But What Kind of America?
January 21, 2023 6:43 AM   Subscribe

The world is bullish on America and American power. You read that right. This is the same world that looks on with glee or horror at the carnivalesque, occasionally violent politics on Capitol Hill. The same one that barely a year ago dismissed an America defeated in Afghanistan as a has-been and hailed the rise of a new authoritarian age led by China, with an assist from Vladimir Putin’s confident Russia. Now some caveats.... from America in Decline? World Thinks Again. posted by chavenet (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
America is infested with Homo sapiens.

Nothing that happened in America is uniquely exceptional, neither the events that showed America in decline nor the events that show America on the upswing.
posted by ocschwar at 6:51 AM on January 21 [8 favorites]


> By the world, we’re referring to C-suite and political mastodons, and their assorted retinues, who spend $1,000 a night on a tiny bed in a drab two-star hotel to slosh around the icy streets of this Alpine town for a week of the World Economic Forum: the so-called Davos Man (and Woman).

It would legit not have occurred to me that anyone would think of these assembled douchenozzles as "the world", but OK, I guess it's interesting to know what they think?
posted by Not A Thing at 7:14 AM on January 21 [19 favorites]


As an import to the US here's how I see it:

American's influence getting weaker on the world stage can only be a good thing.
America's imperial ambitions have been bad and have thankfully been failures.
America's resolve to throw a lot of military materiel against fascist authoritarians while not blowing up the world can only be a good thing.

A third of the GOP is fascist, a third of the GOP is playing fascist on TV for their primary (fucking I'm looking at you Stefanik, you know better than this shit), and the other third of the GOP are fascist collaborators. These people should not be let near levers of power as much as humanly possible.

Could Europe alone satisfy an Article 5 response to Russia without the US? Probably. The total war capacity of the EU is far ahead of anything Russia can put out. Would they want to? Fuck no. The EU is a liberal technocratic organ who would give away the Baltics, Subcarpathian Poland, and Moldova to avoid war.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:55 AM on January 21 [13 favorites]


it's interesting to know what they think?

What they think is a preview of what they are going to inflict on the rest of us in short order.
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:57 AM on January 21 [8 favorites]


Before 2022, I believed that we - the world - were moving past the threat of existentially-threatening global conflict. I believed (hoped) that globalization had turned implacable foes into quarrelsome trading partners. I'm not discounting the economic consequences of globalization, just that economic issues are preferable to a big shooting war. In this scenario, it was easy to think that US power, especially military, could conceivably decline.

Then Russia attacked Ukraine... and all that went out the window. It seems that the world still does need a dominant 'enforcer' country, and who, if not the US? As just pointed out, the EU could, but won't stand up alone to Russia. Depressing.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:04 AM on January 21 [6 favorites]


Haven’t read the links yet, so this may be covered. But if you look within the EU, there is no dominant enforcer country, yet it’s quite unlikely still that any EU country would attack any other EU country. There are other routes to peace. Arguably, a world peace based on a single enforcer country always had a relatively short shelf life, in fact.
posted by eviemath at 8:40 AM on January 21 [6 favorites]


But if you look within the EU, there is no dominant enforcer country

That's because France and Germany pair off against each other well. Neither really has the unilateral weight to throw around.

There are other routes to peace. Arguably, a world peace based on a single enforcer country always had a relatively short shelf life, in fact.

We tried that strategy in the 1800s with the Congress of Vienna. Worked well until it didn't.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:51 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


But if you look within the EU, there is no dominant enforcer country

All eyes are on Germany to send or allow its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. It's an easier tank to fuel, maintain and train for than the expensive US battle tank which runs on jet fuel and favors high tech, but Germany is standing off (maybe because it doesn't have nukes to back up its elevated risk). The value of modern tanks went up after the older tanks were easily defeated.
posted by Brian B. at 10:08 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Declines happen little by little before they happen all at once faster than seems believable. just imagine the Politico article from Rome in 50BC, Senators and Aristocrats gathered at a villa on the via appia are bullish on the roman republic, see no limit to its future. Meanwhile Caesar is on the march
posted by dis_integration at 11:23 AM on January 21 [12 favorites]


Poor EU, a bastion of civilization when we're discussing the UK, a collection of crying weaklings when we're talking about Russia.
posted by kingdead at 11:24 AM on January 21 [5 favorites]


Then Russia attacked Ukraine... and all that went out the window. It seems that the world still does need a dominant 'enforcer' country, and who, if not the US? As just pointed out, the EU could, but won't stand up alone to Russia.

"Who, if not the US?" Not sure! But maybe, in this scenario, a country that hasn't conducted its own devastating, adventurist invasion of another nation within the past twenty years? Just spitballing here.
posted by dusty potato at 1:27 PM on January 21 [9 favorites]


As just pointed out, the EU could, but won't stand up alone to Russia. Depressing.

