other people's babies?
These mothers need to be held accountable. 
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« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2011, 11:41:58 PM »
VIENNA – What happens after the euphoria of revolution fades? Today’s Eastern Europe, some two decades after the revolutions of 1989, may offer a salutary warning for today’s defiant and jubilant Arab youth that they must remain vigilant.

Ever since I left Romania for exile in 1986, my returns have been rare and tense. Although the schedule for my most recent trip was overwhelming, and offered little real contact with ordinary people, I could still grasp – from daily newspapers, TV programs, and conversations with friends – the profound economic, political, and moral crisis engulfing the country. Mistrust and anger toward a corrupt and inefficient political class, coupled with skepticism about democracy – even nostalgia for communism – is to be found nowadays not only in Romania, but also in some other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some 70% of Romanians reportedly now claim to regret the death of Comrade Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose summary execution in 1989 elicited general enthusiasm. Of course, the source of such an astonishing finding is difficult to trust, like everything else in Romanian politics, but the vulgar and radical coarsening of public discourse – now peppered with old-new xenophobic elements – is clear enough.

I was offered a taste of this as a guest on a well-respected TV cultural program. I was amused that the debate focused not on my books, but on issues like the “Jewish cultural mafia” and the “exaggerated” anti-Semitism of past and present Romania. My interviewer was kinetic, taking over the dialogue with insinuations and personal interventions. I assumed that I was supposed to be provoked into unguarded comments, a method that fashionable TV journalists everywhere use nowadays.

But I faced a new surprise the following week, when, on the same TV program, the hostess was rather passive towards her guest, a militant journalist turned mercenary journalist, as he confessed his admiration for Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the “Captain” of the Iron Guard, the far-right Orthodox terrorist organization of the pre-war years. The journalist considered Codreanu a “Romantic hero.”

A group of Romanian intellectuals, including me, protested in an Open Letter against this effort to rehabilitate a murderer and propagandist of hate and xenophobia. Romanian TV answered promptly that it understood that victims of anti-Semitic crimes might feel hurt by such a program, but that the program had not promoted this kind of propaganda, offering the bizarre interview with me the previous week as proof of the channel’s good faith.

But the debate didn’t end there. Soon after, the national committee for the media condemned the program. And soon after that, some leading intellectuals condemned the national committee’s condemnation as an affront to freedom of speech.No one mentioned the danger of inciting an already radicalized audience. In fact, the responses from members of the public to these controversies were mostly of a vulgar nationalistic and anti-Semitic tone.

Romania is not alone, of course, in reliving this dark comedy. Revitalization of the extreme right in Hungary and the rise of “National Bolshevism” in Russia, where Tolstoy is now re-condemned by the Orthodox Church as a proto-communist, suggest a deeper and more pervasive atavistic longing.

I was reminded of my last class at Bard College before my trip to Romania. We were discussing Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Commenting on the moment when “Asiatic cholera” kills the great and troubled writer Gustav von Aschenbach, a brilliant Asian student pointed out that Mann related the disease to the “pestilence” of the Ganges delta, which traversed China and Afghanistan, Persia and Astrakhan, and “even Moscow,” before reaching Europe through the “city of the lagoon.” She noted with gravity today’s migrations from poor to prosperous countries, the globalization of evil, the contradictions and conflicts of modernity, the angry terrorist response to it, and the contrast between a rational, pragmatic West and a more idealistic and superstitious East, prone to religious fanaticism and political extremism.

It was a relief to listen to my student’s well-articulated opinions and to see in her the hope of a new, cosmopolitan generation. But her example was also an unavoidable reminder of the great dangers of our time.

I needed that hope, for what I saw in Eastern Europe had depressed me as much as what I was seeing in the United States, my adopted homeland. For someone who lived through two totalitarian systems, it is almost unbearable to contemplate America’s decline. Although we refugees, immigrants, exiles, and outcasts do not boast ad infinitum that “we are the best,” as many Americans do, we still believe that the US remains a powerful guarantor of freedom and democracy, and we consider its incoherence part of its liberty.

For far different reasons, the US, and the entire world, seems condemned to simplification of thought, action, and feeling in the service of immediate, quotidian efficiency. Of course, art and culture can offer a respite from the oversimplifications of our age – a respite that we need more than ever if we are to reckon with the destiny behind and before us. But we also need modesty about ourselves and our societies.

Some years ago, I proposed that every country should add to its monuments to heroism some monuments to its national shame. After all, guilt is as significant as courage in any human enterprise. To remember and reflect on how we have wronged other people and nations may benefit a country’s citizens as much as celebrating great deeds. Monuments to shame would not resolve the insoluble problems of humanity’s fate on Earth, but they might slow the advance of its dark side – in Eastern Europe, the Arab world, and everywhere else.

Norman Manea’s latest novel, Vizuina (The Lair) was published in Romania in 2010 and will appear soon in Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the US, and several other countries.

Copyright: Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences, 2011.

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« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2011, 12:01:09 PM »

"on issues like the “Jewish cultural mafia” and the “exaggerated” anti-Semitism of past and present Romania"

What??   Again it is the fault of the Jews?  Why does this theme keep rearing its head as the bottom line to all of man's ill?

There are only several thousands Jews left in Romania.  The rest were murdered or fled to Israel:

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« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2011, 08:51:06 PM »

I disagree strongly with much of the analysis here, but find that the piece is one that provokes thought; therefore I post it:

Special Feature The Fall of the U.S. Empire and the Breakup of the Geopolitical Matrix: An Interview with Richard Maybury

With everything going on in the world today, we thought it a good time to catch up with the views of longtime friend Richard Maybury, a low-key but highly respected author, lecturer and analyst. In addition to his work consulting with businesses and high net worth individuals on strategic planning, Richard is the editor of the U.S. & World Early Warning Report, a monthly service that helps readers see the world as it is, versus how the media and the officialdom would like you to see it.

Richard is widely regarded as one of the finest free-market writers in America today. His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other major publications.

While all his work is insightful and well written, I particularly recall being blown away by his books on World War I and World War II, and I would recommend those works to anyone with an interest in history. I also remember his prescient warning, as the U.S. was gearing up to invade Iraq, that the desert sands would quickly destroy billions of dollars worth of U.S. equipment sent there, and he recommended investments in the companies that would profit by replacing that equipment. As events unfolded, Richard’s assessment proved 100% correct.

Once you’ve finished reading this interview, I would highly recommend you take the time to learn more about Richard’s books and services, including his excellent newsletter, U.S. & World Early Warning Report. To do so,, or call 800-509-5400.

David Galland: You’ve been steadily warning your readers for years about the coming chaos in what you call “Chaostan,” yet another forecast of yours that is coming true today. Before we get to current events, could you define Chaostan for readers who aren’t familiar with it.

Richard Maybury: In Central Asia, the word "stan" means "land of." Therefore Kazakhstan is the land of the Kazakhs, Kurdistan is the land of the Kurds, and so forth. I coined the word Chaostan in 1992, the land of chaos, to refer to the area from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and Poland to the Pacific, plus North Africa.

To understand why I call this area Chaostan, you have to first understand the two fundamental laws that make civilization possible. The first being “You should do all you have agreed to do,” which is the basis of contract law. The other is “Do not encroach on other persons or their property,” which is the basis of tort law and some criminal law. 

Where you find these laws most widely obeyed, especially by government, you find the most peace and prosperity and economic advancement, especially peace. In areas where they are less obeyed, you find chaos.

The area that I refer to as Chaostan never developed legal systems based on those two laws, at least not legal systems that the governments feel obligated to follow. I should point out those two fundamental laws provide the foundation for the old British common law, which was the basis of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution – essentially the legal documents that make America what it is or, rather, what it was.

So that's the essential thing, that Chaostan is the primary area that never developed rational legal systems, or at least not rational legal systems that governments are required to obey. As a result, throughout history they have suffered, and will continue to suffer, political, economic and social upheaval… chaos.

DG: Which brings us to the present, with a real flare-up going on in Chaostan. As Doug Casey has often said, "The thing that gets you is the thing you don’t see coming." Other than you and Doug, no one else I’m aware of anticipated the current trouble in places like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. One day, things are quiet, the next we've got all sorts of major oil-producing countries – countries that people believed would never really change – up for grabs. What are your general thoughts on the situation?

RM: Since you’ve read Early Warning Report for so many years, you know that there is nothing going on today that surprises me or my readers. That's the direction I thought Chaostan would go. I'm just surprised that it took as long to get to this point as it did. In that regard, I have often used a quote from Doug…

DG: "Just because something is inevitable doesn’t make it imminent”?

RM: That too, but I was thinking of this quote to the effect of, "The nasty things that you think are coming always take longer to arrive than you think they will, but once they get here, they make up for their tardiness by being worse than you thought they’d be." I think that's a fantastic observation, and it sure does apply here. I've always been convinced that this mess was going to happen, but will confess to being amazed that it is all happening at the same time, and that it's occurring in such a short period of time.

DG: What do you attribute the upheaval to?

RM: There are two big things going on: One is the fall of the U.S. Empire, and that is leading to the second, which is the breakup of the geopolitical matrix. In the case of the latter, I am referring to the many relationships the governments of the world have with each other and with their own people. This matrix of relationships and political structures are called countries, most of which have existed for a long time, but that's breaking up now, in part because, in most cases, the borders between these countries were drawn a long time ago by people who knew nothing about the local populations. While the breakup is starting in North Africa, I think it's going to spread across most or all of Chaostan. And it will have effects even in North America and South America. While it's almost impossible to predict exactly how, it’s my view the world that we grew up in is going away, and it will be replaced by some new political matrix.

These changes will only be exacerbated by the fact that the U.S. Empire that we grew up with is crumbling very fast. As the U.S. Empire collapses, all sorts of relationships will die, leading to yet more chaos. You can see this with Obama calling up Mubarak and ordering him to resign, so I think chaos is the only word that fits.

As far as I know, nothing on this scale has ever happened before in world history, and for people who don’t understand it and are not paying close attention, it's going to be hell. But for those who do understand it, it's going to be one of the biggest money-making opportunities in all of world history.

I don’t know what to say other than just look out.

DG: We'll get back to the money-making opportunities momentarily. First, however, a bit more on the crumbling U.S. Empire, an assessment we agree with. The administration was clearly caught flat-footed by what happened in Egypt. First it supported Mubarak’s regime and then, as you noted, it flipped and Obama demanded he go. It seems like right now the U.S. government really doesn’t even know whom it should be talking to, let alone supporting, in these various countries.

This is no small matter seeing that for decades much of U.S. foreign policy has been directed at ensuring a steady supply of oil by creating relationships in the Middle East, including setting up and supporting various despots. With these relationships now at risk, the U.S. government has to be seriously concerned that it will see a steep degradation of its influence in the Middle East. Would you agree?

RM: Yes, I think U.S. government influence in the area is probably almost completely gone. The only real influence they have is within, let's say, a hundred miles of any given aircraft carrier. I don’t think Washington is taken seriously by anybody anymore, except for its military power. The simple fact is, and you saw this in the Bush administration as well as in the Obama administration, it's clear to everybody that they don’t know what they’re doing. They have absolutely no understanding of the things that they’re meddling in.

 I remember watching a television interview with Condoleezza Rice right after 9/11, when she said "Nobody in the White House knew where Afghanistan was." And that after the Twin Towers came down, they all gathered in the Oval Office and had somebody bring in a globe so that they could all find out where Afghanistan was.

DG: Of course the region really only matters to the U.S. because of its oil, and I think right now something like half of Libya's production is off line. Do you see the situation region-wide affecting supplies on a sustained basis?

RM: Let me push back a bit on your comment that "The only reason it's important to the U.S. is because of the oil." I would modify that a little bit by saying, "The only reason the region is important to you and me is because of the oil."

But to the U.S. government, the region is a place they have exerted their power, and that is what drives the U.S. government – a lust for power. You have a whole lot of people who spend their adult lives trying to acquire power, and once they get it, they want to use it on somebody, and one of the groups of people that they have used it on are those in the Mideast.

The American founders understood that. It’s why they created the Constitution as they did, as an attempt to limit the use of power, but the Constitution stops at the border. So U.S. politicians, almost right from the beginning, have gone outside the country to exert their power because it's a whole lot easier to do it in other countries than it is to do it in this country, and we have to keep that in mind.

While the oil is definitely a big factor, more of an excuse, for the U.S. government’s involvement over there, it's the exercise of power that they draw satisfaction from and that's the reason they have meddled in these countries for so many decades.

Now as far as what's going to happen with the oil, my guess is that there will be more uprisings, and Washington will try to establish new relationships with whatever regimes rise up out of that. In the end, as you know, fundamentally whoever owns the oil can't do anything with it except sell it, and so they will sell it and we will buy it.

DG: Might the Chinese, for example, move in there and take these opportunities to redirect more oil in their direction?

RM: Sure, but you’ve got to pay for the cost of the extraction, and there will be all sorts of governments, probably already are, sending agents in there to try to steer things in directions favorable to them, and they will try to use whatever oil they get control of as a weapon against their enemies.

I'm not talking about anything that hasn’t, in essence, been going on for centuries. That's how governments behave. I have no idea how it's going to shake out in the end, other than to say that ultimately whoever owns the stuff is going to sell it to somebody. They may not sell it directly to the United States or to U.S. oil companies, but they’ll sell it somewhere in the world, and that will increase the general world supply, and the U.S. will then buy oil from somebody.

I think that a whole lot of politics will be tangled up in these transactions, but I guess maybe the main factor to keep in mind is how much of the oil infrastructure is going to be destroyed while these governments are maneuvering against each other over there. While it’s too early to say, if a lot of that infrastructure isn't destroyed, I'll be very surprised.

DG: With the U.S.'s long relationship with Israel and support for all sorts of despots in the region, is the guy on the streets in the Middle East anti-American at this point?

RM: I've heard of a few incidents here and there, but the impression I get is that people around the world generally like the individual American, because we are a personality they have never run into before. In most countries, if you tell an insulting joke about the government, everybody looks over their shoulders to find out if somebody overheard. An American never looks over his shoulder when he tells a political joke, and they find that fascinating. We speak with confidence and openly and about subjects that they will never talk about in public. So they’re captivated with our personalities as individuals, but they really hate and fear our government, just like many Americans do.

To illustrate that point, just think about the sick feeling you get in your gut when you go to your mailbox and find a letter with a return address for the IRS. Now imagine what it's like being, let's say an Iranian, and looking out your kitchen window and seeing an American guided missile cruiser sitting out there in the water.

DG: I remember when I lived in Chile being shocked to see U.S. soldiers jogging in double lines up the roads. This was a regular sight. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how people in the U.S. would react if Iraqi troops were a regular sight in their towns.

Back to the question of oil, the big players in the region are Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Do you think Saudi Arabia, in particular, will be in play before this is over?

RM: They already are in play in the sense that they’re trying to steer events in directions that are favorable to them. Maybe we should explain to the readers where Saudi Arabia came from. This is not a natural country. It is a country created by the government of Britain. Britain went into Arabia and picked the Saudi tribe as the one that ought to run the place as a surrogate of the British government. They supported the Saudi tribe so the Saudi tribe could conquer the other tribes, and that's essentially what Saudi Arabia is today.

It's as if someone went into Texas and picked the Jones family to run Texas and renamed the place Jones Texas. That's what Saudi Arabia is, and the other tribes don’t enjoy being dominated by the Saudi tribe, so there is inherent tension in that country all the time. The way the Saudi tribe tries to avoid violence is by buying off the population. They just keep pumping money into the population in an attempt to keep them fat, dumb and happy, but the population is getting tired of the whole scam, and that ancient hatred of the Saudi tribe is always there, just under the surface. There is a horrible resentment in the population. When the ocean of oil is poured into the mix, yielding unimaginable riches for the Saudi rulers, it’s a nitro and glycerin combination that people have been writing about for decades. I'm one of them. I'm amazed Saudi Arabia is still there. I thought it would have blown up a long time ago, but it could be the uprisings spreading all across the Islamic world now that light the fuse on their overthrow.

