The main idea of this book is that the post-Cold War world of the last 30+ years, with its globalization and security, is coming to an end, but it is not really the end of the world. This current world is based on American military and economic dominance, which protected trade routes across the globe, provided the dollar as the global currency, and more or less enforced international legal order. However, unlike many observers, the author does not expect it to result from the American decline and rise of authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. Instead, he sees it as a result of Americans losing interest in maintaining the global world order and turning inside to developing and protecting their well-being, economic prosperity, and security. The author foresees massive structural changes in American society, making Americans too busy fixing their society to look after anybody else. “This is round seven for those of you with minds of historical bents. Americans survived and thrived before because their geography is insulated from, while their demographic profile is starkly younger than, the bulk of the world. They will survive and thrive now and into the future for similar reasons. America’s strengths allow her debates to be petty, while those debates barely affect her strengths.” Without American involvement, there is nobody else with sufficient economic and military power to either maintain the existing global order or establish the new one. The author dismisses the fashionable idea of future China dominance. He believes that this country is on the brink of disaster due to its demographic decline, the rise of ideological control that would stifle the economy, and the generally low probability of producing conditions that would attract others to join the world of Chinese dominance.
So, the author’s prognosis is that 2020-2040 will be decades of struggle and disasters for many countries while Americans are busy rebuilding and reindustrializing their country. After this process is completed, America will return, and his prognosis is:” In the coming age, the gap between North America and the bulk of the world will be, if anything, starker. Never before in human history has the premier power from the previous era emerged so unassailably dominant at the beginning of the next.”
MY TAKE ON IT:
In my opinion, this is a pretty good analysis, and I agree with most of its inferences. However, I think that America would never return to the isolation of the XIX century or anything close to this because Americans are way too much interconnected with the world. Instead, I expect the world’s new, albeit temporary, division into two parts. It would be the free world that includes America and most developed countries that belong to the ideologically Westers world and the poorly coordinated authoritarian world from China to Russia and their ideological siblings with a multitude of ideologies from communism to Islamism and everything in between. Instead of the Iron Wall, I would expect something that would look more like a Stainless steel wall. This wall should be impenetrable for the flow of technology from the free world to the authoritarian world and have a few gates for individuals who prefer another world to the one they were born into. I hope that eventually, the deep understanding will sink in that any interaction providing this hostile authoritarian world access to high technology causes highly negative military implications. The complete isolation of authoritarians would make its self-destruction much more straightforward and save the free world from a need to compete technologically in the military area. History clearly shows that the Cold War would have ended much earlier without the mass transfer of technology from the West to the Soviets in the 1940s, including nuclear weapons and whatnot. It would also end with the complete destruction of anti-human communist ideology rather than with a transfer to another form of authoritarianism – oligarchical capitalism.