I think those two rather large 20th-century conflicts that essentially flattened the continent both times weighs very, very, heavily on EU leaders (and probably a non-zero percentage of the general populace) when it comes to the idea of directly militarily engaging with Russia.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:46 PM on January 21 [7 favorites]


Who, if not the US?" Not sure!

Over the last few years, increased u.s. weapons sales to Europe suggest Europe.

Meanwhile Caesar is on the march
Yeah, that's apt. I blame lingering Pompey.
thing is, the United States is not directly threatened by one of its natural boundary neighbors. Americans, politicians and plebs are asking why do we have so many troops in Europe. U.S. has three armoured brigades in Europe and to sum up it's power, it cost a million dollars a mile to move. Declines antecedents are closely related with troops being withdrawn historically. U.S is in Europe part treaty part invitation after all the u.s. sends a bill to every country it has troops in. That's the thing about not seeking friends but an alliance, the business of war.
posted by clavdivs at 3:17 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


Man, I stopped reading the first article at "the US is the talk of Davos". Whatever those people are talking about (except for the historian who called them all out for taking their tax avoidance ). has zero ZERO to do with anything other than themselves.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:56 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I found The Atlantic article much better than the Politico piece.
posted by riruro at 6:02 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Agreed. I struggled to make sense of the Politico article (what’s it trying to tell me??) and popped in to read the comments. That’s when I delightfully discovered the other links!
posted by iamkimiam at 6:17 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


"Who, if not the US?" Not sure! But maybe, in this scenario, a country that hasn't conducted its own devastating, adventurist invasion of another nation within the past twenty years? Just spitballing here.

Well, who is that?

I doubt you're going to hear any complaints from Washington if anyone in Europe would like to start spending more on defense. It's not like we couldn't find other ways to send American twentysomethings on cultural exchanges to Western Europe.

But I've got a pretty good idea that if the US unilaterally pulled out of Europe, the Russians would have a land corridor to Königsberg inside a year, because who exactly would stop them?
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:27 PM on January 21 [5 favorites]


In the South Pacific USA influence has declined because of cuts to the aide budget. China has adroitly filled the gap building ports and sports stadiums.
I believe USA still has substantial soft power through the cultural influence of the movies and internet.
Ironical how Republicans out number Democrats in pessimism.
Poor decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan and Reaganist economics were the policies of flakey Republican presidents.
posted by Narrative_Historian at 6:43 PM on January 21 [5 favorites]


But I've got a pretty good idea that if the US unilaterally pulled out of Europe, the Russians would have a land corridor to Königsberg inside a year, because who exactly would stop them?
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:27 PM on January 21


On January 21, 2022 I just might have believed this comment.

On January 21, 2023 I know exactly what would stop Russia from effectively taking and keeping a land bridge to Kaliningrad/Koenigsberg, and it's Russian incompetence.
posted by tclark at 8:09 PM on January 21 [7 favorites]


On January 21, 2023 I know exactly what would stop Russia from effectively taking and keeping a land bridge to Kaliningrad/Koenigsberg, and it's Russian incompetence.

I'm not so sure about that. Ukraine got a few lucky early breaks:
- the assault path used a highway instead of rails even though Russian logistics expects railways
- China pressured Putin to stall for a few weeks due to the Olympics, and likely contributed to the stalled convoy
- Ukraine retook retook Anontov Airport, surprisingly

Other than NATO, stands in Russia's way? Latvia and Lithuania have a combined population 1/10th that of Ukraine, and Latvian armed services conscription doesn't start till next week. There's a reason they aggressively requested NATO membership quickly after the Soviet collapse: they are small fish with a hungry shark next door.

Honestly, the key determinant of success seems to be whether there's a compatible rail line between Moscow and Kaliningrad. Economically, Nordstream transports oil without any land bridge already, so this would purely be about supplying the Baltic Fleet, which is already their smallest, least expeditionary oriented fleet, with a certain history of misadventure.

Anyways, we don't have to worry, the US is in Europe, and NATO will defend its members.
posted by pwnguin at 12:28 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


In a letter dated 1909 Carl Jung wrote a letter to his spouse about his first trip to the USA. In it he describes the technological culture and the feeling of being amazed at what he saw. Then he states that all of this came at a great cost and that it "already carries the germ of the end in itself."
posted by DJZouke at 5:07 AM on January 22 [8 favorites]


But I've got a pretty good idea that if the US unilaterally pulled out of Europe, the Russians would have a land corridor to Königsberg inside a year, because who exactly would stop them?

After the drubbing Ukraine has given the Russians I'd wager the Poles are chomping at the bit to claim Królewiec. And I don't think they'd give a shit about Western European taboos about "population transfers" in these modern times either.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:17 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


land corridor to Königsberg

How many bridges would this land corridor have?
posted by chavenet at 1:51 PM on January 22 [5 favorites]


How many bridges would this land corridor have?

They're talking about closing the Suwałki Gap. Belarus basically being a Russian puppet so zero.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:19 PM on January 22


How many bridges would this land corridor have?

I'm thinking an even number for each island.

Edit: Except maybe for two.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:19 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


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