Saudi Arabia is the big prize, and this means a lot of people want it and they’ll be likely to fight over it – and where it is going to go, I don’t know. This may be the greatest level of uncertainty since World War II.

DG: It would be logical that the U.S. military-industrial complex is going to use all this instability as an excuse to rationalize continuing with the huge levels of military spending, which is a big problem in terms of reducing the deficit. Do you see the U.S. military remaining as big as it is, or is there a change coming as the empire continues to dwindle down?

RM: I think there will be some token cuts to the military, but I can't see anything serious because all you need to do to get the American people to support a larger military is to just scare them a little bit. And that's easy to do – in this present situation it is very easy to do.

So I would tend to think that all you’ve got to do is announce that we need more aircraft carrier battle groups, because the oil supply is threatened, and the typical American on the street is going to say fine, build more aircraft carriers. A point here to keep in mind is that, yes, the U.S. has by far the largest military force in the world, but Washington has taken unto itself the largest military obligation in the world – namely the responsibility of policing the whole planet. There is no other country that thinks it has the obligation to police the earth, so in terms of fire power versus territory that is being controlled, Washington is actually very weak and its enemies know this.

DG: Recently the U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates told cadets at West Point that we may never fight another large ground war. Do you believe that? I mean, if Saudi Arabia gets really unstable, do you think we are going to put boots on the ground there?

RM: Yes, definitely. This idea that you can fight a war without the use of ground forces is ridiculous. It shows a lack of understanding of what government is. A government is an organization that has control over a given piece of territory, and to control it you’ve got to have infantry standing on the ground. The phrase "boots on the ground" is a very good one for that. The place has to be occupied by soldiers with rifles, and if you don’t have the ability to do that, then you can't control the place. You can just bomb the heck out of it, but eventually you’ve got to put troops on the ground.

DG: Yet in his speech to the cadets, Gates said that wars like Afghanistan are not likely and in fact he would advise against it. I have a copy of the article here, and I quote; "In my opinion, any future defense secretary that advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the middle of Africa should have his head examined."

RM: What he's saying is absolutely true, that you should not get involved in foreign wars, but I think it's a naïve idea to assume that they won't do it, because after all it's a government. It wants to use its power. It's going to use its power on somebody, and it will get into more wars, because the people who run the government are power seekers and they want to use their power. Until there is an amendment to the Constitution that says the U.S. government can't meddle in other countries, we're going to have wars in other countries.

DG: Speaking of foreign entanglements, Israel has got to be watching all this stuff with great concern.

RM: Yes, if I were the Israelis, I'd be pretty scared, and certainly they are also working secretly to try to steer events in directions favorable to them. I don’t know what to say about it other than the old phrase, "The situation is fluid."

It sure is fluid, no doubt.

DG: Returning just for a moment to your contention that governments need to exercise power. Is this just a psychological aberration amongst power seekers, or is there more to it than that?

RM: I regard it as a mental illness. People such as you and me and our readers are generally wealth seekers. We want to live a prosperous, comfortable life and we seek wealth in order to do that. By contrast, people who rise to the top in government are power seekers. They get their satisfaction from forcing other people to do what they want. They are essentially bullies.

Let's offer a little proof here. Practically every piece of legislation enacted in the last 100 years has involved the use of force on persons who have not harmed anyone. Anybody who wants that privilege has to have something wrong with them, so I think it's a given that when you're dealing with a high-level politician or a high-level bureaucrat, you're dealing with somebody who likes to push other people around, and that's the fundamental factor that the American founders were looking at when they created the Constitution. They understood that political power corrupts the morals and the judgment.

DG: A moment ago, you mentioned that one way the government can get people to go along with its schemes is to scare them, and history supports that this isn’t a new tactic. Yet, a lot of Americans look at 9/11 as proof that Muslim extremists are after us and we have to defend ourselves, and see that as sufficient rationale for the U.S. military to take action in the Middle East. Even from our readers, we hear things like "Kill them all and let God sort them out." How would you respond to that?

RM: I know a lot of people that seem to need somebody to hate, and when the government gives them somebody to hate, they’re grateful. I've known a lot of people like that. They enjoy despising whole classes of people, painting them all with the same brush, even the children.

DG: Yet people would argue that the U.S. government did not give us the Arabs to hate. They blew up the World Trade Center. There is clear evidence that in fact somebody does hate us, and so we should hate them back.

RM: Yes, well, as Ron Paul has pointed out, and I think this is a direct quote from Ron, "They didn’t come over here until we went over there."

DG: And we've been over there an awfully long time at this point.

RM: That's right. You can go back 200 years, if you want, which I do. The original war between the U.S. and Muslims was the Barbary Wars back in the early 1800s, and that was essentially an extension of the Crusades. The Europeans were fighting the Muslims, and the Europeans hoodwinked the American politicians into joining the war on their side.

When you hear the Marine Corps hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli," to the shores of Tripoli refers to the Barbary Wars in which the U.S. came into the Crusades against the Muslims on the side of the Europeans.

So you can go back 200 years when the Europeans manipulated us into this thing, or you can count the modern onset as being in the 1940s when Roosevelt made an agreement to support the Saudis. There has never been a case where an Islamic government sent armies into the United States, but the U.S. has done it in the Mideast numerous times.

DG: Speaking of being manipulated, it is always remarkable to me how the British were up to their necks in Israel, as were the French in Vietnam, and presto chango, they’re out of the picture, replaced by the Americans. How we ended up as Israel's number one benefactor is amazing, just as it is amazing to me that we ended up losing 50,000 men in Vietnam after the French left. It makes no sense to me, but I guess it’s to be expected once you start getting drawn into foreign adventures.

What else are you following for your readers? What sort of themes are you getting into?

RM: In terms of economics, we've been writing about the decline of the dollar for years now. But actually, as of the March issue, I'm making a turn and going back to a much deeper geopolitical orientation, because I think what's going on in the Islamic world now is going to be at least as dominant as the fall of the Soviet Empire was back in the 1990s. Jim Powell has made an interesting point. He said that it won't be very long and we will all be looking back and referring to life before Tunisia and life after Tunisia, and I think that is true. The Tunisia uprising will be viewed akin to the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 where life was totally different after that incident happened. I think we're in that situation now.

DG: And I take it for granted that you think oil is going a lot higher.

RM: Yes, not that it isn’t going to have corrections along the way, but I've been predicting for a long time we are going to see oil at $300 a barrel. I don’t know when, but I'm sure it's coming.

DG: And gold is a core holding at this point?

RM: Absolutely, gold and silver. I think they still have a long way to go, which is to say the dollar still has a long way to fall.

DG: Any other quick investment ideas that you would share?

RM: I still like Fidelity Select Defense and Aerospace Fund. The symbol is FSDAX. I think the military industries are going to be selling a lot of weapons, and so why not invest in it?

Our newsletter is based on what I regard as the two carved-in-granite long-term economic trends; one of them being the decline of the dollar and the other one being war. I think those are locked in, and so I recommend people buy investments that do well during wartime or during periods of currency debasement, which we have. Those two trends – war and currency debasement – are essentially what Early Warning Report’s whole strategy is at this point. Buy whatever does well during war and currency debasement.

DG: A final question. Do you see the government pulling out of Afghanistan more or less on schedule?

RM: I doubt it, but given how fluid the situation is, who knows? Gates' comment was very revealing. It is amazing he would admit in public that it was a stupid thing to go into Afghanistan. If U.S. officials can divert the public's attention enough with what's going on in North Africa, maybe they can pull it off – maybe they can cut and run, and let the Afghan government fall without the American public noticing the lives that were wasted propping it up.

The one thing I can tell you for sure is that if you want to keep track of what's really going on in the world, you have to watch the aircraft carriers. The U.S. has 10 aircraft carriers – the big super-carriers – and they are always an indication of what Washington is really serious about.

DG: So when you read that a carrier is being moved into a certain area, then that's a tip-off that something’s about to go on?

RM: Yes. The position of carriers is a tip-off. Google “Positions of U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” Secondarily, Washington uses amphibious warfare ships as substitutes for the big carriers, so you want to keep an eye on those as well.

DG: Okay, we’ll leave it at that. As usual, this has been very interesting, and I appreciate your time. I hope our readers will take the opportunity to give your service a try. It's always fascinating and a personal favorite, and I know Doug loves it. One of these days we'll get you to one of our conferences.

RM: I will look forward to that.

For more on Richard Maybury, his books, and his excellent newsletter, U.S. & World Early Warning Report, or call 800-509-5400.

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« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2011, 10:09:24 AM »

April 25, 2011, 8:57 a.m. EDT

IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end
Commentary: China’s economy will surpass the U.S. in 2016

By Brett Arends, MarketWatch
BOSTON (MarketWatch) — The International Monetary Fund has just dropped a bombshell, and nobody noticed.

For the first time, the international organization has set a date for the moment when the “Age of America” will end and the U.S. economy will be overtaken by that of China.

And it’s a lot closer than you may think.

According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.

Put that in your calendar.

It provides a painful context for the budget wrangling taking place in Washington, D.C., right now. It raises enormous questions about what the international security system is going to look like in just a handful of years. And it casts a deepening cloud over both the U.S. dollar and the giant Treasury market, which have been propped up for decades by their privileged status as the liabilities of the world’s hegemonic power.

According to the IMF forecast, whomever is elected U.S. president next year — Obama? Mitt Romney? Donald Trump? — will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.

Most people aren’t prepared for this. They aren’t even aware it’s that close. Listen to experts of various stripes, and they will tell you this moment is decades away. The most bearish will put the figure in the mid-2020s.

China’s economy will be the world’s largest within five years or so.

But they’re miscounting. They’re only comparing the gross domestic products of the two countries using current exchange rates.

That’s a largely meaningless comparison in real terms. Exchange rates change quickly. And China’s exchange rates are phony. China artificially undervalues its currency, the renminbi, through massive intervention in the markets.

The comparison that really matters
The IMF in its analysis looks beyond exchange rates to the true, real terms picture of the economies using “purchasing power parities.” That compares what people earn and spend in real terms in their domestic economies.

Under PPP, the Chinese economy will expand from $11.2 trillion this year to $19 trillion in 2016. Meanwhile the size of the U.S. economy will rise from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion. That would take America’s share of the world output down to 17.7%, the lowest in modern times. China’s would reach 18%, and rising.

Just 10 years ago, the U.S. economy was three times the size of China’s.

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« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2011, 10:27:29 AM »

"According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now. "

  - I will bet that it doesn't.  smiley
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« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2011, 10:48:34 AM »

Why Doug?
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« Reply #24 on: June 26, 2011, 10:13:35 AM »

Geither:  Must have more taxes on the rich

And a friends response:

Today was a very sobering day for me.  I saw first hand the effects of these policies on the ground.

It was bad enough that the week began with one of my good friends telling me that his business was going under and he and his wife were going to file for bankruptcy.  They had operated a successful floor covering business for 13 years until 2007.  Then, the recession began eating away at their business.  They just decided to throw in the towel.  Since they had to personally guarantee their business line of credit, bankruptcy is the only option for them.


This morning I walked into my favorite local coffee shop – not a Starbucks or a national chain.  The owner called me aside and asked if I would know of anyone who would buy her shop.  She would be willing to work as an employee in her old shop for $10 per hour.  She had been operating break-even for the past 3 years.  Now, an unexpected family emergency has forced her to sell her business.  Less people are going out to buy coffee because they are unemployed or their budgets are being squeezed by stagnant incomes and rising costs.  She will not make it through the summer.  How do you tell a friend that without profits, her business is probably not worth more than the value of the inventory and the liquidation value of her equipment?  I knew that she knew that she was really asking me to buy her business and give her a little dignity for her 8 years of hard work and honest effort.  I am sure that she will appreciate the endless tax loss carry-forwards.


Both of my friends do not show up in the unemployment numbers.  They are self-employed business owners who are ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.  They are honest, hardworking Americans who exemplify the American dream and who are collateral damage of the crony capitalism that permeates DC.


Geithner and his cohorts created and supported the policies that chose the big TBTF banks as the winners and that condemned my friends to ash heap of failed entrepreneurs.  It just isn’t the Japanese tsunami.  It just isn’t the Euro.  These are the consequences of decades of mismanagement and cronyism.


My friends are real people.  They are not just statistics on a BEA downloadable spreadsheet.  They are Americans in their 50’s and 60’s who are now condemned, if they are lucky, to be Wal-Mart greeters or Home Depot seasonal workers in the Christmas decoration aisles.  They should have failed earlier and then tried for one of the 60,000 McDonald’s jobs.


These people are not accurately represented in Scott’s statistics.  This nation has entered a second wave of the recession.  These stories are happening all over the country.  We are in a slow moving train wreck that appears to correct itself only to careen again off the tracks.  Thank you Hank Paulson.  Thank you Tim Geithner.  Thanks to all of the politicians and bureaucrats who destroyed these families.  Especially Ben Bernanke.  All the clueless eggheads that have destroyed the lives of real Americans.  No recovery will ever cause me to forget my friends who were destroyed because of these fools.

SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2011
The Social Cost of the Loss of Job Stability and Careers
As much as the rest of the world has chosen to look down on Japan in its post bubble era for its failure to clean up its banking mess and resultant stagnant economy, it has managed its relative decline in status with considerable aplomb. It still has the longest life expectancy in the world, universal health care, not bad unemployment (3% to 5%) and ranks well on other social indicators And now that the US is going down the Japan path, it might behoove us to take heed of their example.

One of the striking difference between the cultures is importance ascribed to job creation. The Japanese understand full well that the workplace for many people is a far more important community to them than where they live, and so in contrast to the US, generating and preserving employment is a high priority. For example, Japanese entrepreneurs are revered for generating jobs, while in the US, personal wealth is proof of success.

McKinsey had Yankelovich survey the attitudes of young people a decade ago, and even then, the results were pretty disturbing. Yankelovich projected that college graduates would average 11 jobs by the time they were 38 (!), yet found they were demanding of their employers, wanting frequent feedback (as in lots of attention) and quick advancement. But if you are not likely to be around for very long, no one is likely to want to invest in you all that much (McKinsey, which was competing for a narrow slice of supposed “top” talent and not offering Wall Street sized payopportunities, might have been more inclined to indulge this sort of thing than other employers).

But these rapid moves from job to job, and now a much weaker job market, are producing behaviors that old farts like me find troubling. One is rampant careerism. I’ve run into too many polished people under the age of 35 where the veneer is very thin. It isn’t hard to see the opportunism, the shameless currying of favor, and ruthless calculations of whom to help and whom to kick, including throwing former patrons under the bus when they are no longer useful (I can cite specific examples of the last behavior). The world has always had its Sammy Glicks, but now we seem to be setting out to create them on a mass basis.

The economic effects are also not pretty. A 30 year mortgage made sense when people would spend a decade or more with a single employer. And more frequent job changes means not only more total time unemployed over one’s working years, but also the very high odds of falling out of a highly or even moderately paid career path to a much lower one as the work place continues to be restructured.

A New York Times piece tonight describes the latest stage of this sorry devolution: “job jugglers” who hold down multiple part time jobs to make a living. This sort of thing used to happen only to lower income people, artists, or people who live in resort areas. The article makes clear that this is often a hand-to-mouth, high stress existence, although the interviewees put a brave face on it. And we aren’t necessarily talking having one income source in the days and another in the evenings: three of the individuals featured had four jobs. Even then, they barely cover their expenses.

Yet it could indeed be worse:

Still, Ms. [Mia] Branco, who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in musical theater from American University in 2009, says she feels lucky to be employed at all. “The majority of the jobs I have right now are because people were laid off and they didn’t want to hire back full-time employees,” she said. “My willingness to have a hodgepodge schedule makes me more

But the “marketable” benefits are only short term.

A national study by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies found that young women who worked primarily in part-time jobs did not make higher wages in their 30s than in their 20s…The reason is that part-time jobs generally provide fewer training opportunities and often don’t put workers on a track for advancement.

