Caroline Glick’s article on the foreign policy implications of Angelo Codevilla’s essay on America’s Ruling Class comes as Niall Ferguson is touring Australia warning that the end of American dominance may be imminent and sudden. Somehow the ideas in Codevilla’s essay are popping up everywhere, whether people have read it or not. Ferguson describes how rapidly empires can fall.
The Bourbon monarchy in France passed from triumph to terror with astonishing rapidity. The sun set on the British Empire almost as suddenly. The Suez crisis in 1956 proved that Britain could not act in defiance of the US in the Middle East, setting the seal on the end of empire.
But those things happen only to the denizens of history. People who live in the today usually think they are different. So despite evidence of dramatic change, people who have spent their whole lives among the policy certainties of the postwar period find it difficult to accept they may have to build a world of their own from first principles. Ferguson asks his audience: “what would you do in a world without America? Has the question even crossed your mind?”
Australia’s post-war foreign policy has been, in essence, to be a committed ally of the US. But what if the sudden waning of American power that I fear brings to an abrupt end the era of US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region? Are we ready for such a dramatic change in the global balance of power? Judging by what I have heard here since I arrived last Friday, the answer is no. Australians are simply not thinking about such things.
But if the Australians are not thinking about it, the Chinese are certainly preparing for it. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that Beijing objected to the right of US naval vessels to exercise in the Yellow Sea, despite the fact that they are international waters. At least they used to be. Waters are only international if kept so by a powerful navy committed to the freedom of the seas. People sometimes forget that treaties reflect realities rather than create them, no matter what the European Union may think. In another era the US would simply have bulled through. Not this time? According to Greg Palkot at Fox “so, at the last minute, word came from the exercises would happen east of South Korea (and well east of China) in the Sea of Japan. U.S. officials denied to us there was any cave-in to Beijing.”
Ironically, the exercises themselves were designed to send a signal of resolution to North Korea following the Obama administration’s decision not to respond to the sinking of a South Korean frigate by the North. Palkot, who was present for the exercises, said “the signal being sent during our U.S. TV exclusive embedment: Solidarity with South Korea, Deterrence to North Korea.” The plan was to show China who’s who. In that the Obama administration eminently succeeded.
But from the run-up, to the end, the maneuvers were also marked by some mixed messages. …First there was the timing. Following the suspected sinking of the South Korea warship, the Cheonan, by a North Korean submarine, South Korea announced the exercises. …
Which were then delayed by the U.S.
The main reason given was diplomacy needed to play out, including efforts in the UN Security Council to come up with a strong resolution against Pyongyang.
Council member and North Korea ally China blocked that and a much weaker “statement” came out. So it was back to military might.
Next … where to hold the drills? South Korea apparently pushed for them to be held in the Yellow Sea where the incident occurred. And the U.S. seemed good with that.
But China wasn’t, complaining loudly about the drill being at its maritime front door.
The actual message sent was that America was afraid to mess with fourth-rate North Korea and even more afraid to mess with China. But Glick is not surprised. “There is a clear foreign policy corollary to Codevilla’s discussion. Just as US bureaucrats, journalists, politicians and domestic policy wonks tend to combine forces to perpetuate and expand the sclerotic and increasingly bankrupt welfare state, so their foreign policy counterparts tend to collaborate to perpetuate failed foreign policy paradigms that have become writs of faith for American and Western elites.” In other words, when it comes down to funding politics or funding defense, fund politics. Ferguson made the same point more starkly: “it is quite likely that the US could be spending more on interest payments than on defense within the next decade.”