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"Pax" Americana wasn't all that peaceful, the United States maintaining hundreds of bases, launching dozens of interventions, and spending trillions of dollars, thereby neglecting basic public infrastructure and social safety nets that are taken from granted in nearly every other country with similar or even significantly inferior levels of affluence.

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This article is pretty off base. The basic model presented is that of conventional nation-states fighting in a Hollywood style struggle for power. The reality is that the basic nature of power has been and is now changing rapidly. The construct of large power control of populations died with Vietnam... reenforced with Afghanistan (Soviets/US). The biggest factor in Ukraine is in fact the resistance of the people to external rule. Even if Russia would have taken over all of Ukraine... it was 10X Afghanistan. The best they could hope for is another Chechnya... where they had to leave anyway.

The mega-trend to watch is the increasing power of an individual relative to the collective as enabled by technology. In this world, rule by force is almost impossible. Methods for cooperation (perhaps enabled by propaganda) are at the core of the power. This is not really about Pax Americana... as positioned by hard power. Rather, it is about Pax Americana as the demonstration of the methods which lead to positive individual economic outcomes. Vietnam being an interesting example ... one of the stronger allies today. Lost on hard power... won on soft power.

This does not mean that there will not be major power conflicts, and the formation of failed states (North Korea). There is a lot of settling to be done.

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There are a number of holes in your argument here:

1) Your evidence that the US ability to project power (and thus peace) is declining seems to consist of

a) the fact that HAMAS *reacting* to US actions which seems like evidence of power and involvement. Indeed, the current level of violence in Israel is far below what it was through most of the 70s and 80s which on your view was the high water mark

b) Wars occuring in places where Russian military power was previously maintaining the peace (or at least not directly breaking it. It's hardly evidence of American lack of military power that it's primary geopolitical rival over most of the past century is no longer strong enough to maintain the peace in its own backyard (the difference between the Soviet period and now in Ukraine is that the Russians can no longer easily crush all resistance)

2) Your claim that the rise of a geopolitical rival (China) prevents the US role as peacekeeper is in tension with the fact thst your examples of how pax america was enforced and peaked seem to have occured during the rivalry between the us and the Soviet union and interventions like Vietnam happened because of those tensions.

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Are you Peter Zeihan in disguise? Because this article is nothing but the same old tired bedtime story the American globalists like to tell themselves. But the reality is that the US was never a world policeman nor a benevolent "force for good". Just the sheer number of brutal dictatorships it covertly and openly supported throughout its existence is proof enough.

The US was always a hegemon, a string-puller and an empire hungry for other people's resources. The nations on the receiving end of that "Pax Americana" of yours know it best. Their pushback was long overdue.

Whatever happens in the future, it's not because the US was unable to prevent it, but because its blind and callous quest for domination made sure it would happen.

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In other, wiser peoples' words: "compare to the alternative, not to ideal". For some years after WW2, the US was the world's sole nuclear power: consider for a moment what the world would look like had it been Modi, Putin, Xi... Thanks, Mr. S. for pointing out, again, our not-so-great but pretty-good historical track record.

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"At the same time, the U.S. was becoming militarily weaker. The War on Terror reoriented the U.S. military toward counterinsurgency and away from defeating enemy armies."

This has no longer been the case ever since 2011 though. In that year, the US withdrew from Iraq and ended major combat operations in Afghanistan, and military leadership were already reorienting the US military back to near-peer conflict.

https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/613843/dempsey-us-forces-must-adapt-to-deal-with-near-peer-competitors/

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2011/1/5/army-chief-gen-casey-a-bigger-portion-of-the-army-now-training-for-conventional-war

To quote one of the most respected US presidents in history, "The 1980's called, and they want their Cold War back." - 2012

And this article pretty much confirms the sealing of the fate of COIN training in the US military:

https://mwi.usma.edu/a-status-check-on-the-armys-preparation-for-the-next-war/

And quote a veteran who is well-versed in defense-related subjects that I won't name here:

"When all the 2-4 star generals say Near Peer is the new normal and COIN is dead and to be forgotten, to say otherwise is heresy. These articles is Big Army laying the law, this is Moses showcasing the Ten Commandments so everyone knows what they are and ARENT allowed to mention anymore.

