Because America entered both world wars of the 20th century last time, while all the other great powers bled each other, and because we survived the Soviet Empire in the Cold War, America appeared, under the mandate of President George HW Bush, as “the last superpower.”
We had everything. We were the “indispensable nation”. We have seen further into the future. We could impose our “benevolent global hegemony” over all mankind. And so we set out to create a “new world order,” plunging into successive wars in Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, again in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen.
In the process, we bled, distracted, exhausted and fell apart, until half the country echoed George McGovern’s 1972 campaign slogan: “Come home, America.”
And as we went on a crusade for a new world order, Vladimir Putin’s Russia gradually recovered from its crushing Cold War defeat, and China began to emerge from America’s shadow to become the most powerful rival that modern America has ever faced.
Today, American hegemony is being questioned everywhere – in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, in Southeast Asia, in East Asia. And the challenges come from autocrats united in their drive to reduce US power and presence in their part of the world.
All of America’s adversaries have one thing in common: they want us out of their neighborhood.
After President Joe Biden’s humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ukraine is the site of the latest challenge, sparked by Russia’s deployment of some 100,000 troops to Ukraine’s borders.
Given that he caused this crisis, Putin is unlikely to withdraw all his forces without visible assurances that Ukraine will never become a member of NATO. And, given that no NATO ally or neighbor of Ukraine has shown a willingness to fight Russia for Ukraine, Putin will likely win out in the end.
Neither Georgia nor Ukraine will soon be invited to join NATO, regardless of the “open door” alliance policy.
And since Putin has pledged to create a sphere of influence where no immediate neighbor is a NATO ally, we are probably only at the beginning of a series of crises over the exclusion of nations from the ‘alliance.
A second member of the global anti-American front is Iran.
The United States and Iran are reportedly set to renew the nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from. Yet the lingering threat from Iran and its radical allies like the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Shiite militia in Syria and Iraq, and Hezbollah in Lebanon is likely to complicate any US effort to extricate us from a Middle East. which has consumed so much of our attention and resources since 9/11.
In East Asia, China has resumed sending military aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, and it has never relinquished its claim to the island of 24 million people and former ally of the United States. After the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, Taiwan should soon return to the front of the stage.
If we weren’t fighting Russia on behalf of Ukraine, why would we go to war with China to defend Taiwan’s independence, when 50 years ago this month, President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger said Taiwan was “a part of China”?
North Korea has resumed testing of its cruise and ballistic missiles. And Pyongyang is not going to delay nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile testing indefinitely.
The question here is how far away is the next confrontation. And, since there is no American national disposition to fight for Ukraine, it is hard to believe that, 70 years after sending 350,000 troops to South Korea, we would send an army of this size to fight again. the North.
Conclusion: The balance of power is constantly changing. And in this new century, it has changed in favor of America’s adversaries, who all wish to see us diminished.
Where former President George W. Bush warned of a “axis of evil” which included Iraq, Iran and North Korea, its successor today includes Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, a much more formidable axis. Moreover, America’s relative power and willingness to use it is far less than it was in the days of George Bush.
The new balance of power:
North Korea has become a full nuclear power with intercontinental ballistic missiles that can strike the United States. The Russian armed forces are bigger than they were twenty years ago. China has swept away all of America’s rival powers, while America’s allies are less powerful and less united behind it.
During this time, America has accumulated a national debt larger than the entire US economy. Its trade deficits are at record highs. Its borders are invaded by migrants from all over the world. And his willingness to intervene, to engage and to fight for democracy has rarely been weaker.
The global stress test of the last superpower is underway, and we are unlikely to pass it with as high a mark as we achieved at the end of the Cold War.