The flood of refugees from war-torn Africa and the Middle East into Europe got me to thinking about something I wrote five years ago in “Boomergeddon,” back when the world still seemed relatively sane. I recognized that fiscal constraints would prevent the United States from maintaining its role as the world’s policeman. Despite all the criticism of America for its arrogance and clumsiness in dealing with other countries, I argued, the world would miss us when we were gone.
The future of a world without a U.S. to police it will be more failed states, more militias, more drug lords, more insurgents, more genocide, more refugees, more economic migrants, more sanctuaries for terrorists and more haven for privates. The expanse of territory subject to barbarism and warlordism will expand, and the expanse subject to the rule of law will shrink.
I guess I was right about that one.
Indeed, I wasn’t pessimistic enough. I never imagined the ability of millions of migrants from impoverished developing countries to slip into Europe. Human smuggling channels, once created, are not easily shut down, as we have learned in the United States. National frontiers are more porous than ever, and when confronted with human tragedy, western democratic societies do not have the stomach to seal their borders while millions suffer. But our welfare states are living on borrowed money and borrowed time. Absorbing tens of millions of the world’s poor will only hasten the inevitable reckoning.
What can the United States do? Not much. Sequestration has shrunk the size of the military to the smallest it’s been since before World War II, and Americans have little appetite for foreign intervention. Making matters worse, it’s getting harder and harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Europe, even with global chaos spilling over its borders, is even more impotent to act. Meanwhile, the global collapse of commodity prices will undermine the economies of resource-exporting countries from Brazil to Angola; as economic chaos spreads, social and political turmoil will follow. And don’t forget: Iran will acquire nuclear weapons in ten years, if not before, giving its mullahs North Korean-style impunity for its provocations.
What some believe to be the “arc of history” — the lifting of millions from poverty and the spread of human rights — soon will be seen as anything but inevitable. As much of the world slips into a new Dark Age, political, economic and social progress around the world over the past century will be seen as the product of one thing: pax Americana. As America retreats, chaos will fill the vacuum.
Have a nice day. Enjoy the respite from history while you can. Prepare your children for the world to come.