And many of these jobs are clearly stopgaps:

More college graduates are working in second jobs that don’t require college degrees, part of a phenomenon called “mal-employment.” In short, many baby-sitters, sales clerks, telemarketers and bartenders are overqualified for their jobs.

Last year, 1.9 million college graduates were mal-employed and had multiple jobs, up 17 percent from 2007, according to federal data. Almost half of all college graduates have a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.

I see this in my own building. One of the new doormen, a clean cut, high energy fellow, is a college graduate who is going to work on his graduate degree at night. One who has been here about a year also went to college. That was unheard of until recently.

Even though the evidence is that these jugglers would do better financially and probably in terms of lifestyle if they got on a career path, some seemed to have been imprinted by their multi-job routine and seemed loath to give it up, even though they recognized that it is not conducive to having a family.

These part-time jobs may just be another feature of this recession, but the odds are that it will become yet another aspect of the “new normal”.


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« Reply #25 on: June 26, 2011, 11:16:36 AM »

The video shows quite a wise and perceptive questioner Rep. Ellmers from North Carolina who I hadn't seen before. 

The first words out of Geithner's mouth are total deception: "only affects 3% of small business owners".

For one, I incorporate each property of mine separately,never hired an employee; that makes me alone many small business owners according to Geittner? SBA (US Govt) defines small business in a variable way that includes companies who employ 1500 people with revenues up to 21 million.  Small business!  To throw that in with a solo worker self employed on the side who may mow lawns or clean apartments part time and then say only 3% are affected is pure BS.

My point is that 100%of the 'small businesses' who can make an impact on new hiring either make 250k of hope to and plan to or they wouldn't be considering hiring.

Geithner basically is saying that the additional burden against hiring in the productive sector that funds government is necessary so they won't have to won't have to make those burdens on the all-important public sector - like on education.

What percent of schools are primarily funded by the Feds and in which article is the responsibility put on the feds?  What a crock.  Even if anything Geithner said was true, you could not punish the 3% without punishing the rest of us.  We share the same economy whether those are your bosses, customers, neighbors or family.

The personal stories are a good reminder about how all economic measures are flawed, unemployment measurement is one of the worst.  It is measured two main ways but you mostly can only see trends, not accurate measures.  My favorite indacator of economic health unfortunately is revenues to the Treasury.  If the friend forced out of business is employed, self-employed, unemployed, underemployed, or running the household so a spouse can make more money, that all shows up in revenues to the Treasury.

On the other side of the coin, the closed business owner at age 50-60 or more is not condemned to being a greeter at Walmart (no offense intended to greeters at Walmart). We all better be ready to make a change if necessary, pick up the pieces and go forward.
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« Reply #26 on: July 02, 2011, 11:00:33 AM »

It is, the pundits keep telling us, a time of American decline, of a post-American world. The 21st century will belong to someone else. Crippled by debt at home, hammered by the aftermath of a financial crisis, bloodied by long wars in the Middle East, the American Atlas can no longer hold up the sky. Like Britain before us, America is headed into an assisted-living facility for retired global powers.

This fashionable chatter could not be more wrong. Sure, America has big problems. Trillions of dollars in national debt and uncounted trillions more in off-the-books liabilities will give anyone pause. Rising powers are also challenging the international order even as our key Cold War allies sink deeper into decline.

But what is unique about the United States is not our problems. Every major country in the world today faces extraordinary challenges—and the 21st century will throw more at us. Yet looking toward the tumultuous century ahead, no country is better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities or manage the dangers than the United States.

Geopolitically, the doomsayers tell us, China will soon challenge American leadership throughout the world. Perhaps. But to focus exclusively on China is to miss how U.S. interests intersect with Asian realities in ways that cement rather than challenge the U.S. position in world affairs.

China is not Germany, the U.S. is not Great Britain, and 2011 is not 1910. In 1910 Germany was a rising power surrounded by decline: France, Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary were all growing weaker every year even as Germany went from strength to strength. The European power system grew less stable every year.

In Asia today China is rising—but so is India, another emerging nuclear superpower with a population on course to pass China's. Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia are all vibrant, growing powers that have no intention of falling under China's sway. Japan remains a formidable presence. Unlike Europe in 1910, Asia today looks like an emerging multipolar region that no single country, however large and dynamic, can hope to control.

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 .This fits American interests precisely. The U.S. has no interest in controlling Asia or in blocking economic prosperity that will benefit the entire Pacific basin, including our part of it. U.S. policy in Asia is not fighting the tide of China's inexorable rise. Rather, our interests harmonize with the natural course of events. Life rarely moves smoothly and it is likely that Asia will see great political disturbances. But through it all, it appears that the U.S. will be swimming with, rather than against, the tides of history.

Around the world we have no other real rivals. Even the Europeans have stopped talking about a rising EU superpower. The specter of a clash of civilizations between the West and an Islamic world united behind fanatics like the unlamented Osama bin Laden is less likely than ever. Russia's demographic decline and poor economic prospects (not to mention its concerns about Islamic radicalism and a rising China) make it a poor prospect as a rival superpower.

When it comes to the world of ideas, the American agenda will also be the global agenda in the 21st century. Ninety years after the formation of the Communist Party of China, 50 years after the death of the philosopher of modern militant Islam Sayyid Qutb, liberal capitalist democracy remains the wave of the future.

Fascism, like Franco, is still dead. Communism lingers on life support in Pyongyang and a handful of other redoubts but shows no signs of regaining the power it has lost since 1989 and the Soviet collapse. "Islamic" fanaticism failed in Iraq, can only cling to power by torture and repression in Iran, and has been marginalized (so far) in the Arab Spring. Nowhere have the fanatics been able to demonstrate that their approach can protect the dignity and enhance the prosperity of people better than liberal capitalism. The heirs of Qutb are further from power than they were during the first Egyptian Revolution in 1953.

Closer to home, Hugo Chavez and his Axis of Anklebiters are descending towards farce. The economic success of Chile and Brazil cuts the ground out from under the "Bolivarean" caudillos. They may strut and prance on the stage, appear with Fidel on TV and draw a crowd by attacking the Yanquis, but the dream of uniting South America into a great anticapitalist, anti-U.S. bloc is as dead as Che Guevara.

So the geopolitics are favorable and the ideological climate is warming. But on a still-deeper level this is shaping up to be an even more American century than the last. The global game is moving towards America's home court.

The great trend of this century is the accelerating and deepening wave of change sweeping through every element of human life. Each year sees more scientists with better funding, better instruments and faster, smarter computers probing deeper and seeing further into the mysteries of the physical world. Each year more entrepreneurs are seeking to convert those discoveries and insights into ways to produce new things, or to make old things better and more cheaply. Each year the world's financial markets are more eager and better prepared to fund new startups, underwrite new investments, and otherwise help entrepreneurs and firms deploy new knowledge and insight more rapidly.

Scientific and technological revolutions trigger economic, social and political upheavals. Industry migrates around the world at a breathtaking—and accelerating—rate. Hundreds of millions of people migrate to cities at an unprecedented pace. Each year the price of communication goes down and the means of communication increase.

New ideas disturb the peace of once-stable cultures. Young people grasp the possibilities of change and revolt at the conservatism of their elders. Sacred taboos and ancient hierarchies totter; women demand equality; citizens rise against monarchs. All over the world more tea is thrown into more harbors as more and more people decide that the times demand change.

This tsunami of change affects every society—and turbulent politics in so many countries make for a turbulent international environment. Managing, mastering and surviving change: These are the primary tasks of every ruler and polity. Increasingly these are also the primary tasks of every firm and household.

This challenge will not go away. On the contrary: It has increased, and it will go on increasing through the rest of our time. The 19th century was more tumultuous than its predecessor; the 20th was more tumultuous still, and the 21st will be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen.

Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.

Happy Fourth of July.

Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of the American Interest.

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« Reply #27 on: September 02, 2011, 08:05:42 AM »

Earlier this summer I mentioned that I was reading Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and I promised to sum up the insights that I had gleaned from it. The book is well-worth reading -- if not quite on a par with his earlier Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and you'll learn an enormous amount about a diverse set of past societies and the range of scientific knowledge (geology, botany, forensic archaeology, etc.) that is enabling us to understand why they prospered and/or declined.   

The core of the book is a series of detailed case studies of societies that collapsed and disappeared because they were unable to adapt to demanding and/or deteriorating environmental, economic, or political conditions. He examines the fate of the Easter Islanders, the Mayans, the Anasazi of the Pacific Southwest, the Norse colonies in Western Greenland (among others), and contrasts them with other societies (e.g., the New Guinea highlanders) who managed to develop enduring modes of life in demanding circumstances. He also considers modern phenomenon such as the Rwandan genocide and China and Australia's environmental problems in light of these earlier examples.

I read the book because I am working on a project exploring why states (and groups and individuals) often find it difficult to "cut their losses" and abandon policies that are clearly not working. This topic is a subset of the larger (and to me, endlessly fascinating) question of why smart and well-educated people can nonetheless make disastrous (and with hindsight, obviously boneheaded) decisions. Diamond's work is also potentially relevant to the perennial debate on American decline: Is it occurring, is it inevitable, and how should we respond?

So what lessons does Diamond draw from his case studies, and what insights might we glean for the conduct of foreign policy? Here are a few thoughts that occurred to me as I finished the book.

First, he argues that sometimes societies fail to anticipate an emerging problem because they lack adequate knowledge or prior experience with the phenomenon at hand. Primitive societies may not have recognized the danger of soil depletion, for example, because they lacked an adequate understanding of basic soil chemistry. A society may also fail to spot trouble if the main problem it is facing recurs only infrequently, because the knowledge of how to detect or deal with the problem may have been forgotten. As he emphasizes, this is especially problematic for primitive societies that lack written records, but historical amnesia can also occur even in highly literate societies like our own. 

By analogy, one could argue that some recent failures in U.S. foreign policy were of this sort. Hardly anybody anticipated that U.S. support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan would eventually lead to the formation of virulent anti-American terrorist groups, in part because the U.S. leaders didn't know very much about that part of the world and because public discourse about U.S. policy in the Middle East is filled with gaping holes. Similarly, the people who led us into Iraq in 2003 were remarkably ignorant about the history and basic character of Iraqi society (as well as the actual nature of Saddam's regime). To make matters worse, the U.S. military had forgotten many of the lessons of Vietnam and had to try to relearn them all over again, with only partial success.

Second, societies may fail to detect a growing problem if their leaders are too far removed from the source of the trouble. Diamond refers to this as the problem of "distant managers," and it may explain why U.S. policymakers often make decisions that seem foolish in hindsight. As I've noted here before, one problem facing U.S. foreign policymakers is the sheer number and scope of the problems they are trying to address, which inevitably forces them to rely on reports from distant subordinates and to address issues that they cannot be expected to understand very well. Barack Obama doesn't get to spend the next few years learning Pashto and immersing himself in the details of Afghan history and culture; instead, he has to make decisions based on what he is being told by people on the ground (who may or may not know more than he does). Unfortunately, the latter have obvious reasons to tell an upbeat story, if only to make their own efforts look good. If things are going badly, therefore, the people at the top back in Washington may be the last to know. 

Third, serious problems may go undetected when a long-term negative trend is masked by large short-term fluctuations. Climate change is the classic illustration here: there are lots of short-term fluctuations in atmospheric temperature (daily, seasonally, annually and over eons), which allows climate change skeptics to seize upon any unusual cold snap as "evidence" that greenhouse gases are of no concern. 

Similarly, it's easy to find short-term signs of American primacy that may be masking adverse long-term trends. Optimists can point to U.S. military predominance and the fact that the American economy is still the world's largest, or to the number of patents and Nobel Prizes that U.S. scientists continue to win. But just as the British Empire reached its greatest territorial expanse after World War I (when its actual power was decidedly on the wane), these positive features may be largely a product of past investments (and good fortune) and focusing on them could lead us to miss the eroding foundations of American power.

A fourth source of foolish decisions is the well-known tendency for individuals to act in ways that are in their own selfish interest but not in the interest of the society as a whole. The "tragedy of the commons" is a classic illustration of this problem, but one sees the same basic dynamic whenever a narrow interest group's preferences are allowed to trump the broader national interest. Tariffs to protect particular industries or foreign policies designed to appease a particular domestic constituency are obvious cases in point.

Ironically, these problems may be especially acute in today's market-oriented democracies. We like to think that open societies foster a well-functioning "marketplace of ideas," and that the clash of different views will weed out foolish notions and ensure that problems get identified and addressed in a timely fashion. Sometimes that's probably true, but when well-funded special interests can readily pollute the national mind, intellectual market failure is the more likely result. After all, it is often easier and cheaper to invent self-serving lies and distortions than it is to ferret out the truth, and there are plenty of people (and organizations) for whom truth-telling is anathema and self-serving political propaganda is the norm. When professional falsifiers are more numerous, better-funded, and louder than truth-tellers, society will get dumber over time and will end up repeating the same blunders.

Fifth, even when a state or society recognizes that it is in trouble, Diamond identifies a number of pathologies that make it harder for them to adapt and survive. Political divisions may make it impossible to take timely action even when everyone realizes that something ought to be done (think gridlock in Congress), and key leaders may be prone to either "groupthink" or various forms of psychological denial. And the bad news here is that no one has ever devised an effective and universally reliable antidote to these problems.

Moreover, if a group's identity is based on certain cherished values or beliefs, it may be hard to abandon them even when survival is at stake. Diamond suggests that the Norse colonies in Greenland may have disappeared because the Norse were unwilling to abandon certain traditional practices and imitate the local Inuits (e.g., by adopting seal hunting via kayaks), and it is easy to think of contemporary analogues to this sort of cultural rigidity. Military organizations often find it hard to abandon familiar doctrines and procedures, and states that are strongly committed to particular territorial objectives often find it nearly impossible to rethink these commitments. Look how long it took the French to leave Algeria, or consider the attachment to Kosovo that is central to Serbian nationalist thinking, and how it led them into a costly (and probably unnecessary) war in 1999.

To sum up (in Diamond's words):

Human societies and smaller groups make disastrous decisions for a whole sequence of reasons: failure to anticipate a problem, failure to perceive it once it has arisen, failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived, and failure to succeed in attempts to solve it."

That last point is worth highlighting too. Even when states do figure out that they're in trouble and get serious about trying to address the problem, they may still fail because a ready and affordable fix is not available. Given their remarkably fortunate history, Americans tend to think that any problem can be fixed if we just try hard enough. That was never true in the past and it isn't true today, and the real challenge remains learning how to distinguish between those situations where extra effort is likely to pay off and those where cutting one's losses makes a lot more sense.

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« Reply #28 on: September 02, 2011, 10:25:35 AM »

Bigdog, Good read.
Does Diamond extrapolate his research findings to America of today?
So what is his prognosis for us and what direction should be take? 

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« Reply #29 on: September 02, 2011, 11:39:14 AM »

Bigdog, Good read.
Does Diamond extrapolate his research findings to America of today?
So what is his prognosis for us and what direction should be take? 

