Ed West Ed West

Does Syria mark the end of American world dominance?

Will historians see the Syrian war as ‘the start of the historic American retreat’? Syrian media seems to think so, and they’re not the only ones; there’s a big market in ‘America is doomed’ literature, although the fact that lots of people are out there buying books suggests it maybe isn’t yet. I’m sure that, within weeks of the British victory of 1759, some miserablist pamphleteer was saying that Britain won’t last the century.

Yet just because doom-mongers have been wrong in the past, they could still be right now – I call it Weigel’s law.

And America has big problems, on top of the fact that China will soon overtake it as the world’s largest economy. While China has difficulties with corruption and inevitable population decline, as with Japan their low fertility won’t last forever. As the population falls family formation may become more affordable, and as the labour supply dries up they will mechanise quicker than the West. Already China has overtaken the US in the number of patents it produces, a sure sign of where power is heading.

In contrast America and Europe have treated demographic decline with the short-term measure of importing people, which hides educational and structural weaknesses, and brings very high social costs.

Even America’s recent economic bounce masks some serious underlying problems, including growing political polarisation and inequality, two inter-linked problems that are heavily aggravated by the country’s increasing diversity. But diversity is what makes America great, apparently.

Having won an ideological World War and then an ideological Cold War, America has come to believe it stands only as an idea, rather than a nation; its elite embraced the idea of the ‘end of history’ as the American dream, a world where all old ties of blood and faith would erode into a bland, peaceful, democratic utopia.

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