And is it really unusual? The US Army historically despises COIN and has since the middle half of the 20th century. They tried to turn the Vietnam War into a conventional conflict (Search and Destroy) for a reason, if the only tool they possess is a hammer, than every problem becomes a nail. After Vietnam, the healing began by formally declaring they won all the battles but lost the war because politicians, and then forgetting everything about Vietnam and refocusing on conventional warfare against Russkies. Remember, the 2-4 stars of today (including MG Donahue, who came in at the tail end of the Cold War, when the US Army was at its zenith in history), grew up in that era, that is the "good old days" they will always strive to return to.

Focusing on Near Peer not only allows them not to prep for the mission they hate nearly as much as peacekeeping, not only return to the Good Old Days, but it also earns them a much better budget than COIN ever provided with the potential to update/replace the Big Five (a MAJOR Military Industrial Complex Defense Industry victory), but best of all it ensures them the opportunity and funding to focus on the type of fighting they like: mechanized centric maneuver warfare, with no ROEs, in an All or Nothing conflict that decides the fate of the free world, where Big Army gets to be the primary strategic asset deciding victory and defeat, they are the main effort for the Stars and Stripes, the true American heroes!

If that doesn't get your dick hard, you're not a real American.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, this reshift started LONG before Afghanistan was over, they began starting their major reshift to Near Peer in the mid 2010s when the US Army was still regularly sending units into combat. Basically, as soon as OP Enduring Freedom was replaced by OP Freedom's Sentinel they were able to start going about the reset.

More so, Pepperidge Farm remembers Big Army types ranting about wanting to refocus on conventional warfare in the mid to late 2000s and early 2010s, when they were still neck deep in COIN conflicts they sucked at, while complaining about their degrading skills in conventional warfare. Mind you, that was BEFORE Cold War 2.0 even rekindled, and Russia could even really be declared a Near Peer threat."

https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2008/0902/p09s01-coop.html

https://jpia.princeton.edu/sites/jpia/files/learning-not-to-kick-with-our-achilles-heel.pdf

Sorry if this takes too long, but this should remind you that the military, especially the army, has been focusing on near-peer threat ever since at the start of the 2010s. The leadership already reoriented the military toward that way because COIN truly sucked.

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As the song goes, you don't know what you've got till it's gone. American hegemony is a mixed-bag, just like anything in life. But a world without American hegemony will be, well, a lot more mixed. You don't need to be blindly chauvinistic to see this.

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Noah has written a very complicated overview of foreign affairs, and I found myself in agreement with about 40% of it. The US can do different things in the world, depending upon how accessible the country is to us. The Israeli thing is a blip— another malignant burp from an ailing Hamas whose only effective weapon is suicide attacks.

To respond to Noah's "War and Peace" post adequately, I would have to write a book. Maybe I'm starting to do that on my substack. Check out "XI makes sense to XI."

https://kathleenweber.substack.com/p/xi-makes-sense-to-xi

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It may be wrong to refer to this as the end of Pax Americana. In fact, it may be the other way around: the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as the invasion of Ukraine signals definitive end of Russia in any form as a great power.

To quote a comment I found some time ago that I find interesting:

"In a 100 years, people will refer to the era of 1991 to the mid 2020s as "The Collapse of the Soviet Union." It will ignore all the other conflicts that happened in that time, and grossly oversimplify a period of 30+ years, but they won't really be wrong.

Serbia was one of the countries that relied on Russia as an external security guarantor, like Armenia, Belarus, Syria, and most of the Central Asian states. Now that its clear that Russia is incapable of even defending its own strategic interests, we have entered a time of poachers. Countries that relied on Russia are now either under siege or are going to try and grab what they can before reality fully sets in.

This is why Turkey is getting more bold near the Syrian border, why Azerbaijan invaded Armenia's occupation zone (and will probably keep driving to Armenia unless NATO gets involved), why Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan got into it over the Fergana valley, and why the rest of Central Asia is now talking to the US in the C5+1 talks to avoid similar catastrophes in their own region."

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The “simplest and most parsimonious explanation” for the “long peace” — whose peace? Not Libya, Syria, Afghanistan (that the US continues to starve), Yemen, Iraq, or former Yugoslavia. This last you somehow paint as a US peace-keeping mission rather than the destruction of an entire nation’s infrastructure for ginned up claims of “genocide”. The doublespeak is so thick it would choke if we weren’t so damned used to it.

