If there is a lesson to be learned from History, it is that all great empires and world orders are transient. The institutions they erect, the economic systems they support, they rise and fall and the earth is still turning.
Some would argue that the downfall of the Roman Empire brought an end not just to Roman rule but to Roman government and law and to an entire economic system stretching from Northern Europe to North Africa. Culture, the arts, even progress in science and technology, were set back for centuries. To them, I would say that this was only a major setback for the Romans. For the rest of the world, it was liberation. Like the Roman Empire before, the United States of America is creating now the necessary conditions for its own downfall.
History has a way to repeat itself.
After the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, British control of the seas and the balance of great powers on the European continent provided relative security and stability. Prosperity grew, personal freedoms expanded, and the world was knit more closely together by revolutions in commerce and communication. With the outbreak of World War I, the age of settled peace and advancing liberalism collapsed into an age of hyper-nationalism, despotism and economic calamity. The once-promising spread of democracy and liberalism halted and then reversed course, leaving a handful of outnumbered and besieged democracies living nervously in the shadow of fascist and totalitarian regimes. Notwithstanding Nazi Germany and imperial Japan domination, the collapse of the British and European orders in the 20th century did not produce a new dark age.
Would the end of the present American-dominated order have less dire consequences?
The end of the era of American pre-eminence in the world will never mean the end of the present international order. It is if there is one. American power may diminish, but the underlying foundations of the liberal international order will survive and thrive. The United States and all rising powers like China and India will continue to live within the framework of the current international system.
The post-American world that will take place around 2060 will not look very different from the actual American world except for the fact that unlike today the new world order will no longer be dictated by one nation own egocentric interests and preferences. The new priority will not be to preserve the state’s control of wealth and the power that it brings. It will be to survive in a world where resources are becoming scarce, in a world were humanity will be looking across the galaxy for new resources and to escape the confines of its now overcrowded home planet. American predominance would then be replaced by some kind of multi-polar harmony.
Yes indeed, at first, conflicts will erupt as a result of fluctuations in this newly found delicate power equation. But necessity being the mother of all inventions, the world will soon realize that what is killing humanity is religion politic corruption and greed. Nations will sit down to create the world they would like to live in when we are no longer the world’s only superpower. International order will soon be the final result of global humanity evolution, a combination of advancing science and technology, an increasingly global economy, strengthened international institutions and evolving norms of international behavior. It will no longer be imposed by those who have the will and capacity to defend it.
Remember: Forces of evolution, forces of nature will always transcend the actions of men and nations, not God, not even America.