I haven't read the book yet.  I liked the article, and I think it raises many important questions and points. 
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« Reply #30 on: October 16, 2011, 04:00:57 PM »

BEATING DECLINE: Miltech and the Survival of the U.S.

by J.R. Dunn

Part I

Dangerous times await the United States in the international arena. We are facing a period of relative decline in respect to other nations and the global community as a whole. Many are aggressive states with little reason to be friendly to us or to defer to our interests. Our status as leading nation will be challenged, imperiled, and disregarded. This circumstance is locked in and we cannot avoid it. Debt, inflation, overextension, and defense cuts, not to mention a strange national diffidence toward acting as world leader, guarantee this state of affairs.
On the occasion of his retirement in June, defense secretary Robert Gates warned against further defense cuts. “Frankly,” he was quoted as saying, ”I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government … that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.” Extraordinary words from a man who initiated more cuts than any previous secretary: over 30 programs, including the F-22 Raptor, the Army's Future Combat System, and the AF-1 airborne laser. In other words, some of the programs most crucial to maintaining American military capability in the 21st century.
Even as Gates made his departure, the Obama administration was ordering cuts of $400 billion over a period of twelve years. Leading liberal politicians such as Rep. Barney Frank have gone even further, calling for up to $1 trillion in cuts. And this is not to overlook the recent debt ceiling deal, in which automatic cuts to defense, amounting to $500 billion over and above the amounts already mentioned, will occur if a formal bipartisan budget agreement is not achieved.
At risk is the USAF’s B-3 bomber, the Navy's CG(X) cruiser and EPX intelligence plane, the Marine’s Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle, and the Navy’s new TAOX tanker and the next generation ballistic missile submarine. Talk has also been heard of cutting Army battalions, reducing the number of fleet aircraft carriers, basing fleet units in the continental U.S. rather than at forward bases, dismantling most of our nuclear arsenal, and axing that perennial target, abandoning U.S. Marine Corps aviation.
The reasons for this impasse, while interesting in themselves, do not really concern us as much as the simple reality of what we face. It’s in the cards and we will have to deal with it. How do we go about doing that?
Other dominant states have undergone the same ordeal. The United Kingdom and the Soviet Union can serve as examples. Following its magnificent WW II stand against fascism, the UK suffered a lengthy period of political decline in which its global empire, one of the best-ordered and in many ways admirable of all imperial systems, was stripped away in less than twenty years. The Soviet Union, a much less admirable state, suffered an explosive collapse in the early 1990s following its failure to implement socialism on a national scale while simultaneously challenging the West in the Cold War. Both nations benefited from the existence of an even more powerful national entity that ensured global stability while they adapted to their new status—the United States itself. Countries that might have contemplated taking advantage of the suddenly weakened superstates were held off by the American presence, allowing the UK and USSR to make their transition in relative security. (Only one nation attempted to throw the dice—Argentina in the 1983 Falklands conflict A shrunken Royal Navy succeeded in straightening out the Argentines with assistance from the U.S.)
No guarantor of international stability exists today. The United States will go through its period of readjustment very much on its own. As for challenges from lawless and predatory powers, the question is not if but when. What is in store for us is not conquest, not humiliation, not even necessarily defeat, but a slow erosion of influence and power that will limit our ability to meet crises and make our national will felt. We are already experiencing that erosion, and it will continue for some time to come.

Emerging Threats

Expansionist states on the cusp of becoming major regional powers will wish to exercise their newfound capabilities. Most see the U.S. as an obstacle. There can be little doubt that each of them views America’s current difficulties as a clear opportunity.
•China—Looks forward to taking back the rogue “province” of Taiwan while at the same time extending its control over the Western Pacific. An internal faction of unknown size and influence involving senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would not at all mind giving the U.S. a black eye in the process.
•Iran—Wishes to gain control over the Persian Gulf and the surrounding states in hopes of establishing something on the order of a Shi’ite caliphate. Its current nuclear weapons program is troubled (it suffered a serious setback as the target of the first tailored cyberweapon), but continuing. Further concern arises over extensive governmental influence from a Shi’ite apocalyptic cult comprised of believers in the imminent return of an Islamic messiah, the Twelfth Imam.
•North Korea—After nearly seventy years, still the personal domain of the world’s sole communist dynasty. Unstable and run by a family of doubtful sanity, North Korea is a perpetual irritant. With its arsenal of crude atomic weapons, it is in the peculiar position of being too weak to fully assert itself yet too well-armed to be ignored. Eventually this conundrum will be resolved through some kind of action.
•Russia—Interested in reestablishing military dominance over Eurasia while also clawing back a few strayed remnants of the old USSR. Important sections of the military and security organs are subject to feelings of anti-American revanchism over the results of the Cold War.
•Venezuela—Has eagerly adapted the mantle of spearhead of Latin Marxism from Cuba, with some success among neighboring states. Has also established close military ties with China and Iran, which include agreements for basing rights and emplacement of advanced strategic weapons systems.
•Pakistan—About to explode thanks to an evil synergy involving a totally corrupt military, an effectively unrestrained Islamist element, and seething ethnic rivalries. The problem lies in its possession of up to 110 nuclear weapons. (Nearly as many as the UK.) 1
•There also exist wild cards—threats that while perhaps unlikely, are within the realm of possibility.
 •Europe—Union has not proven as easy or as popular as anticipated. It has long been pointed out that the EU has all the trappings of a neofascist state without the controlling ideology. That could change, and not necessarily for the better. Consider the UK or Ireland attempting to secede from the EU under such circumstances. The technical name for this is “civil war.” (Interestingly, one of the few novels to deal with the concept of European union, Angus Wilson’s satirical SF novel The Old Men at the Zoo, climaxes with exactly such a scenario.)
•Mexico—A potential government takeover by one of the cartels, or alternately a front politician under their control, would turn our southern border into even more of a war zone than it is already. We have been ignoring the Mexican drug war for several years now. We may not have this luxury for much longer.
•A Revived United Arab Republic—The “Arab Spring” has not turned out to be as happy an event as many of us hoped. The most powerful political group in the Arab states is the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret society with fascist antecedents considered to be the grandfather of all Islamic terrorist and Jihadi organizations. Any or all of the “liberated” Arab nations could fall prey to this outfit. (It appears that Egypt is doing so now.) The ramifications will be nothing but ugly.
•And let’s not forget the jihadis while we’re at it. That’s a fifty-year war and we are only one-fifth of the way through it.
Beyond these, we have the “unknown unknowns”—potential threats that we simply cannot foresee. An informed European of 1910 would never have guessed at fascism, Nazism, or communism, which dominated much of the 20th century and came close to destroying Europe. What awaits us in the next half-century is anybody’s guess. (How about a combination of the Singularity and neofascism?) Keeping in mind the words of a great statesman (Calvin Coolidge): “If you see ten troubles comin’ down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into a ditch before they get to you,” one or more of these will confront the U.S. while we are at the same time repairing the ravages of recent excesses, maintaining our standing in the international community, and fulfilling our obligations to our allies and treaty partners. There have been easier periods for this country.
We are no longer a hyperpower, and the status of superpower is slipping from our grasp. Within a decade, the U.S. will be merely one great power among a rising cohort of powers. We no longer possess the forces that defeated the Soviet Union, twice humiliated the armies of Saddam Hussein, and that for decades have guaranteed peaceful commerce across the oceans of the world. While much can be accomplished through diplomacy and alliances with other powers, situations will arise in which military force is the sole option. We must find alternatives to the vast resources that are no longer available to us.
We will not, for the foreseeable future, have access to the traditional American method of spending more money to buy more guns than anyone else on earth can afford. What does that leave us? With yet another traditional American method, one that used to be called “Yankee ingenuity”: using technology to solve problems that cannot be addressed in any other way.

The RMA and the American Dilemma

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)2 is the formal name for changes in warfare brought about by technological innovation in the post-Vietnam period. Originally a Soviet concept, the RMA involves advances in such fields as computers, sensor technology, guidance systems, and communications which together hold the potential to increase the destructive capabilities of weaponry by an order of magnitude. Examples include precision-guided munitions (PGMs), stealth aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Considerable debate has occurred concerning the RMA’s effect on operations, strategy, tactics, and doctrine.
The RMA fell into disrepute after defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld utilized it as the basis of his “transformational” doctrine for the U.S. military. It was the source of the infamous “light footprint,” in which small, technologically advanced forces would destroy much larger conventional armies, requireing reduced outlay in time, resources, and finances. Rumsfeld was not completely mistaken—the forces that defeated Saddam Hussein in 2003 were much smaller than those dispatched to the Gulf in 1990. Technology made up the difference. What Rumsfeld overlooked was the fact that occupation and combat are two different things. Occupation requires large numbers of boots on the ground to assure security, control, and a smooth transition of power. The failure to meet those requirements in the wake of the Second Gulf War resulted in a lengthy guerilla conflict which sapped American resolve and nearly cost us the victory.
Over the past few years, military thinkers have begun to acknowledge that the RMA, far from being discredited, will continue to influence military affairs for the foreseeable future. Technology remains a major driver of military innovation and despite everything the United States remains the forerunner in technology. A 2008 RAND study, “U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology”3 found that the U.S. spends 40 percent of the world’s budget for research, produces 38 percent of new patents, and 63 percent of cited research papers. We also lead in application. The U.S. is the sole nation to have fielded a fleet of stealth fighters and bombers, the sole nation to have made the transition to combat drones, the first adaptor of battlefield robotics, and is very likely the first nation (along with its junior partner Israel) to have created and utilized a cyberwarhead. Technology will enable the United States to endure the challenges to come, and to put the fear of Uncle Sam anew into the world’s bandits, fanatics, and would-be Napoleons.

Maritime Power

Naval power is the most important aspect of American military strength. The seapower thesis of Alfred Thayer Mahan4— that the United States comprises a “continental island” closer in nature to maritime states such as Japan and the UK than to the continental powers of Eurasia—has proven far more durable than most 19th-century geopolitical theories.
Since the destruction of the Japanese Imperial Fleet in 1944, the U.S. Navy has had no serious rival for control of the seas. For a short period in the 1980s the development of a Soviet blue-water navy caused some worries, but those ended along with the USSR. It is no coincidence that international trade based on maritime shipping underwent a boom during the postwar period. Security provided by U.S. naval dominance of the world’s oceans was a major factor in economic globalization. The vast amounts spent on America’s fleets have repaid themselves many times over.
In the early 21st century, U.S. maritime power faces its first major challenge in nearly seventy years. The fleet is steadily shrinking. In August 2011 it stood at 284 ships, less than half the 575 in commission twenty years ago. At the same time, several foreign fleets are in the process of establishing themselves as serious competitors. The Indian Navy is friendly. The Chinese and Iranian navies, not so much. In addition, piracy has undergone a dramatic rebirth, in Somalia in particular but also in areas such as the Indonesian archipelago. The 21st century sailor will have his hands full.
The Navy’s plan to meet these challenges is embodied in a doctrine called “AirSea Battle.” While little is known about this new strategy, it can be assumed to be a maritime version of AirLand Battle, the U.S. Army’s extremely effective late 20th century ground-combat strategy. AirLand Battle was based on the theories of the eccentric but brilliant USAF officer Col. John Boyd5, who spent a lifetime attempting to create a universal theory of warfare. AirLand Battle is a complex strategy of maneuver utilizing Boyd’s “decision cycle” (also known as the “OODA Cycle”)6, in which actions carried out at an accelerated pace deny the enemy any opportunity to respond. Large-scale disruptive aerial attacks are followed with swift flank attacks by mechanized units, assaulting not fixed geographic targets such as cities or bases, or even distinct military formations, but any enemy force within reach. The goal is to confuse and disrupt the enemy until utter collapse ensues. AirLand Battle is a strategy by which small, outnumbered forces can defeat much larger opponents through speed, maneuver, and initiative.
AirLand Battle never saw action against the Warsaw Pact, its original target, but found its moment in the two campaigns against the Iraqi Army. These were virtual textbook operations, with the U.S.-led Coalition dominating the battlespace from the start and swiftly subduing the Iraqis with very few direct engagements.
AirSea Battle7 is a combined-services strategy in which the USAF and Navy will act as a single offensive force. Working from the AirLand Battle template, we can assume that USAF long-range air assets will strike first, disrupting and demoralizing enemy maritime forces. They will be followed by naval air, surface, and submarine elements, striking with PGMs, cruise missiles, and long-range torpedoes. If carried out with the same ferocity as AirLand Battle, this strategy would climax with surviving enemy units fleeing the battlespace, leaving it dominated by U.S. naval forces.
Two major questions arise: can such a strategy be carried out by a steadily shrinking Navy? And can a strategy so dependent on the ever more vulnerable aircraft carrier remain viable into the 21st century?
Fleet carriers are among the most impressive warships ever to take to sea. But all things move toward their end, and carriers of the Nimitz and Ford class may have seen their day. The Chinese, the most serious maritime challenge facing our Navy, are doing their best to make the carrier obsolete. China considers the South China Sea as its territory, going so far as to refer to it as “blue soil,” an inherent part of the Chinese heritage. It has laid claim to the Spratleys, the Paracels, and other small island chains in defiance of Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. It has never given up its claim to Taiwan. It has suggested that other states—specifically the U.S.—abandon all interest in the area, in clear disregard of current treaties and the traditional law of the sea. (The U.S. is responding by sending its first three operational Littoral Combat Ships8 into the South China Sea. This is a carefully calibrated riposte: while not strategic assets, these shallow-water vessels—which the media have taken to calling “stealth ships”—are capable of a variety of missions including shore assault, reconnaissance and surveillance, special warfare, and deep-water combat. The message is easily read: we’re ready for anything.)

Whatever Chinese plans may be, one element that can upset them is the aircraft carrier. Each possesses the combat power of a medium-sized nation, unmatched versatility, and the moral force of a weapon that has never been adequately countered. The Chinese have worried about them for a long time, and have put a lot of work into countermeasures. These include:
 •Cruise Missiles—Entire families of sea-launched cruise missiles are deployed on both surface ships—including fast patrol craft—and submarines.
•Song Class Diesel Submarines, —quite capable and very difficult to detect9. In 2006, a Song-class sub surfaced without warning only a short distance from the USS Kitty Hawk.
•The J-20 Stealth Fighter——from its size clearly not an air-superiority aircraft, but most likely intended as a strike aircraft10. It would be surprising if it wasn’t used against carriers.
•The DF-21D Ballistic Missile—over the past year, a new version of the DF-21 MRBM with anti-ship capabilities has been fielded11. The Chinese can deploy hundreds of these missiles in a short time frame.
•Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons (EMP)—China has apparently modified a number of nuclear warheads to trigger a high-altitude EMP pulse capable of damaging or destroying nearby electronic equipment12. While some are intended for use against Taiwan, others may target aircraft carriers. The code names of these weapons are “Assassin’s Mace” for older warheads and “Trump Card” for warheads using newer technology. (This is a good opportunity to kill the “EMP as national threat” myth. There’s been a lot of rhetoric expended claiming that the pulse from a single nuclear warhead set off 200 miles above the U.S. could fry all electronics gear across the country and plunge us into a new dark age. Well maybe, under perfect laboratory conditions, but even that’s doubtful. As a physicist pointed out to me, for this to work, you need to have more energy coming out than the original explosion put in. A little thing called the First Law of Thermodynamics forbids this.)

