Way back when the West was pressuring the apartheid government to commit suicide on behalf of its people, they did a remarkable thing. They sequestered their nuclear program, making sure the information and material would not fall into the hands of whatever came after apartheid. It was remarkable, because no other state has voluntarily abandoned its program for the good of the world. Governments just don’t do that, but the South Africans did and a huge potential problem down the line was averted.
The reason this is worth thinking about is there are other unstable states, with lots of military technology. Pakistan is an obvious example. There is a better than even chance they have sold nuclear technology to other Muslim governments. They have most certainly been working with North Korea. Israel has nuclear weapons and they have advanced delivery systems. These are two countries that could fall into chaos or have their government overthrown. It’s not likely at the moment, but it is possible.
A bigger concern is America. There’s no getting around the fact that America is in bad shape in many important ways. The wizards in the Federal Reserve have been able to use creative ways to maintain the debt bubble, but everything comes to an end eventually. The demographic changes going on in the country are creating very serious fissures regionally, ethnically and economically. Just look at how aggressive and radical the political talk is these days. America looks very brittle right now.
If you are doing long term planning for the EU or a European government, you have to be looking at America and thinking about the Crisis of the Third Century. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it is a pretty good one. Like the Roman Empire, the American Empire is militaristic, the dominant military power and politically fragile. Like the Romans, America appears to be critically short of intellectual firepower in its ruling elite. Who knows, maybe Washington has a lead pipe problem, but it does have an IQ problem.
You have to think China, Japan, Europe, even the Russians are looking at America and wondering how it keeps teetering on without some serious reform effort. Further, you have to think the failure of the Trump administration to get anything done is another data point suggesting the American political class is malfunctioning. A healthy political elite would have made sure to co-opt Trump, given him some easy victories and made sure he turns his talents and political support toward defending the system.
Instead, the result of the Trump years is likely to be further confirmation that the system is hopelessly broken. Maybe the Democrats have some great reformer in their ranks who will rise in the primaries this year. It seems unlikely, but the funny thing about greatness is no one ever sees it before it becomes obvious. Still, what the political class has favored, guys like Bush, Clinton and Obama, suggests they have managed to create a system that selects against, at an early stage, anyone with the any amount of talent.
Now, America is probably not going to fall into a period of military anarchy as happened to the Romans in the third century. America is a sea-based empire, while the Romans were a land-based empire. Chaos, if it comes, will first be in the possessions. Perhaps that’s why the Trump administration is so eager to get out of Afghanistan and Syria. It could be that the defense establishment has finally realized they are being bled dry by these commitments. In order to preserve the empire, they must shrink it.
On the other hand, in an age when controlling the financial system is worth more than controlling territory, the chaos will show up first in the economy. We’re two months away from “hard Brexit” with no signs of a soft resolution. The EU had to compromise with the populist Italian government on their budget. The Yellow Vest riots, which everyone is told to ignore, are becoming a serious issue in France. All of these problems in Europe are being driven by the impossible realities of their economics system.
Whatever your favorite collapse scenario, all of them assume that the American political class will not be able to keep the plates spinning. At some point, the divisions in American society, be they cultural, racial or economic, become so large that the core of the empire becomes ungovernable. If you are on the outside looking in right now, America certainly looks like a continent wide version of 1970’s New York City. The difference being, New York City was not armed with nuclear weapons and a massive military.
How the rest of the world could “manage” the entropy of empire is hard to know. China could simply work to reduce its exposure to the empire and wait for it to withdraw from the Pacific Rim. South American governments seem to be using the current chaos to export their troublesome populations. They are using the techniques of Progressive urban gentrification to clean up their underclass. A weakening and chaotic America could very well be a good thing for them, at least from a demographic perspective.
European elites are suffering from the same disease as their American counterparts, so it is unlikely they are thinking too far ahead. On the other hand, the demographic situation in Europe is salvageable, so they have more time. France is not condemned to becoming a majority-minority society. No European country is assured that fate. America is guaranteed, short of something completely unexpected, to become a multi-racial, multi-ethnic country, with a large white minority. That’s a mathematical guarantee.
If it turns out that the model of the American empire cannot function with a majority-minority core and the core becomes ungovernable, then the world is going to have a very serious problem. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Europe fell into the dark ages for roughly a millennium. On order to avoid that fate, the world, particularly Europe, will need to start planning and preparing for life after America. That means figuring out a way to manage the inevitable decline of the American empire.