Foreign affairs think tanker Robert D. Kaplan argues in the Washington Post that the United States and the Soviet Union constituted, in effect, two empires that organized the world between them. Other countries mostly aligned themselves with one side or the other. The Soviet Empire collapsed, leaving the United States alone in the imperial role. But now, according to Kaplan, the American empire has collapsed.
Because of our military quagmires, our economic problems, our diplomatic weakness, and our overall popularity abroad, the United States no longer carries much clout with other countries. We can’t influence even the little ones any more to do what we want.
China is on the verge of replacing the United States as the world empire. But it isn’t quite ready yet. In the meantime, Kaplan predicts global instability since “no one is in charge.”
This raises lots of questions:
(1) Do you think he is right?
(2) Does the United States have any business being a de facto global empire? (The old empires, like that of the Romans and the British, at least profited from their takeover of other countries, unlike the United States with its “soft empire.”) Wouldn’t it be better for this country if we just hunkered down behind our own borders, letting the rest of the world go its own way? (On the other hand, didn’t Rome try that, only to find there were no more buffers to keep the Barbarians away?)
(3) What do you think the world will be like under a de facto Chinese empire, with its free market communism, that strangely effective blend of totalitarian government with money-making enterprise?