It would be a difficult trick to carry out a warfighting strategy with one of its central elements at the bottom of the briny deep. Potential defenses exist, chief among them directed-energy weapons. High-energy lasers would defeat most anti-ship threats, in particular missiles of all varieties. Unfortunately, the free-electron laser (FEL), the most well-adapted for naval use (FELs are tunable and can be fired at the best wavelengths to cut through sea haze, salt spray, fog, and other maritime commonplaces), was canceled by Congress last June13. (The Navy’s primary new offensive weapon, the electromagnetic railgun, was canceled at the same time.) Nothing less than such a universal defense will do. The Kamikaze campaign of 1945 clearly demonstrated how difficult it is to defend ships from determined attack. It won’t require the loss of very many $15 billion carriers along with their air wings to drive the U.S. out of the South China Sea or the Persian Gulf more or less permanently.
While the Chinese launched their first carrier—formerly the Ukrainian Varyag—this past summer, and are constructing at least two domestic carriers, they possess no support craft or escorts to sail with them. They’re unlikely to play a major role in the time-span we’re considering here.
But the fleet carrier is by no means the ultimate evolution of the aircraft carrier. The Navy has already studied the feasibility of smaller carriers14. In fact, future carriers may not resemble our current models, with their vast and crowded flight decks, in any fashion at all.
The key to this development is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle—the combat drone. The Navy came late to the drone revolution, but in recent years has gone all out to catch up. Last February marked the debut of the Northrop Grumman X-47B, a drone designed to take off and land on a carrier15. The Navy wants drones operating with carrier forces by 2018. Subsequent development of drones is likely to transform the carrier itself. There is no reason why drones need to operate exactly like manned aircraft, requiring a flight deck, arrestor gear, and the entire panoply of traditional naval aviation. Properly designed drones could be launched from any type of surface ship, or, for that matter, from submarines running underwater. It’s possible to foresee a time when every naval vessel, including support ships, operates a unit of drones, from a dozen aboard a support vessel such as a tanker to fifty or more aboard a guided missile cruiser.
Such drones would be very different birds from today’s pioneer models—nearly autonomous, cheap, and far more capable. They could well be expendable, with no recovery necessary. (The USAF has already fielded such a design, the MALD. See below.) It’s possible that they wouldn’t even be armed, instead destroying their targets by kinetic kill. Consider a swarm of hundreds of small, fast, maneuverable drones suddenly appearing out of nowhere, with no obvious source (and target) like a conventional aircraft carrier in sight. Such a capability would complicate enemy strategy immeasurably. It would also go a long way toward lowering the cost of a fleet and increasing the number of available combat vessels.
The drone revolution is by no means limited to aerial platforms. Application of drone technology to both surface and submersible craft is in process. Former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead initiated development of a long-range UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle), a robot submarine capable of operating independently for long periods on missions covering thousands of miles16. Roughead envisioned a basic guidance system and power plant module that can be reconfigured with weapon and sensor suites tailored for each particular mission. Such UUVs would patrol independently, report in by satellite linkage, and return to port on their own. Smaller versions could act as drone torpedoes, maintaining station on a semi-permanent basis and launching themselves at enemy shipping when the war signal arrives.
Necessary technology such as advanced AI algorithms and compact power plants remains enticingly out of reach. But less complex versions of such UUVs could very likely be launched today. These drones could accompany a fleet, acting as a first line of defense against enemy subs, be monitored constantly and rendezvous with surface vessels for maintenance and refueling. Such drones would be relatively cheap and expendable where manned submarines would not be.

Preliminary work has also been done on surface drones by the Navy in cooperation with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the DoD’s in-house research department, particularly involving an unmanned frigate, the Anti-submarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV)17. An ACTUV could patrol vast areas of ocean for months with no human input. On encountering a sub, it would notify its naval HQ, and perhaps also latch onto the sub’s signal and follow it wherever it went, rendering the crew’s life incredibly nerve-wracking. One interesting development involves the Navy’s creation of an online game, ACTUV Tactics, where outside players compete as ACTUV’s or sub skippers, in order to work out the best tactics to encode as operational algorithms18. (What’s that you say? Potential enemy sub skippers can log on too, and learn all the tricks? I guess nothing’s perfect.)
Another weapon overdue for technological enhancement is the sea mine, an often underrated asset. During the last months of WW II, mines dropped from USAAF B-29 Superfortresses into the Inland Sea and coastal areas brought Japanese maritime activity to a standstill, completely isolating the Home Islands.
The 21st century mine will be a far cry from the anchored “dumb” mines of WW II. They will have limited autonomous capability, be able to detect and target individual ships, avoid minesweepers, and maneuver into optimal attack positions. Several warheads could be fitted with programmable fuses to suit the targets. Networks of these mines would communicate and coordinate their attacks. Enemy fleets and merchant marine vessels might well be locked into their ports, unable to emerge for fear of hordes of “smart mines.” When hostilities end, the mines would be signaled to surface and wait for pickup.
A picture of the fleet to come begins to take form, surrounded by a cloud of undetectable drones, preceded by a shield of small unmanned submarines, with robot frigates patrolling the fringes, and the manned ships on the center. Small in numbers, and nowhere near as impressive as a Nimitz-class carrier and its escorts, but with a potential combat power orders of magnitude greater than any current fleet. Stealthed, laser and railgun armed (we can assume that these programs are on “zombie” status, with current work carefully preserved and waiting for funding), integrated into satellite weather, detection, and communication systems, capable of tracking targets at the other side of the ocean and engaging them at half that distance. Such a fleet would possess capabilities unknown up to this point in time, and perhaps unguessable even today.

Maintaining Air Superiority

For several decades, the U.S. Air Force has carried the banner of military technological innovation. Working with DARPA, the “Pentagon’s mad scientists,” the USAF has been responsible for the most spectacular and effective technological breakthroughs of recent years, including stealth aircraft and the combat drone. Can this partnership prevail into the 21st century?
Since WW II, the U.S. has possessed effective air superiority over other combatants. Except for short periods over Korea in 1950-51 and Vietnam in 1966-67, American superiority was so overwhelming that at times opponents didn’t even dare challenge it. During the First Gulf War (1991), Iraqi Air Force units defected en masse to Iran to avoid destruction by Coalition air assets. After the Hussein regime was overthrown in 2003, pathetic little monuments were found in the desert where Iraqi MiGs had been buried in sand to protect them.
Technology was the leading reason for American superiority in the air. Following the Korean War, John Boyd discovered that the USAF had gained ascendancy over Communist air forces when the F-86E Sabre was introduced to combat in 1952. Unlike earlier models, the E Sabre featured hydraulic controls, enabling it to shift from one maneuver to the next before enemy MiG-15s could react. This created an extraordinary situation in which the USAF was provided with the winning edge without even realizing it. (This insight formed the basis of Boyd’s “decision cycle” thesis.)
While the U.S. currently retains this edge, there’s no guarantee it will keep it. Aviation technology is a fast-changing field, sensitive to breakthroughs in many technical disciplines. Both Russia and China have tested stealth fighters, with the Russians claiming their Sukhoi PAK TA T-50 as fully equal to the USAF’s F-22 Raptor, the premier U.S. air superiority aircraft19. Production of the Raptor was capped at 187 planes by Secretary Gates over the protests of Air Force staff. While Gates claimed that the less-capable F-35 Lightning II would take up the slack, questions about program costs and delays have arisen over the past year. (Both the F-22 and F-35 have experienced serious systemic flaws over the past year that led to some aircraft being grounded. These should be viewed as shakedown problems not uncommon among new high-performance aircraft. The B-29, the bomber that defeated Japan, had numerous failings including uncontrollable engine fires and windows popping out at high altitude. The F-86 killed so many pilots that it was called the “lieutenant eater.” The B-47, the first strategic jet bomber, had a particularly stark drawback—in the early models, the wings tended to fall off during sharp turns.) The Marine Corps S/VTOL version is currently “on probation” and may well be cancelled. We could end up with far fewer than the 2,400 F-35s planned.
Another threat lies in advances in radar. It is possible to design a radar system that can detect, if not track, stealth aircraft. Australia’s JORN (Jindalee Operational Radar Network) system detects the turbulence created by an aircraft’s passage and is claimed to have a range of several thousand miles20. The Chinese are known to be working on an ultra-high frequency radar for the purpose of defeating stealth. It is easily possible that further advances could negate the stealth advantage, leaving the U.S. without air superiority for the first time since 1944.

The answer to this dilemma may well lie in the UAV. It’s remarkable to consider that the drone revolution that has transformed so many aspects of warfare was a matter of pure inadvertence. The original MQ-1 Predator drones were unarmed and were retrofitted with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles only after it was realized that the time lag between drones detecting a target and a fighter-bomber response was unnecessary. Since that time, drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper have been designed for weapons carriage from the first. We can assume that all drones from this point on will possess at least the capability of being armed.
It has been understood since 1972, when a Ryan Firebee operated by remote control easily outmaneuvered an F-4 Phantom in a series of dogfights, that drones could operate in the air-superiority role. It would be a simple matter to fit Predators or Reapers with AIM-9 Sidewinder or AIM-120 AMRAAM missile kits to enable them to operate as fighters. But both lack necessary speed and maneuverability, although the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” drone, with its stealthy features and swept wings, appears to be approaching that level.
There’s little reason to doubt that DARPA, in its thorough way, is working on such aircraft and that prototypes may be flying at this moment at Groom Lake or a similar test base.
On the other hand, the future may already have arrived in the form of the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD), a small, expendable drone designed to confuse and overwhelm air defense radars21. MALDs can be programmed to maneuver precisely like manned aircraft, and can be launched by the hundreds from transports, hopelessly saturating any current air-defense system. Raytheon has begun developing versions of the MALD fitted with sensors and warheads, transforming them into armed fighter drones.
A MALD air-superiority system could be deployed in a number of ways. They could be launched from transports or AWACs (launch racks have been developed for this purpose), goading an opponent into sending up his aircraft, which would then be downed en masse by the drones. Range could be extended by shutting off the engine and gliding, or alternately by zooming up to high altitude, deploying a balloon or parachute, and drifting until a threat appears. (A USAF anti-radiation missile, the AGM-136 Tacit Rainbow, operates on this principle.)
Manned fighters carrying MALDs in lieu of bombs or external fuel tanks could launch them just before coming into enemy radar range. After the first wave of drones engaged the enemy, the F-15s and F-22s would fly in to mop up.
Whatever the technique (and experienced pilots and weapons officers will no doubt come up with far more intricate and effective tactics), it is clear that cheap drones can make up for shortfalls in manned air-superiority aircraft. With its current head start in UAV technology, the U.S. need not drop into second place (and in air combat, anything below number one is the loser) anytime soon. It’s also clear that drones will not “replace” so much as supplement manned fighter aircraft for the foreseeable future. There will always be a need for conscious mentalities, if only to figure out when the battle’s over.

A Bomber Revival?

The USAF has traditionally been a bomber service, its major mission that of strategic bombing, its legendary figures—Mitchell, Arnold, Spaatz, LeMay—bomber pilots and commanders. It was only in recent years that fighter pilots were granted the same lofty status as the bomber aristocracy.

But the manned bomber has had a rough time in recent decades, squeezed between improved air defenses and the titanic expense required to overcome them. Of the last three proposed strategic bombers, the B-70 Valkyrie was cancelled outright in the early 1960s, the B-1 Lancer was cancelled and then resurrected in the 1980s, and the B-2 Spirit, the storied “stealth bomber,” was limited by its cost of over $1 billion apiece to only 21 aircraft (20 of which are still flying, one having crashed at Guam in February 2008). The Air Force currently possesses under 200 strategic bombers, a derisory number compared the thousands deployed during the Cold War, much less the tens of thousands that fought WW II.
But drone technology may, paradoxically, rescue the manned bomber. Secretary Gates cancelled a bomber scheduled to be fielded by 2018. Apparently having second thoughts, Gates green-lighted a new bomber project just before his retirement. This Deep Strike Aircraft will be a stealth model that can fly either manned or unmanned, depending on mission requirements. While little is known about the B-3’s actual configuration, the bomber would possess both conventional and nuclear capability, carrying PGMs, bunker-busters, or air-to-ground rockets. Defense could be provided by high-energy lasers and also by versions of the MALD with the B-3 in effect carrying its own escort force, deployed upon entering hostile airspace and accompanying the bomber on its run against a target. (Aviation buffs will recognize this as the millennial version of the XF-85 Goblin, a late 1940s fighter designed for carriage by the B-36 as an escort plane. If you wait long enough, every technical gimmick comes around for a second run.) Over $4 billion has been budgeted for strike aircraft development. If all goes according to schedule, 80 to 100 B-3s will join the inventory sometime in the mid 2020s22.
Another revival is the Prompt Global Strike system, a weapon that could hit targets at intercontinental distances from CONUS (the Continental United States) within two hours. This weapon could strike high-value targets of temporary nature (say, a conference of terrorist leaders) without the diplomatic complications that might arise from launching an attack from a third-party state.
Several attempts have been made to develop such an asset, including a proposal to utilize surplus ICBMs or submarine-launched missiles in the role that was abandoned after it became apparent that there was no plausible way to assure bystander nations that they weren’t packed full of nuclear warheads. Attention shifted to hypersonic aircraft, with several projects initiated, including the Falcon (Force Application and Launch from CONUS), a reusable hypersonic cruise vehicle launched by rocket and capable of carrying a 12,000 lb. payload up to 9,000 miles, and the Blackswift, a Mach 6 multimission aircraft developed by DARPA for use as a spy plane, bomber, or satellite launcher23. Although funding of $1 billion was authorized, the Blackswift was cancelled in 2009.
But the hypersonic aircraft concept proved too tough to kill. The past year has seen some promising developments, including a successful test of the USAF’s X-51 hypersonic missile and flights by the Falcon HTV-2 which, though not flawless (the Falcons lost telemetry links with the ground and shut themselves down), produced valuable data. It was further revealed that yet another hypersonic bomber project, dubbed “Son of Blackswift” is under development. It appears that the U.S. will have an intercontinental fist to add to its conventional arsenal.
The United States need not relinquish its superiority as regards air power. The crucial question involves funding. Aerospace technology is expensive and often the first to be cut, as shown by the B-70, the B-1, and the Blackswift. But such cuts often represent false economies. Early in WW II, American pilots were forced to fight in sturdy but obsolescent aircraft such as the Bell P-39 and the Curtiss P-40 that simply could not stand up to the Luftwaffe’s Me-109s and Fw-190s, much less the superb Mitsubishi A6M Zero. It required two years for adequate American designs to appear. It would take far longer today, and wars in the millennial era simply don’t last that long. (The UK, on the other hand, spent large amounts during the mid-1930s developing fast, maneuverable eight-gun fighters, the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire. These aircraft saved the country during the Battle of Britain.)

End Notes for Part One:
 1. Calling all Seals!
7. percent202010/0810battle.aspx
19. percent3A27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post percent3A021e786e-04be-426b-ad32-dcbb54b90d00
Power User
Posts: 42449

« Reply #31 on: October 16, 2011, 07:27:30 PM »

An awesome post GM.

To facilitate it as a reference source, would you please post it in the Military Science thread as well?
Power User
Posts: 15530

« Reply #32 on: October 17, 2011, 03:54:54 PM »

“Primeval Anarchy” … I Didn’t Write This

by Kenneth Anderson

Via The Multilateralist, a speech by Shiv Shankar Menon, a former Indian foreign minister and senior security official:

“[W]hile domestic societies have evolved or are evolving towards rule of law, international society is still much closer to primeval anarchy…
…[W]e seem to be entering a phase of increasing militarization of international relations. Look at recent developments in the Middle East, where conventional air power, covert and Special Forces, and internet social media have been used in new tactical combinations with old fashioned propaganda and international institutions to change regimes and create political outcomes…
…We live in a time where international law remains underdeveloped, international governance is non-existent or weak, and international society is fundamentally anarchic. As a result the role of force in international relations has been magnified. But the age of weapons of mass destruction and newer technologies make it essential that we consider new ways of regulating the use of force in international relations.
As David Bosco notes:

The speech raises the question of how the major emerging powers perceive the existing global governance system. Menon, a former foreign minister, appears to view the current system as almost entirely ineffective, at least in terms of its core purpose of restraining violence. I don’t think many Western foreign-policy thinkers or senior government officials would share that grim view, although they would undoubtedly concede all sorts of problems and shortcomings.
Well, count me among those who look at the rise of the new great powers and multipolarity and see less liberal internationalism, defined as the subordination of international power politics to global institutions and international law, and more nation-state competition.  It’s an exaggeration, but in the new-new world order, liberal internationalism is “stranded capital,” an explanation that continues a discourse within its own circles but explains the world of international security less and less. I don’t understand it, frankly; to my mind, there’s a weird complacency in international law scholarship about the inevitable path forward of global governance; of course I could just be wrong and it’s not weird because it’s true, but I would have thought that there was a need to grapple more directly with this kind of realism. Because in the most dynamic circles – the rising, jostling new powers – the discussion seems occasionally to take the liberal internationalist turn when strategically useful in conversation with the old powers, but in its actual implementation appears to be firmly rooted in hard realism.
Bosco offers a couple of hypotheses for why the language of the emerging new powers in Asia is so hard-realist, rather than liberal internationalist. My own view is that liberal internationalism sheltered under American hegemony; as that is perceived in retreat, then self-protective realism reasserts itself.  It doesn’t matter especially in Europe, facing no territorial threats and in any case the final beneficiary of, the residual claimant upon, American hegemony via NATO.  But it matters in Asia, where the possibility of disastrous interstate war can never be discounted, and where the retreat, or even perceived retreat, of American authority and hegemony can have enormous and bad consequences.
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« Reply #33 on: October 17, 2011, 04:25:58 PM »

…We live in a time where international law remains underdeveloped, international governance is non-existent or weak, and international society is fundamentally anarchic. As a result the role of force in international relations has been magnified. But the age of weapons of mass destruction and newer technologies make it essential that we consider new ways of regulating the use of force in international relations.

blah blah blah

One world government with Brock as head.  Then we will have all the international laws anyone could want - and more.  Personally I don't want to give up our sovereignty to some international judicial system.
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« Reply #34 on: October 17, 2011, 04:29:40 PM »

It just goes to show all the fantasies about the UN being the "Federation of Planets" is just so much B.S.