I dare you to challenge your own analysis some time. That chart you show -- I guarantee you it doesn't include the millions the US killed during the "War on Terror" years. Or the many that died of starvation thanks to US sanctions. The Pax Americana has been very bloody for a lot of weak nations across the globe for 80 years now. Take Guatemala where over 40 years starting with the CIA coup in 1954 fully 10% of the population was tortured and murdered to protect the profits of United Fruit. The US makes a desert and calls it peace.

This is the kind of glib and bullshit analysis that keeps the citizenry of the US pliant and stupid. It flatters all the prejudices while questioning none of the assumptions.

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This has the odor of *justification* of the US's particular flavor of hegemony, which could have come in many other varieties.

Good riddance, I'll take my chances.

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Many people commenting on this article don’t seem to have the historical awareness that the last 30 years have been the most peaceful, the most prosperous (by orders of magnitude), the healthiest, the safest, the freest, and the most just in all of human history. And this isn’t just true of the Western nations, it’s almost universal. Instead, many here seem to be focusing on the small picture of regional conflict or (relatively) small scale injustice to celebrate the end of this remarkable (and brief) period of human history. The author is entirely correct -- what comes next will be a return to more war, more instability, a big loss of generalized prosperity, and much, much less freedom.

Those working to tear down the existing system are not working toward a more free, peaceful and prosperous future.

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Noah, I enjoy your economics BUT i would say you might have a gap in Military & Defense, Hard power, IR.

US power projection is only limited by executive branch priorities not actual hard power operational planning, readiness, combat capacity & effects

1) US doctrine is built on " ops planning, readiness & effects" not volumetric drivers which the PRC/PLA or so called team bad guys. Having large numbers without a doctrine is just a waste of trillions of RMB

https://www.brookings.edu/articles/focusing-on-quality-over-quantity-in-the-us-military-budget/

2) There are many examples: there are literally 100s ,

Readiness

https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46559

US Army equipment on average has mission-capable rates today exceeding 90 percent, a historically high level.

USAF mission readiness is 70+%

https://www.airandspaceforces.com/breaking-down-usafs-70-percent-overall-mission-capable-rate/

The PLA cannot have anywhere near the readiness, operational capability, human capital combat capability while expanding 2-5x.. the trade off is massive. I question how many effects they could sustain past the first 5-10 OODA cycles of engagement

3) Just focusing on very basic Naval effects..

The USN has anywhere between 4-8 battle carrier groups doing 1-2 rotations per year the last 60yrs so 500 cycles which is true blue water navy and millions of people cycled over 60yrs force generation from E1-E9, CW, O1-010.. this is not trivial.

PLAN replicating this is something they cannot buy or build in a plant but is developed thru doctrine, training, culture, cycles. PLAN has never generated a full strike group that can move into Eastern Pacific much less force projection across the Indo-Pac

I would argue as long as the PRC want to waste trillions of Renminbi on "OUT VOLUMING" the US, thats great.. Building a 400,600, 800 ship naval is great as they are not investing in actual naval full spectrum integrated combat effects given the human resources to do that would cost a Trillion Renminbi a year just in Ops, Training, mutations, Human resources etc..

I and many could detail 100s of these examples which are not minor.

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There’s another theory for why interstate conflict has declined: the cost-benefit ratio on it has gotten progressively worse since the Industrial Revolution. Weapons got more and more destructive, and agricultural land got less and less valuable. It used to be that a state could increase its wealth and power by conquering someone else’s agricultural land, so war was profitable for the winner. Now, most economic value is in physical capital and skilled labor, which war destroys; so war can only make everyone poorer even if they win. It took people a while to realize this (hence the world wars) and some, like Putin, still haven’t internalized the lesson; but most countries have figured it out and aren’t interested in war anymore.

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That’s quite a lot of opinion from noahpinion. I note references to WaPo and a wikipedia source that explores “American Imperialism” and I really don’t need to read more.

A weak US president, an overarching UN and WEF and this is what you get.

It’s really that simple.

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Noah,

Great post. I think there is more to elaborate however. I would argue that Pax Americana was about a world system--one based on rules. Trade rules, human rights rules, arbitration rules and many other things.

This world grew on the substrate of American naval power, the silicon revolution and the agricultural green revolution as well as financial actions and so forth.

I think what follows is a de-globalized world where different regions have different rules and the US is unwilling to underwrite a global system.

Too early to tell in my opinion.

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