Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sailing off the World Stage




Wikipedia defines the “American Century” as the period since the middle of the twentieth century when the United States rose to global dominance based on its economic, military, and cultural power. No where near an official hundred-year period but when you figure the European nations could still be considered major powers up until the 1960's, I see that unknown Wikipedia editor's point.

One of my college history teachers defined the American century from our active participation into the First World War, roughly 1916. His idea being that had the United States not entered the European conflict on the side of the Allied powers of Britain and France circumstances would have been much better for Germany. With Russia out of the war and dissolving into Bolshevik-inspired chaos, the German kaiser could have redirected all his forces to the western front. In short, we saved the butts of Britain and France forcing them to realize the growing power of the United States could not be ignored.

Whatever the case, up until George W. Bush plunged the United States into a trillion-dollar Iraqi quagmire, we Americans were riding high on the global hog. Our system of post-WW2 alliances around the world had at first contained an expansionist Soviet Union and then insured its constructive demise as it imploded. The American policy of international free trade allowed an unprecedented expansion of wealth that allowed possibly billions of human beings to rise above a poverty level existence. The same goes for science and technology, the human race has gained more knowledge in the last fifty years than any time in our history. We've walked the surface of the moon, sent unmanned rovers and probes to Mars and the planets of the outer solar system. Medical knowledge has grown so fast we now casually tinker with DNA, the foundation of all life. And as far as computers are concerned, the exponential growth in that technology means we may live to see an actual sentient artificial intelligence supersede humans in a couple of decades.

Yeah, huge mistakes have been made over the decades, but we're talking humans here not all perfect and wise gods. Hell, if you want to know the truth, I'm still surprised that we got through the Cold War without nuking ourselves into a new stone age, if not extinction itself. All good news, although I'm still not sure about a recent supposition I read about that suggests that while humans have polluted the hell out of the planet, we're still ahead of the game since that knowledge will eventually force us to clean up the place. The idea being that other, less aware alien civilizations in the galaxy have gone extinct because they couldn't connect the dots as to why polluted water, air, and soil was bad for them. Frankly, given the forces of human greed and total willful ignorance, I'm not sure if we will decide to clean up the planet it time.

With the “American Empire” roughly keeping the peace and allowing most everyone on the planet to prosper you would think politicians would work extremely hard not to frak it up, which might cause a disastrous regional conflict, if not another world war. Well George W. already screwed the pooch with his stupid war to bring democracy to the Middle East. No, I have not forgotten about his ravings over nonexistent Iraqi WMD's, but that's a whole other piece of bullshit not important to my central point.

The success of American global leadership since the end of WW2 has rested on the twin pillars of free trade and military alliances. NO! It's not a perfect system, especially since the vast majority of the newly created wealth is controlled by an incredibly small percentage of rich elites that do not hesitate to throw their weight around. But when the alternative was a planetary scale nuclear wasteland, I'll go with what we have and try to reform it.

Well if George W. wasn't bad enough we now have a narcissistic A-hole occupying the White House hell bent on not only wrecking the relatively successful global trading system but totally alienating our long time allies. Right from the get-go Trump said during the 2016 presidential campaign that he was going to throw out all the trade deals that have been made. His reasoning was that the United States was being taken advantage of by our allies. That the poor hapless Americans were the fools of the world. A really hard thing for anyone with any knowledge of modern history and a smidgen of economics to believe since the United States created the game and wrote the rules.

True, a lot of old technology jobs went overseas causing a great deal of economic troubles for those working in the affected industries here in the United States. But anyone with just a few extra grams of intelligence and ability to look beyond self imposed blinders would understand millions of American jobs depend on selling products to the wider world. Yes, free trade hurts but in the long run that is how you continue to promote overall economic growth. Yes, trade treaties can be structured better on a number of fronts like supporting organized labor and protecting the environment.

All Trump supporters hear is that bastard promising to bring back all the nifty lifetime factory jobs their granddaddies and fathers worked. The trouble though is if you want to worship the religion of capitalism you have to follow its tenets. Which in this case means businesses are going to search out the cheapest labor to maximize their profits. The funny thing above all the empty promises of bring back those factory jobs is that automation will eventually remove most if not all human labor from the equation.