No US power, no UN.

Just international relations as they have always been, red in tooth and claw.
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« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2011, 06:14:37 AM »


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« Reply #36 on: November 03, 2011, 10:52:00 AM »

The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor
5:53PM BST 23 Oct 2011
Assumptions that the Great Republic must inevitably spiral into economic and strategic decline - so like the chatter of the late 1980s, when Japan was in vogue - will seem wildly off the mark by then.
Telegraph readers already know about the "shale gas revolution" that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.
Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing - breaking rocks with jets of water - will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.
"The US was the single largest contributor to global oil supply growth last year, with a net 395,000 barrels per day (b/d)," said Francisco Blanch from Bank of America, comparing the Dakota fields to a new North Sea.
Total US shale output is "set to expand dramatically" as fresh sources come on stream, possibly reaching 5.5m b/d by mid-decade. This is a tenfold rise since 2009.
The US already meets 72pc of its own oil needs, up from around 50pc a decade ago.
"The implications of this shift are very large for geopolitics, energy security, historical military alliances and economic activity. As US reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, Europe is turning more dependent and will likely become more exposed to rent-seeking behaviour from oligopolistic players," said Mr Blanch.
Meanwhile, the China-US seesaw is about to swing the other way. Offshoring is out, 're-inshoring' is the new fashion.
"Made in America, Again" - a report this month by Boston Consulting Group - said Chinese wage inflation running at 16pc a year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the "default location" for cheap plants supplying the US.
A "tipping point" is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals, and even furniture.
"A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back," said BCG's Harold Sirkin.
The gap in "productivity-adjusted wages" will narrow from 22pc of US levels in 2005 to 43pc (61pc for the US South) by 2015. Add in shipping costs, reliability woes, technology piracy, and the advantage shifts back to the US.
The list of "repatriates" is growing. Farouk Systems is bringing back assembly of hair dryers to Texas after counterfeiting problems; ET Water Systems has switched its irrigation products to California; Master Lock is returning to Milwaukee, and NCR is bringing back its ATM output to Georgia. NatLabs is coming home to Florida.
Boston Consulting expects up to 800,000 manufacturing jobs to return to the US by mid-decade, with a multiplier effect creating 3.2m in total. This would take some sting out of the Long Slump.
As Philadelphia Fed chief Sandra Pianalto said last week, US manufacturing is "very competitive" at the current dollar exchange rate. Whether intended or not, the Fed's zero rates and $2.3 trillion printing blitz have brought matters to an abrupt head for China.
Fed actions confronted Beijing with a Morton's Fork of ugly choices: revalue the yuan, or hang onto the mercantilist dollar peg and import a US monetary policy that is far too loose for a red-hot economy at the top of the cycle. Either choice erodes China's wage advantage. The Communist Party chose inflation.
Foreign exchange effects are subtle. They take a long to time play out as old plant slowly runs down, and fresh investment goes elsewhere. Yet you can see the damage to Europe from an over-strong euro in foreign direct investment (FDI) data.
Flows into the EU collapsed by 63p from 2007 to 2010 (UNCTAD data), and fell by 77pc in Italy. Flows into the US rose by 5pc.
Volkswagen is investing $4bn in America, led by its Chattanooga Passat plant. Korea's Samsung has begun a $20bn US investment blitz. Meanwhile, Intel, GM, and Caterpillar and other US firms are opting to stay at home rather than invest abroad.
Europe has only itself to blame for the current “hollowing out” of its industrial base. It craved its own reserve currency, without understanding how costly this “exorbitant burden” might prove to be.
China and the rising reserve powers have rotated a large chunk of their $10 trillion stash into EMU bonds to reduce their dollar weighting. The result is a euro too strong for half of EMU.
The European Central Bank has since made matters worse (for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France) by keeping rates above those of the US, UK, and Japan. That has been a deliberate policy choice. It let real M1 deposits in Italy contract at a 7pc annual rate over the summer. May it live with the consequences.
The trade-weighted dollar has been sliding for a decade, falling 37pc since 2001. This roughly replicates the post-Plaza slide in the late 1980s, which was followed - with a lag - by 3pc of GDP shrinkage in the current account deficit. The US had a surplus by 1991.
Charles Dumas and Diana Choyleva from Lombard Street Research argue that this may happen again in their new book "The American Phoenix".
The switch in advantage to the US is relative. It does not imply a healthy US recovery. The global depression will grind on as much of the Western world tightens fiscal policy and slowly purges debt, and as China deflates its credit bubble.
Yet America retains a pack of trump cards, and not just in sixteen of the world’s top twenty universities.
It is almost the only economic power with a fertility rate above 2.0 - and therefore the ability to outgrow debt - in sharp contrast to the demographic decay awaiting Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Italy, and Russia.
Europe's EMU soap opera has shown why it matters that America is a genuine nation, forged by shared language and the ancestral chords of memory over two centuries, with institutions that ultimately work and a real central bank able to back-stop the system.
The 21st Century may be American after all, just like the last.
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« Reply #37 on: November 03, 2011, 10:55:07 AM »

The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor

I sure hope he's right.
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« Reply #38 on: November 03, 2011, 10:57:28 AM »

The Case for Pessimism

Mark Steyn — November 2011

This article is from our special November issue, which focuses on the future of America. Also in the issue is John Podhoretz’s Case for Optimism and a COMMENTARY symposium featuring 41 American thinkers and writers who answer the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?  We will be posting two symposium contributions daily on our blog. Click here to read the most recently posted symposium contribution.
In September 2009, Barack Obama and Muammar Qaddafi both addressed the United Nations. It is a pitiful reflection upon the Republic in twilight that, when it comes to the transnational mush drooled by the leader of the free world or the conspiracist ramblings of a pseudo-Bedouin terrorist drag queen presiding over a one-man psycho-cult basket case, it’s more or less a toss-up as to which of them was the more unreal.
Qaddafi spoke for 90 minutes, and in the midst of his torrent of words, his translator actually broke down and cried out, “I can’t take it anymore.” The colonel gravely informed the world body that the swine flu was a virus that had been created in a government laboratory, and he called for a UN inquiry into the Kennedy assassination on the grounds that Jack Ruby was an Israeli who killed Lee Harvey Oswald to stop the truth coming out about Kennedy being killed to prevent an investigation into the Zionist nuclear facility at Dimona.
On the other hand:
“I have been in office for just nine months, though some days it seems a lot longer,” President Obama mused. “I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted, I believe, in a discontent with the status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences.”
Now, forget the first part, which was just Obama’s usual narcissistic “but enough about me; let’s talk about what the world thinks about me” shtick. It was the second part of Obama’s remarks that reveals the danger we find ourselves in, two years later, even with Qaddafi toppled and in hiding and Jack Ruby’s Israeli roots still unexplored.
The thing is, for better or worse, we are defined by our differences, and if Barack Obama didn’t understand that when he was at a podium addressing a room filled with representatives of Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Venezuela, and the whole gang of evil, the rest of the world certainly did as soon as Qaddafi appeared. Obama and Qaddafi may both have been the heads of state of sovereign nations, but if you’re on an Indian Ocean island when the next tsunami hits, try calling Libya instead of the United States for help and see where it gets you.
The global reach that enables America and a handful of other nations to get to a devastated backwater on the other side of the planet and save lives and restore the water supply in a matter of days isn’t a happy accident or a quirk of fate. It is something that derives explicitly from our political system, our economic liberty, our traditions of scientific and cultural innovation, and a general understanding that societies advance when their citizens are able to fulfill their potential in freedom.
In other words, America and Libya are defined by nothing but their differences, even though the very thought of “differences” seemed to pain the president on that day. “No nation,” he announced to the assembled warmongers and genociders, both actual and would-be, “can or should try to dominate another nation.”
As far as I’m aware, neither Qaddafi’s translator nor anyone else screamed “I can’t take this anymore” and fled the room. But someone should have. Whether or not any nation should try to dominate another, they certainly can. And they have. Nations have sought to dominate others and have succeeded at it with ease all over the planet and throughout human history.
So who’s next? According to the International Monetary Fund, China will become the planet’s leading economy in the year 2016.
If the IMF is right, in five years’ time, the preeminent economic power on the planet will be a one-party state with a Communist Politburo and a largely peasant population, no genuine market, no human rights, no property rights, no rule of law, no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, no freedom of association. It will mark the end of a two-century Anglophone dominance, and—even more civilizationally startling—for the first time in a half millennium the leading economic power will be a country that doesn’t even use the Roman alphabet.
Whether or not this preeminent China should dominate other nations, it certainly can. And it certainly will.
If you think like President Obama and believe nations are not defined by their differences, then China’s great leap forward is not that big a deal. But if you think, like someone who has given it a moment’s thought, that nations are defined by their differences, it is a very big deal. Most immediately, it means that the fellow elected next November will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s leading economy. This should be a source of shame to every American. It is not. Not yet. Instead, we battle over trivialities.
Washington spent most of the summer of 2011 gripped by the debt-ceiling showdown. Cable-news correspondents stood outside the White House and the Capitol all day long, reporting the comings and goings of the movers and shakers. Everyone was agog as to whether the president and the administration would reach a deal before the clock chimed midnight on August 2, whereupon the president’s lavishly weaponized Canadian-manufactured black coach in which he toured Iowa would turn back into a pumpkin.
Now, just to put this so-called debt-ceiling battle, in which the Republicans were supposedly battling to secure budget cuts that would destroy the social safety net, in perspective: there was a dispute between Speaker of the House John Boehner and the Congressional Budget Office about the so-called scoring of the plan that eventually passed and was signed by the president. Boehner said the plan called for $7 billion in cuts for the 2012 budget. The CBO said the plan only reduced the 2012 deficit by $1 billion.
Which of these numbers is correct?
Who cares?
The United States government currently spends one-fifth of a billion dollars that it doesn’t have every hour, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Ramadan. A fifth of a billion dollars every single hour—so the $7 billion that John Boehner calls “a real enforceable cut for financial year 2012” represents what the government of the United States currently borrows every 37 hours. In the time between the Friday announcement of the plan and the Sunday morning talk shows’ discussion of it, the government borrowed back every dime of those painstakingly negotiated savings.
On the other hand, if the CBO’s scoring is correct, and it reduces the 2012 deficit by just $1 billion, then the cut represents what the United States borrows every five hours and 20 minutes. Don’t bother waiting for the Sunday talk shows, because the savings will all be borrowed back in the time it would take you to read this issue of Commentary. But let’s give John Boehner the benefit of the doubt and concede that for a month of shuttling back and forth between the Capitol and the White House, he got a “real enforceable cut of $7 billion.”
In September, the president swanned into Congress for a nationally televised address on jobs and proposed, off the top of his head, another $477 billion in spending—a half trillion dollars we don’t have, that the world has no desire to lend us, and the majority of which will be “electronically created” by the United States Treasury selling its debt to the Federal Reserve under the policy called “quantitative easing.”
The politico-media class of this country seems to think it entirely normal that we should spend two months in tense, difficult, painstaking negotiations over how to go seven billion steps forward—and then breezily spend 20 minutes going 447 billion steps backwards. The inconsistency between the bottomless pit that supposedly awaited us on August 2 and the airy coverage of September 8 tells us a great deal about the unlikelihood of meaningful course correction in this country.
The other day a friend of mine watched the film The People Versus Larry Flynt, which tells in part of the battles between the title pornographer and a conservative activist named Charles Keating, who owned Savings and Loan. The film’s final card portentously informs us that “Charles Keating was part of the Savings and Loan scandal that cost American taxpayers $2 billion.” The People Versus Larry Flynt came out in 1996. That was a mere 15 years ago. And yet, just as we find it hard to comprehend that the average peasant in medieval England had to get by on six pennies a day, we now find it difficult to imagine an age lost in the myths of antiquity when there were scandals that cost American taxpayers a mere two billion dollars.
What a primitive society that must have been, barely advanced out of subsistence agriculture! Today, the government of the United States borrows $2 billion every 11 hours. We could have 220 Savings and Loan scandals for the cost of the Obama jobs bill. We could have 500 Savings and Loan scandals for the cost of one Obama stimulus package. We could have 850 Savings and Loan scandals for the cost of this year’s budget deficit. We could have vast armies of Charles Keating clones rampaging across the fruited plain, and they would barely make a dent in America’s finances.
Here’s another example of the kinds of dollars that are being thrown around now. The Obama administration’s $38.6 billion clean-technology program was supposed to “create or save 65,000 jobs.” Half the money has been spent, $17.2 billion, and we have 3,545 jobs to show for it. That works out to an impressive $4,851,904.09 per green job created. A world record! People say America can’t be number one anymore, but mister, we’re number one at this. The previous world record was held by Spanish taxpayers who subsidized every job on a solar panel assembly line to the tune of $800,000 per post. I’ll bet Spain thought that record was safe for a couple of years. Not so fast, amigos. The American taxpayers took it and sextupled it—not $800,000 per green job, but $4,800,000 per green job. I’d like to see those cheeseparing Spaniards reclaim that record any time soon!
Nobody spends like this. Nobody except us. Nobody uses the T word—trillion—except us. It’s easy to look at debt-to-GDP ratios and conclude there’s nothing to worry about, but when you’re squandering $4.8 million per artificial non-job, it’s not the comparative numbers that will kill you. It’s the sheer dollar sums.
There were three great citadels of Western civilization: Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem. It took a fourth, London, Washington’s immediate predecessor as the dominant power, to disseminate the ideas of Athenian democracy and Roman law and the Hebrew Bible to the farthest corners of the earth. America has signs of decline that follow the examples of all four.
Rome once built aqueducts, and then it stopped building aqueducts, and then the aqueducts it had built started to decay. At the dawn of big government, in the 1930s, we built the Hoover Dam. Then we stopped building dams. In September, in the town of Port Angeles in the state of Washington, there commenced the destruction of two century-old dams in order to “liberate” the Elwha River​. So now we’re dismantling dams.
You can see this at work—or rather, not at work—every time you’re on the isle of Manhattan. The Empire State Building was put up in one year and 45 days in the middle of a depression. Ground Zero is still a building site after a decade. 9/11 is something America’s enemies did to us. The 10-year hole in the ground is something we did to ourselves.
Now consider the people who went rampaging through the streets this summer in London. These are the children of dependency, people who have been marinated in stimulus within an inch of their lives, and they’re good for nothing but lobbing concrete through store windows so they can steal the latest models of electronic toys. They tore apart a city that, within living memory, governed a fifth of the earth’s surface and a quarter of its population. When you’re imperialist on that scale, you make a lot of mistakes. But nothing the British did to any of their subject peoples in far-flung corners of the globe compares with what they did post-imperially to their own population.
These are the great-grandchildren of a tiny island that stood alone against the Germans during the Blitz in that terrible year after the fall of France. If those Britons of mid-century were to come back, they would assume they had landed in some bizarro alternative universe—until, like Charlton Heston rounding the corner and seeing the shattered Statue of Liberty poking up out of the sands, they realize that the Planet of the Apes is their own. The evil of big government is not that it is a waste of money, but that it lays waste to people.
In Israel in the mid-1990s, an idea called normaliut seized hold of its populace. What it meant was that Israel wanted to live like any normal Western society. That was the real attraction of the 1993 Oslo peace accords. In a sense, it offered not merely a treaty negotiated in Oslo but the possibility to be Oslo, the chance for Israelis to live as Norwegians, to live as any other advanced Western nation. Instead, Israelis are on the military call-up list until 55—or about the age a Greek hairdresser gets to retire on full salary. Israel’s example suggests that if you think you’re an advanced Western democracy, but you don’t get to live like one, eventually the conflict between what you are and what the difficult circumstances ensuring you are not obliterated from existence require of you, you get worn down over time.
Israel implemented the terms of the Oslo accords, and in return Israelis got an Arafatist terror squat on their Eastern flank, suicide bombers on their buses, Iranian proxies to their north and west—and, in the wider world, isolation, demonization and delegitimization accompanied by a resurgent and ever more respectable anti-Semitism. The dream of normaliut didn’t work.
In 2008, the U.S. electorate also voted for normaliut. Americans voted to repudiate the previous years, dominated by terror attacks and Code Orange alerts and anthrax scares, and thankless semicolonial soldiering in corners of the map no one cared about. They were under the sway of a desperate hope that wars can simply come to an end when one side decides it’s all a bit of a bore. In reality-TV terms, the Great Satan wanted to vote itself off the island.
But as Israel understands by now, sometimes who you are is more important than anything you do. And sometimes who you are is an offense to those indifferent to anything you might or might not do. America will discover, as Israel did, that a one-way urge for normaliut will lead to a more dangerous world.
When you have government on the scale Europe enjoys and America has moved toward, there are hard choices to be made: as postwar Britain came to understand, you can have Scandinavian-style entitlements or a military of global reach, but you can’t have both. The current “supercommittee” or the next will find it easier to cut military commitments for which the public has little appetite than to shrink in any meaningful sense an ever more deeply ingrained transgenerational dependency culture.
And without a military or global reach, we will find the spaces in the Pax Americana left unoccupied like an underwater house in a Nevada real-estate development quickly filled by anti-American menaces. Last year, Die Welt reported that on a recent visit to Tehran, Hugo Chavez had signed an agreement to place Iranian missiles at a jointly operated military base in his satrapy, Venezuela. That’s how it begins. In the years ahead, distant enemies of this country will seed new proxies in Latin America as Iran did to Israel with Hamas and Hezbollah.
It starts with the money, but it doesn’t stop there: as all dominant nations learn, when money drains, power drains.
Nowhere can we see the effects of that truth better than in East Asia. China is already the world’s biggest manufacturer. It is already the world’s biggest exporter. It is the postcolonial patron of resource-rich Africa. It is the post-downturn patron of cash-strapped Mediterranean Europe. It is the biggest trading partner of India, Brazil, and other emerging powers. We should not be surprised that in such a world, getting on with America will matter less and less.
There have been moments, without question, when this has proved to be unexpectedly good news for us. Washington and its geriatric EU allies wanted the Copenhagen climate change deal in 2009, the biggest exercise in punitive liberalism ever mounted, an embryo exercise in global government. Brazil and India joined with China to block it. It’s a mark of the perversity of the age that it takes the Politburo to save global capitalism.
Sometimes, though, it’s not so good. In 2010, the Royal Australian Navy participated in its first naval exercises with Beijing. A few weeks later, Britain and Germany declined to support the United States in its efforts to get China to increase the value of its currency. Why would they? Even for America’s closest allies, the dominance of both the Pentagon and the almighty dollar has become conditional.
We will not like this post-American world, which will not even bring us normaliut. America will discover, as Britain has in twilight, that, long after imperial grandeur has faded, imperial resentments linger. We will not be left alone to fade into second-rate status. We will be taunted and humiliated and haunted and chased on the way down.
And yet, even in my deepest and most pessimistic vision, I can see a different future for the United States. For as the past few years have taught us, the great thing about the United States is that it is not Europe. When the economy headed south in 2008 and 2009, everywhere around the planet, people besieged their parliaments, asking them, “Why didn’t you, the government, do more for us?” They did it in Iceland. They did it in Bulgaria. They did it in Lithuania. They did it in Greece. They did it in the United Kingdom. They did it in France.
The United States is the only country in the world where a mass movement took to the streets in 2009 to say we could do just fine if you, the government, stayed the hell out of our pockets and the hell out of our lives. That fact, that populist refusal to be Europeanized, represents the best hope for this country. Those now-caricatured, much-maligned Tea Partiers moved the meter of public discourse significantly back in the direction of sanity. And that includes Barack Obama.
In 1975, Milton Friedman said this: “I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”
Just so. Every time Barack Obama stands at his teleprompter and is forced to pretend that he’s interested in deficit reduction, we have taken a step toward that Milton Friedman reality. You have to create the conditions, as the Tea Party and the town hall meetings did, whereby the wrong people are forced to do the right things.
One cannot wait for the great leader to descend from the heavens to do the work for us. Every glamour boy, from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney to Rick Perry, proves to have feet of clay. It’s more important that tens of millions of ordinary citizens move the meter on public discourse and force the wrong people to do the right things.
But we don’t have much time to force them. If we don’t turn this thing around by mid-decade, if we let China become the dominant economic power in a world where the Iranians are nuclearizing and where Russia is making whatever mischief it can, we will see something new in world history. Something terrifying. This will not be like the transition from Britain to America, from a crucible of liberty to its greatest exponent. This will be the greatest step backwards for the civilization that built the modern world and spread its blessings across the map. There will be no new world order. There will be no world order.
The only way to prevent it is to act, and act quickly. Otherwise, it’s over. In 1969, in a poem about the end of the British empire called “Homage to a Government,” Philip Larkin​ wrote: “Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home/For lack of money…/We want the money for ourselves at home/Instead of working.” The narrator keeps saying that “this is all right,” but he concludes with this: “The statues will be standing in the same/Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same./Our children will not know it’s a different country./All we can hope to leave them now is money.”
We Americans can’t even hope that. And our children will know their reduced America was not the America that should have been theirs by right.

