Sunday, June 19, 2011

America's Decline Follows a Familiar Pattern

By Alan Caruba

History is a relentless process and one that does repeat itself. Empires emerge, hold power, grow wealthy, and then find ways to commit suicide while new ones push them aside.

I was thinking of this while listening to outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ speech on NATO’s future. He virtually spelled out why the United States is in decline and why Great Britain and Europe, once the seat of great empires, have been in decline since the end of World War Two.

The Second World War so sapped the energy of Europe and the United Kingdom that neither were able to retain the sources of their former wealth, their colonial empires composed of nations in the Middle East and Asia. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was formed after World War Two out of fear of an aggressive Soviet Union.

The United Nations was also created at that time and it too has long been sustained by U.S. financial support.

Gates made no secret of the fact that he thought the European members had been getting a free ride from NATO as U.S. funding had risen from “roughly 50 percent of all NATO spending” to “more than 75 percent in the twenty years since the collapse (1989) of the Berlin Wall”. The USSR ceased in 1991 and became the Russian Federation.

The generations that lived through the Cold War from the end of World War Two in 1945 until 1991 are now senior citizens. For nearly fifty years it was the focus of American concern and wars from Korea to Vietnam were fought to restrain Communist expansion whether it was motivated by Russia or China. Those wars, however, left those generations, their children and grandchildren, with a distinct distaste for combat in far-off places.

The 9/11 attack was unique in that it was not perpetrated by a nation-state, but by a stateless organization calling itself al Qaeda. It took a decade to find and kill its leader, Osama bin Laden. In the meantime, the United States had become mired in Afghanistan for over a decade. The invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 to rid the Middle East of Saddam Hussein was presumably taken to rid the region of a constant threat.

It’s not that the United States wasn’t joined by a coalition of NATO and other nations. It was, but it was also understood that the U.S. would contribute the bulk of the forces and machinery of war.

There is considerable irony in the way the Iraq war has since led to the instability of Middle Eastern nations whose dictators have been forced to flee or fight. If Saddam Hussein could be brought to justice, Arabs concluded that any dictator could be overthrown if they united against them. It did not escape notice that even longtime U.S. allies like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarack would be abandoned.

The result is that the U.S. and NATO have stumbled into a conflict in Libya that has demonstrated their present state of weakness. Moreover, the mission in Afghanistan is jeopardized by the need for access routes through Pakistan!

As Secretary Gates noted, “It is no secret that for too long, the international military effort in Afghanistan suffered from a lack of focus, resources, and attention, a situation exacerbated by America’s primary focus on Iraq for most of the past decade.” He warned against NATO nations pulling out “on their own timeline in a way that undermines the mission and increases risks to other allies.”

“Turning to the NATO operation over Libya,” said Gates, “it has become painfully clear that similar shortcomings—in capability and will—have the potential to jeopardize the alliance’s ability” to conduct a successful mission. The key word here is “will.” When a coalition lacks the will to win, it will not.

This applies as well to the United States. Said Gates, “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress and in the American body politic writ large to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

Just as the NATO nations lost the will to defend themselves, preferring to let the U.S. pick up the bill, it is America’s turn to examine its own financial situation and likely have to reduce its own defense expenditures.

For some time now, it has been reducing its naval capabilities in terms of warships. It has aircraft that are wonders of technology, but much of the fleet is aging and in need of replacement. Its warriors have been in fields of combat for twice as long as it took to fight and win World War Two in two separate theatres, Europe and the Pacific.

As the U.S. appetite for combat diminishes and its financial stability remains uncertain, it is experiencing much the same kind of events that ended the British Empire. At one time it was so vast it was said that the sun never set upon it.

The juggernaut that was U.S. military power is being hollowed out. The value of the U.S. dollar, the default currency for the world, is declining. The empire that was Great Britain is no more and the influence that the U.S. has had and the power it could once project is fading.

Some very hard decisions must be made—and soon—or the United States of America will join the ranks of empires that exhausted themselves.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


Conway said...

Santayana and Spengler said the same things, and no one listened to them either.

It seems each generation of oblivious fools thinks they are so much smarter than their forebears, and end up paying the same price.

Man, the creature of rationalization, is his own worst enemy.

Ronbo said...


The USA faces three major crisis today, and any one of them could cause the fall of the United States of America:

1. A nation divided between traitor socialist 5th columnists determined to end the Republic and patriots very much against that idea. Like 1860, compromise has become impossible between the two major factions and increasingly each side wishes other would simply disappear.

2. The Second Great Depression has arrived. It started in late 2008 for many of the same reasons the First Great Depression started. At best it will be a decade before the USA climbs out this economic black hole.

3. The Third World War. As I've said many times before September 11, 2001 was just the opening major battle of a very old war Islam launched against the West in the 7th century A.D. It seems inevitable that this conflict will end in a Third World War complete with nuclear weapons exchanged with Iran and Pakistan.

Pretty bleak future, heh?

Like Leonard Cohen said back in the 1980s, "I've seen the future, and brother it's MURDER!"

The upside: If America survives the coming decade of Great Troubles, she will launch a Golden Age such as mankind cannot even dream about today.

The downside: If America falls, well...Can you say, "New Dark Ages?"

Personally, I do not expect America to fall, I think the nation will survive and thrive! I think we haven't yet seen "The Greatest Generation," because the Great Troubles will produce the Greatest People In History; the greater the challenge, all the more awesome will be American warriors, statesmen and the general run of people.

After all, America is the last great hope of mankind much beloved by Almighty God, warts and all, His "Shining City on the Hill."

Also, Americans know that like Normandy Beach on D-Day, to survive means we all have move forward to victory or death.

madeinusa50 said...

Well said! The only point I would suggest is that the Third World War started when the Iranian hostages were seized. Invading an embassy is the same as invading the country to which the embassy belongs. Look at the events that were triggered by that act. Islamic jihad was re-awakened, leading to bolder acts of aggression against the West, culminating with 9-11. Taking down the World Trade Centers was only a battle in the long war against Islamic jihad. We reacted to the battle with fearsome retaliation, but we still haven’t understood who our enemy is. We fumble over terminology such as terrorism, overseas contingency operations, etc. We cannot win this war until we look at the historical connections, identify the enemy, and crush them as we crushed our opponents' fanatical ideologies in World War 2.