Unbeknownst to Trump supporters, and the bastard himself, economic issues translates directly into security considerations. Namely that no single nation can secure international peace all by itself, no matter how much egotistical nonsense permeates right-wing media. This is where overturning the international system wiser men and women created becomes a form of suicide.

China, the rising superpower out to remake the world in its image, just launched its first home built aircraft carrier. Its first carrier, a piece of Russian made junk that they bought from Ukraine and totally rebuilt gives them a fleet of two. No big deal you might say, Britain has two aircraft carriers as does India. And several other countries all possess single aircraft carriers, with most of them nothing more than token symbols of national sovereignty. And honestly, if you combined all those different aircraft carriers from those other nations they probably couldn't scratch the paint of the U.S. Navy.

But China is different, their ultimate goal is to take control of Asia and the western Pacific. The current Chinese government is an often brutal authoritarian regime still carrying a grudge over how the Western powers abused them from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. China is already a great power with the will and ability to become a superpower. And no superpower wants the navy of another country cruising around in what the perceive as their backyard. So they will continue to build and refine their aircraft carrier program to achieve that goal. Now the Chinese don't necessarily want a giant rerun of the Battle of Midway, in this day and age that would cause more problems than it solves.

No, the Chinese have come to believe that they will inherit Asia and the Pacific as the United States withdraws because we can't hack the cost anymore. One recent report on economic growth has that by 2030 the Chinese economy will be worth $42 trillion while the United States will be at the $24 trillion level. So keeping up with the Chinese will become impossible for the United States to do alone. What's worse is that wrecking the international trade system for stupid and destructive reasons will only make it harder for long term economic growth that will enable the West in general and the United States specifically to keep up with China. That doesn't even begin to take into consideration how damaged economic ties will make it difficult to get the Western nations to rally together militarily should China decide to use their growing navy to forcibly take control of the regions they want.

This is where aircraft carriers are the most useful. See first of all they are offensive weapons of the highest order. You do not maintain a such a fleet to defend coastal waters. You possess carriers to project military power and national influence far from home.

Despite all the moronic level rhetoric about “Making America Great Again” the Republican party and Trump are on the verge of gravely damaging the long term future of the United States. Since the end of WW2, every member of the United States government, both Democrat and Republican, has understood our own national security is tied to that of our allies. Remember the great Ben Franklin is quoted to have said to the other Founding Fathers that would either all hang together or we will hang separately. Pissing on your allies and economic partners just to score cheap points with the MAGA Marching Morons is not the actions of a nation with a future.

Measuring the beginning of the American Century is subject of historical debate. However it is quite possible that future generations will measure the end of our global dominance as Election Day November 2016.

Source material: Foreign Policy-April 25, 2018 “China's New Aircraft Carrier is Already Obsolete” http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/04/25/chinas-new-carrier-is-already-obsolete/

8 comments:

sage said...

I attended a lecture by a professor from Duke a couple of weeks ago who discussed the Chinese ambition in the South China Sea and how they are using these islands they're building to essentially challenge the territorial waters of the other nations... The world is a mess and without allies, we're screwed.

Harry Hamid said...

I became interested in politics largely through reading far leftists like Chomsky, Parenti, and their ilk, and they all seemed to be in agreement that Clinton had sold workers down the river with NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, etc.

But after 25 years... I'm not sure it played out exactly like that. We have not had our environmental laws destroyed by private corporations suing us in WTO court over improper restrictions on trade like they said we would.

And of course other problems have arisen that demand more attention. Man, back in 1999. we thought that the WTO was the worst thing facing us. What a golden time that was...

I hate to come across like a moderate supporting the system, but... the dire warnings didn't really play out. To the extent they did play out for the old economy, I hear Trump talking about how he's going to ensure that West Virginia will get future generations of coal miners and, well, change can be good. We're not sustaining the wooden ship or musket industries...