About the Author

Mark Steyn, is the author, most recently, of After America (Regnery). This article was adapted from a speech he delivered at the annual Commentary Fund Dinner on September 19 at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.
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« Reply #39 on: January 03, 2012, 07:10:11 PM »

Not so long ago, a high-ranking Chinese official, who obviously had concluded that America's decline and China's rise were both inevitable, noted in a burst of candor to a senior U.S. official: "But, please, let America not decline too quickly." Although the inevitability of the Chinese leader's expectation is still far from certain, he was right to be cautious when looking forward to America's demise.

For if America falters, the world is unlikely to be dominated by a single preeminent successor -- not even China. International uncertainty, increased tension among global competitors, and even outright chaos would be far more likely outcomes.

While a sudden, massive crisis of the American system -- for instance, another financial crisis -- would produce a fast-moving chain reaction leading to global political and economic disorder, a steady drift by America into increasingly pervasive decay or endlessly widening warfare with Islam would be unlikely to produce, even by 2025, an effective global successor. No single power will be ready by then to exercise the role that the world, upon the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, expected the United States to play: the leader of a new, globally cooperative world order. More probable would be a protracted phase of rather inconclusive realignments of both global and regional power, with no grand winners and many more losers, in a setting of international uncertainty and even of potentially fatal risks to global well-being. Rather than a world where dreams of democracy flourish, a Hobbesian world of enhanced national security based on varying fusions of authoritarianism, nationalism, and religion could ensue.


8 Geopolitically Endangered Species

The leaders of the world's second-rank powers, among them India, Japan, Russia, and some European countries, are already assessing the potential impact of U.S. decline on their respective national interests. The Japanese, fearful of an assertive China dominating the Asian mainland, may be thinking of closer links with Europe. Leaders in India and Japan may be considering closer political and even military cooperation in case America falters and China rises. Russia, while perhaps engaging in wishful thinking (even schadenfreude) about America's uncertain prospects, will almost certainly have its eye on the independent states of the former Soviet Union. Europe, not yet cohesive, would likely be pulled in several directions: Germany and Italy toward Russia because of commercial interests, France and insecure Central Europe in favor of a politically tighter European Union, and Britain toward manipulating a balance within the EU while preserving its special relationship with a declining United States. Others may move more rapidly to carve out their own regional spheres: Turkey in the area of the old Ottoman Empire, Brazil in the Southern Hemisphere, and so forth. None of these countries, however, will have the requisite combination of economic, financial, technological, and military power even to consider inheriting America's leading role.

China, invariably mentioned as America's prospective successor, has an impressive imperial lineage and a strategic tradition of carefully calibrated patience, both of which have been critical to its overwhelmingly successful, several-thousand-year-long history. China thus prudently accepts the existing international system, even if it does not view the prevailing hierarchy as permanent. It recognizes that success depends not on the system's dramatic collapse but on its evolution toward a gradual redistribution of power. Moreover, the basic reality is that China is not yet ready to assume in full America's role in the world. Beijing's leaders themselves have repeatedly emphasized that on every important measure of development, wealth, and power, China will still be a modernizing and developing state several decades from now, significantly behind not only the United States but also Europe and Japan in the major per capita indices of modernity and national power. Accordingly, Chinese leaders have been restrained in laying any overt claims to global leadership.

At some stage, however, a more assertive Chinese nationalism could arise and damage China's international interests. A swaggering, nationalistic Beijing would unintentionally mobilize a powerful regional coalition against itself. None of China's key neighbors -- India, Japan, and Russia -- is ready to acknowledge China's entitlement to America's place on the global totem pole. They might even seek support from a waning America to offset an overly assertive China. The resulting regional scramble could become intense, especially given the similar nationalistic tendencies among China's neighbors. A phase of acute international tension in Asia could ensue. Asia of the 21st century could then begin to resemble Europe of the 20th century -- violent and bloodthirsty.

At the same time, the security of a number of weaker states located geographically next to major regional powers also depends on the international status quo reinforced by America's global preeminence -- and would be made significantly more vulnerable in proportion to America's decline. The states in that exposed position -- including Georgia, Taiwan, South Korea, Belarus, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, and the greater Middle East -- are today's geopolitical equivalents of nature's most endangered species. Their fates are closely tied to the nature of the international environment left behind by a waning America, be it ordered and restrained or, much more likely, self-serving and expansionist.

A faltering United States could also find its strategic partnership with Mexico in jeopardy. America's economic resilience and political stability have so far mitigated many of the challenges posed by such sensitive neighborhood issues as economic dependence, immigration, and the narcotics trade. A decline in American power, however, would likely undermine the health and good judgment of the U.S. economic and political systems. A waning United States would likely be more nationalistic, more defensive about its national identity, more paranoid about its homeland security, and less willing to sacrifice resources for the sake of others' development. The worsening of relations between a declining America and an internally troubled Mexico could even give rise to a particularly ominous phenomenon: the emergence, as a major issue in nationalistically aroused Mexican politics, of territorial claims justified by history and ignited by cross-border incidents.

Another consequence of American decline could be a corrosion of the generally cooperative management of the global commons -- shared interests such as sea lanes, space, cyberspace, and the environment, whose protection is imperative to the long-term growth of the global economy and the continuation of basic geopolitical stability. In almost every case, the potential absence of a constructive and influential U.S. role would fatally undermine the essential communality of the global commons because the superiority and ubiquity of American power creates order where there would normally be conflict.

None of this will necessarily come to pass. Nor is the concern that America's decline would generate global insecurity, endanger some vulnerable states, and produce a more troubled North American neighborhood an argument for U.S. global supremacy. In fact, the strategic complexities of the world in the 21st century make such supremacy unattainable. But those dreaming today of America's collapse would probably come to regret it. And as the world after America would be increasingly complicated and chaotic, it is imperative that the United States pursue a new, timely strategic vision for its foreign policy -- or start bracing itself for a dangerous slide into global turmoil.

« Last Edit: January 04, 2012, 10:54:02 AM by bigdog » Logged
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« Reply #40 on: January 03, 2012, 07:33:28 PM »

Since his time as Carter's NSC man,  I have held ZB in low regard. That said, I think that was a genuinely perceptive piece that articulates quite well some inchoate intuitions of mine.  It deserves considerable reflection IMHO.

May I ask you to post it in full here in case it gets lost where it currently is?

Here's another serious worthy read of similar depth:
When the West found itself lacking for serious rivals after the collapse of the Soviet Union, an era of optimism dawned on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., political scientist Francis Fukuyama dreamed about the "end of history," an inexorable convergence toward liberal democracy. Meanwhile, in Europe, a few philosophers and Eurocrats entertained a similar dream of their own: the comforting idea that their continent was a natural blueprint for the rest of humanity. Going even further than Mr. Fukuyama, they predicted that the world wouldn't just converge on some generic form of liberal democracy—but rather on its European incarnation, complete with an aversion to military force, a generous welfare state and the post-national form of sovereignty embodied by the European Union.

But as Walter Laqueur argues in "After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent," this dream was delusional from the start. Mr. Laqueur's case seems easy to make in these times. We have all become well-acquainted with Europe's woes, from the sovereign-debt crisis to the danger that disagreements about how to handle it might tear the political institutions of the EU apart.

In this loosely linked series of thematic essays on Europe's troubles, Mr. Laqueur paints an even starker portrait. For him, the current crisis is but the most visible manifestation of a deeper malaise. Economically, he argues, many European countries had been faring badly even before 2008, with provisions for health care and pensions having become unsustainable. Militarily, Europe has long been virtually irrelevant on the global stage. And politically, far-right insurgents such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Pia Kjaersgaard in Denmark had uprooted traditional party structures, even as the idea of a continent-wide super-state—which had once enjoyed the enthusiastic support of European elites—has grown deeply unpopular.

Most important of all are two intertwined worries about immigration and depopulation. Because of low birth rates, Europe is shrinking precipitously. If current trends continue, Mr. Laqueur says, 100 years from now Europe's population "will be only a fraction of what it is today, and in two hundred, some countries may have disappeared."

There is only one way out: immigration. But, according to Mr. Laqueur, this isn't a viable solution. With anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim parties ever more popular, few countries are likely to open themselves up to further foreigners. What is more, Mr. Laqueur believes that the immigrants already in Europe are so poorly integrated and so unskilled that the most likely newcomers—relatives of those already there—would do more harm than good.

Enlarge Image

Close.After the Fall
By Walter Laqueur
(St. Martin's, 322 pages, $26.99)
.Many prophets of decline build a case for pessimism only to show, in a soaring finale, how to bring about redemption. But Mr. Laqueur's gloom is not sweetened by easy fixes. Though he moots various possible responses—less Muslim immigration, less welfare, more nationalism—he does not seem to think any of them will avert the "decline of a continent" or the "end of the European Dream."

Much of Mr. Laqueur's diagnosis is convincing, and he can be deft, erudite and persuasive. And yet his book has serious shortcomings, from inflammatory descriptions of Europe's immigrants (young Turks in Germany supposedly speak a language consisting of only "three hundred words, a third of fecal or sexual origin") to a meandering prose style at times reminiscent of a hastily prepared undergraduate lecture course (two chapters on depopulation are largely identical).

Most important, Mr. Laqueur overstates both how steep Europe's decline is likely to be and how thoroughly it will dash the dreams of ordinary Europeans. Most Europeans, even among the elite, are hardly holding their breath for Djibouti to turn into Denmark. Indeed, if ordinary Europeans cherish a European dream at all, it is a much more modest one: that Europe's next five decades may yet turn out to be as peaceful and affluent as as Western Europe has been for the past five decades. Is this hope equally delusional?

According to a spate of fashionable writers, in America as well as in Europe, it is. If the years following the end of the Cold War now seem an era of dreams, then our current moment may one day be known as the era of nightmares. Just as Mr. Fukuyama and others once predicted that the West's ideas would soon be ascendant the world over, so commentators like Niall Ferguson are now fretting about the West's descent into irrelevance.

Worse still, they point out something that Mr. Laqueur strangely neglects to mention—namely, that the U.S. faces many of the same challenges as Europe: political dysfunction, high debt, broken pension and health-care systems, large-scale immigration, dependence on foreign energy, and, of course, competition from India and China.

Like Mr. Laqueur, our current doomsayers are very good at portraying the scale of the threats we face. They may be vindicated sooner than we'd like. Even so, none of them have made a definitive case for all-encompassing pessimism. If the West does experience a steep loss of status, the resultant adjustments will be painful. But so long as we retain enough defensive capability to thwart outside meddling and enough economic productivity to take advantage of living and trading in a richer world, we might be able to weather our decline rather better than expected. After all, the law of comparative advantage reminds us that, because free trade allows us to profit from increased productivity elsewhere, a relative loss of standing need not mean an absolute decline of living standards.

In that sense, the embattled dream that most Europeans truly care about might not be such a bad model for Europe's—and indeed America's—future after all. Even if, one day, we will no longer be able to impress faraway nations with the might of our armies, hope remains that we can still provide our citizens a decent life.

Mr. Mounk is a doctoral student in political theory at Harvard and the founding editor of The Utopian.

« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 07:41:22 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #41 on: January 05, 2012, 07:51:08 AM »

Also posted in Military Science thread.
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« Reply #42 on: January 06, 2012, 08:43:28 AM »

President Obama yesterday put in a rare appearance at the Pentagon, flanked by the four service chiefs and his Secretary of Defense. Saying that now is the time to cash in a peace dividend, he unveiled plans for a significantly slimmed-down military. This dance was choreographed to convey strength. Everything else about it showed how domestic entitlements are beginning to squeeze the U.S. military.

This self-inflicted attack on defense comes at a strange time. True, the U.S. cut deeply after World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War—and in each case came to regret it soon enough when new threats emerged. But peace doesn't characterize our time. Mr. Obama yesterday wielded his familiar line that "the tide of war is receding," which will please his antiwar base but will come as news to the Marines in Afghanistan or the Navy ships patrolling the tense Strait of Hormuz.

The Pentagon shouldn't be immune to fiscal scrutiny, yet this Administration has targeted defense from its earliest days and has kept on squeezing. The White House last year settled with Congress on $450 billion in military budget cuts through 2021, on top of the $350 billion in weapons programs killed earlier. Defense spending next year will fall 1% in nominal terms. The Pentagon also faces another $500 billion in possible cuts starting next January under "sequestration," unless Congress steps in first.

Taken altogether, the budget could shrink by over 30% in the next decade. The Administration projects outlays at 2.7% of GDP in 2021, down from 4.5% last year (which included the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan). That would put U.S. outlays at 1940 levels—a bad year. As recently as 1986, a better year, the U.S. spent 6.2% of GDP on defense with no detrimental economic impact.

What's different now? The growing entitlement state. The Administration is making a political choice and sparing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which are set to hit nearly 11% of GDP by 2020. And that's before $2.6 trillion for ObamaCare, which will surely cost more.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
President Barack Obama speaks at the Pentagon.
.These entitlements are already crowding out spending on defense and thus reducing America's global standing, following the tragic path that Europe has taken. The difference is that Europe had the U.S. military in reserve. Who will backstop America?

We're told that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who came into office last summer, says he doesn't want to go down in history as the man who "hollowed out" America's military. But the security trade-offs foisted on him by the White House will leave the military a less formidable, ready and dominant force in a still very dangerous world.

Part of the problem is that military personnel costs are exploding on pace to exceed the entire defense budget by 2030, according to Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. It's hard to make the political and moral case to reduce benefits for veterans and soldiers, but here's where Mr. Panetta could show mettle on Capitol Hill, especially by reforming military health care. The bulk of any defense budget is better spent on equipment, training and research.

Specific cuts will be spelled out in detail in the next Pentagon budget. The Navy, Air Force and Marines are flying old planes and waiting on the next generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, which comes with stealth technology. Previous Pentagon chief Bob Gates justified ending F-22 purchases by pointing to the F-35. But now the F-35 will likely be further trimmed and delayed.

After a decade of war, all the services need to replace worn-down equipment. U.S. nuclear submarines, missiles and bombers purchased during the Reagan buildup are reaching the end of their service lives. They need to be replaced, but they probably won't be soon.

Mr. Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, tried gamely yesterday to dress up these cuts not as a drawdown but as a "strategic shift." The Pentagon will spend less on the infantry to nation-build—now so unpopular—and will switch instead to defend the Pacific and new threats from cyberwarfare and in space.

But where are the resources to match the ambitions, such as new ships to patrol the Pacific? The planned reduction in troop strength is an "acceptable risk" (in General Dempsey's words) since this Administration doesn't plan to fight ground wars or pursue any Afghan-style "stabilization" missions. Too bad Commanders-in-Chief don't get to choose history's next surprise.

The real message to the world is that the Administration wants to scale back U.S. leadership. This was part of the rationale behind the White House's reluctance to take the initiative in the Middle East last year, as well as the attempts to mollify Iran's mullahs and Russia's Vladimir Putin. Now the Administration plans to draw down troops and America's profile in Africa, Latin America and Europe. The Navy can easily match Iran's threats in the Persian Gulf now, but what about in 10 years?

President Obama ended his remarks yesterday by quoting Dwight Eisenhower on "the need to maintain balance in and among national programs." The line comes from his 1961 Farewell Address, better known as the "military-industrial complex" speech. Mr. Obama's new defense posture brings to mind another Eisenhower line, offered two years earlier: "Weakness in arms often invites aggression."

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« Reply #43 on: February 18, 2012, 07:25:21 PM »

This is an interesting debate between prominent authors.  
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 07:37:24 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #44 on: February 19, 2012, 09:42:53 AM »

Great post BG.  Fascinating discussion.  Lots to talk about.  Just some thoughts:

There is no mention (unless I missed it) of the difference between the nation wrecking entitlements we have in the US compared to China.  Does China face this problem.  Demographically doesn't China have a problem down the road with its one child policy essentially creating a future aging demographic burden  which is I read already an issue in Japan?

The economic interdependence of powers does indeed seem to make the prospect of destructive forms of war less likely.

But what about "soft" war?   (akin to soft power).  For example disabling our military through controlling the electronic brain center.

The people of our country now are far more focused on who is going to pay for the soaring costs health care, their retirements, help for increasing children of single parents, the soaring cost of higher education, etc.

Transfering wealth from those who have more to those who have less is not going to keep this country number one.  WE have become a nanny state.

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« Reply #45 on: May 16, 2012, 09:19:54 AM »

In his January 2011 inaugural address, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared it a "time to honestly assess our financial condition and make the tough choices." Plainly the choices weren't tough enough: Mr. Brown has just announced that he faces a state budget deficit of $16 billion—nearly twice the $9.2 billion he predicted in January. In Sacramento Monday, he coupled a new round of spending cuts with a call for some hefty new tax hikes.

In his own inaugural address back in January 2010, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also spoke of making tough choices for the people of his state. For his first full budget, Mr. Christie faced a deficit of $10.7 billion—one-third of projected revenues. Not only did Mr. Christie close that deficit without raising taxes, he is now plumping for a 10% across-the-board tax cut.

It's not just looks that make Mr. Brown Laurel to Mr. Christie's Hardy. It's also their political choices.

When the Obama administration's Transportation Department called on California to cough up billions for a high-speed bullet train or lose federal dollars, Mr. Brown went along. In sharp contrast, when the feds delivered a similar ultimatum to Mr. Christie over a proposed commuter rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, he nixed the project, saying his state just couldn't afford it.

On the "millionaire's" tax, Mr. Brown says that California desperately needs to approve one if the state is to recover. The one on California's November ballot kicks in at income of $250,000 and would raise the top rate to 13.3% from 10.3% on incomes above $1 million. Again in sharp contrast, when New Jersey Democrats attempted to embarrass Mr. Christie by sending a millionaire's tax to his desk, he called their bluff and promptly vetoed it.

On public-employee unions, Mr. Brown can talk a good game—at Monday's press conference, he announced a 5% pay cut for state workers, and he has proposed pension reform. Yet for all his pull with unions (the last time he was governor, he gave California's public-sector unions collective-bargaining rights), Gov. Brown, a Democrat, has not been able to accomplish what Republican Gov. Christie has: persuade a Democratic legislature to require government workers to kick in more for their health care and pensions.

Now, no one will confuse New Jersey with free-market Hong Kong. Still, because the challenges facing the Golden and Garden States are so similar, the different paths taken by their respective governors are all the more striking. And these two men are by no means alone.

Our states today are conducting a profound and contentious rethink about the right level of taxes, spending and government. Most obvious is the battle for Wisconsin. There Republican Gov. Scott Walker finds himself pitted against public-sector unions that successfully forced a recall election for June 5 after the legislature adopted the governor's package of labor reforms last spring.

Amid the turmoil—Democratic legislators fled the state to prevent a vote, while union-backed protesters occupied the Capitol—Mr. Walker looked weakened. Now he has taken the lead in polls. More than that, voters have taken the lesson: A recent Marquette University Law School poll showed only 12% of Wisconsin voters listing "restoring collective bargaining rights for public employees" as their priority.

Indeed, the American Midwest today is home to some of the biggest experiments in government. Republicans now hold both the governorships and the legislatures in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, and in Wisconsin they control all but the Senate. In each they are pushing for smaller, more accountable government. The outlier is Illinois, where Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and his Democratic legislature pushed through a tax increase on their heavily indebted state.

Enlarge Image

CloseGetty Images
California Gov. Jerry Brown
.Now ask yourself this. Can anyone look at Illinois and say to himself: I have seen the future and it works?

Indiana's Mitch Daniels, a Republican, is probably the only governor who can truly claim to have turned around a failing state. That may change if we get eight years of Mr. Christie in New Jersey. Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, also a Republican, may be another challenger for the title, having just succeeded in pushing through arguably the most far-reaching reform of any state public-school system in America.

Hard economic times bring their own lessons. Though few have been spared the ravages of the last recession and the sluggish recovery, those in states where taxes are light, government lives within its means, and the climate is friendly to investment have learned the value of the arrangement they have. They are not likely to give it up.

Meanwhile, leaders in some struggling states have taken notice. They know the road to fiscal hell is paved with progressive intentions. The question regarding the sensible ones is whether they have the will and wherewithal to impose the reforms they know their states need on the interest groups whose political and economic clout is so closely tied with the public purse.

Mr. Brown's remarks Monday suggest the answer to this question is no.

« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 10:08:20 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #46 on: May 16, 2012, 09:42:32 AM »

I'm not defending Brown, but he, like any CA governor, Democrat or Republican, is between a rock and a hard place.  And NJ is not CA.  Property taxes for example which don't get mentioned are outrageous in NJ versus quite minimal in CA.  I do agree however, Christie seems to have done a good job.

But shortfalls are happening everyone....,0,242552.story
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« Reply #47 on: May 16, 2012, 10:08:57 AM »

Yes, its happening pretty much everywhere.  The question presented is the nature of the response.
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« Reply #48 on: July 05, 2012, 07:13:11 AM »

Reports of America's demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, are vastly exaggerated
Washington DC: As the United States of America celebrates its 236th birthday today, a recurring question ringing across this vast country, and indeed across the world, is whether the superpower has lost its mojo, an Afro-Caribbean word that originally meant charm or spell, but now encompasses creative genius, spark, or even hunger for success. In politico-economic talk shows and geostrategic gabfests, the inevitability of American decline is a persistent theme, to the extent that President Obama, accused by critics and opponents of easing America's descent into the commonplace, has had to contest the charge repeatedly and warn against writing off the country. He's not alone. Warren Buffett heard the talk of American decline three years back and cautioned: It's never paid to bet against America. We come through things, but it's not always a smooth ride.
Yet the nattering refuses to subside. It surfaced again last week in a television drama titled The Newsroom, in which the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, author of many political productions (The American President, West Wing etc) has a character who rants against the commonly accepted belief, particularly among Americans, that the United States is the greatest country on earth. ''There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world,'' writes Sorkin. ''We're 7th in literacy, 27th in maths, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labour force and number four in exports.''
While some of the numbers are questionable (for infant mortality, for instance), Sorkin, for good measure, snarkily adds that the US leads the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real,''and defence spending where the US spends more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.'' He could have added plenty more: conspicuous consumption, debts, divorce rates, deaths by gun violence, drug use, obesity, lobbying, election expenses, to name a few. America's list of follies, faults and foibles is endless.
Such dissing of America is not new. Many of its finest stand-up comedians and social critics, George Carlin, Lewis Black, Bill Maher, and Jon Stewart among them, were there before Sorkin. In one of his many scalding takedowns of America, the great Carlin once caustically proposed that ''The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.'' He questioned everything that was sacred and cliched about America - land of the free, home of the brave, all men are equal, justice is blind, the press is free, your vote counts, the good guys win - calling it ''the b.s that holds the country together.''
Such unbridled freedom of expression is just one abstract that makes America the greatest country. Yes, many countries are free (as Sorkin's character argues, hissing that even Bel-gium is free). But no one other country could have or has produced the assembly line of critics of such corrosive wit and caustic wisdom who relentlessly question national narratives, manufactured or otherwise, at America's expense. For all its flag-waving patriotism, the spirit of inquiry and self-exami-nation is part of the American DNA, often expressed irreverently. Laughter, said Walt Disney, is America's greatest export. That includes the ability to laugh at itself. Even Mark Twain, the country's literary laureate, joked that ''it was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it.''
But America is not built on slogans or statistics or self-deprecation alone. Few countries, in fact, no country in the modern era, has exercised such profound influence on life in areas ranging from politics to economics to science and technology. Not always for the good, but then good, like greatness, is so relative. Are automobile and television good for humankind? Both first mass-produced in America, thank you. For all its resource-sucking rapacity, America reigns in our living rooms and at our work desk, at the cinemas and in the ballpark. The world feasts on its offerings. For all the bragging about their growing economies, India and China, crucibles of great civilisations, are but huge reservoirs of manpower, able only to mass produce, imitate, or service American innovation. Google, Facebook, iPad, all emerged from an America that is still fecund when it comes to ideas.
It is true that America is still home to discrimination, inequality, cynical use of power to corner resources etc, and the welfare states of Scandinavia are better run. Yet, the lines for emigration are still the longest in front of American missions and consulates across the world. Because however dodgily and unevenly, despite frequent bouts of self-doubt and recrimination, America still embraces plurality and ventures out on a constant search for the better ideal, as demonstrated in several recent watershed moments, from the election of a mixed-race president to the struggle to define universal health coverage as a human right. America's absorptive capacity and ability to assimilate (inconceivable in putative superpower, Han-domi-nated China) remains undimi-nished. So does its desire to remain engaged with the world despite its myriad challenges.
That is why it remains a big match player and is 236 and still batting today.

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« Reply #49 on: July 05, 2012, 10:43:14 AM »
Evidence that the United States is suffering some kind of institutional loss of competitiveness can be found not only in Porter’s recent work but also in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Index and, in particular, the Executive Opinion Survey on which it’s partly based. The survey includes 15 measures of the rule of law, ranging from the protection of private property rights to the policing of corruption and the control of organised crime.
It’s an astonishing yet scarcely acknowledged fact that on no fewer than 15 out of 15, the United States now fares markedly worse than Hong Kong. In the Heritage Foundation’s Freedom Index, too, the U.S. Ranks 21st in the world in terms of freedom from corruption, a considerable distance behind Hong Kong and Singapore.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of all comes from the World Bank’s Indicators on World Governance, which suggest that, since 1996, the United States has suffered a decline in the quality of its governance in three different dimensions: government effectiveness, regulatory quality and the control of corruption.
Compared with Germany or Hong Kong, the U.S. Is manifestly slipping behind. One consolation is that the United Kingdom doesn’t appear to have suffered a comparable decline in institutional quality.
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