I might have been wrong back in '95.

Beach Bum said...

Sage: The Chinese are definitely playing the long game. Another thing that bothers be is that many American television pundits have this belief that China's various internal problems will blunt their rise to global power. They could but betting the survival of the United States on China falling apart isn't a winning strategy.

Harry: Yeah, I remember how Ross Perot claimed the jobs going to Mexico because of NAFTA would create a loud sucking sound. I'm far from happy with current international system, it would be far better if the nations of the world got together and planned out rational actions that would ultimately benefit everyone. But that simply will not happen and to believe overthrowing the current arrangement will bring that about is silly.

Like I wrote, automation will remove most if not all humans from the manufacturing industries in a couple of decades. Trying to save those jobs will be about as dumb as what trump is doing to save the coal industry.

At some point we are going to have to research things like an universal basic income or group coops that specialize in some craft or small industry.

Ranch Chimp said...

Well Bum, you seem to cover alot pretty straight. I myself admire some things about China (not talking about the strongarm regime on on their people), but as far as infrastructure, determination, technologically, environmental goals (since they have a bigger problem than us even), bringing hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty ... what are we doing? increasing poverty here? ... forgive me, I mean, so we can try to lower our expectations and be more equal with lower standards (just being politically correct and fashionable) what they have done in the last century, of course, from much good business from us, I mean, we/ west had a big influence on them, as far as opening capitalism, and financially helping them become the player they are today (and they managed their earnings/ gains, frankly better than us). I do look at the trade deficit like Trump said, but Hell guy ... we kind of made our own bed, I cant blame China, and Trump doesnt (dont mistaken me for liking Trump, I dont like him at all, but think he brings up some good points, but not as sincere about much). I mean, we ARE the ones who made the trade deals (well, at least our corporate owners/ wealth ... no one held a f'n gun to our head, eh?) ... that's how the game is played ... you snooze, you lose, whether it is with China or anyone. The big money has no allegiance to anyone/ country, they are global, even if they are from U.S.A ... as a country, we also have to look out for our interests ... again, not the fault of China or anyone else we do business with. Frankly, as an American, and one that loves my country as much as Trump, I dont give a shit if we are No#1, I care about living good, not playing in some race ... and I believe we have great defense ... and dont give a shit about policing the world and/ or dipshits that cant control their f'n bowels, in some primitive area, baby sitting (mostly for investors).

Yes, I look at much as simply a power struggle between the east and west, same old song and dance to me. Power, wealth/ possessions has alwayz dominated, even in the animal kingdom ... but that doesnt mean, that the majority can not do anything, the majority has alwayz fought, and historically has made progress ... no use in throwing in the towel. Can we clean this planet up, environmentally? ... I dont see why not, we sure as Hell have the technology, will, and money ... as far as the climate change though ... that will be a little more challenge. As far as this Iraq invasion ... what a rip off that shit was. I have alwayz seen that, as the will and inspiration of Cheney, and even Bush's close Saudi buddies mostly, Cheney himself indirectly made a shitload of money off that ... I also believe that the $6 billion shrinkwrapped cash on pallets that was missing was an inside job, orchestrated by some higher ups ... I mean, if some MF is going to rip off low millions ... there is plecty to motivate a person with welth even, to make a score like that ($6 bil). I'm outta here Bum ....

Ranch Chimp said...

As far as Trump and his bringing jobs back to America, as I tell folks here in my community too ... let this MF and his daughter, bring their f'n jobs back to America. I mean, why dont these SOB's practice what the f*ck they preach? ... you know ... f*ck Trump

Marja said...

Meanwhile in NZ: The chinese have been buying up all the big farms here. Probably to secure food for the future....and the American billionairs buying up our beautiful places and one in particular mysteriously received citizenship.
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/feb/15/why-silicon-valley-billionaires-are-prepping-for-the-apocalypse-in-new-zealand

Pixel Peeper said...

Scary times. I'm beginning to wonder if the U.S. will become irrelevant (or much less relevant) and Europe will take over the role of leader of the free world.

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