Four scenarios that could spell the end of the United States – soon

How America will collapse (by 2025) – U.S. Economy – Salon.com

Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington’s wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council’s own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.


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12 comments on “Four scenarios that could spell the end of the United States – soon

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  1. This idiot Salon writer is probably one of the Americans who thinks China already has a stronger economy than the U.S.

    He reminds me of James Fallon’s idiotic writings about the coming Japanese economic dominance back when the theoretical monetary value of Japan as real estate had surpassed the monetary value of the U.S.

    I do give him credit for pinpointing the beginning of the end of U.S. dominance as the date of the beginning of the Iraq invasion. There is something to be said for griding one’s political axe in the open early in one’s thesis.

    If you haven’t done so you should read a sample of the comments on his article. The existence of Americans who look forward to and positively relish the idea of a world dominated by an authoritarian China is very interesting.

  2. I used to marvel at how Fallows can continue to pontificate after making such a bad call, Von Wolferen, also believed in the MITI
    behemoth, but he’s kept himself relatively scarce on the subject.
    McCoy was the original CIA drug conspiracist, who got some attaboys in the mid 80s as a Phillipine expert, and reinvented himself yet again as a ‘torture’ expert in the Oughts, Before this last crisis, Fallows has tendered the possibility that China could bring about a Gottedammerung, because of our dependence on it. Another specialist in the genre, Richard Clarke, years ago, scoffed at neocon concerns over China, but in his first novel, where he sympathetically
    portrays a post Revolutionary Saudi Govt, the Chinese play a big part. Irony of irony, Salon’s original sponsor, H&Q, had business dealing with the head of China’s DARPA

  3. @ narciso:

    Fallows has tendered the possibility that China could bring about a Gottedammerung, because of our dependence on it.

    I love that meme. We have the goods China has sold us and China has a trillion slips of paper that are worth what our laws say they are worth. We feed ourselves and have food to sell; plus we have internal or next door sources of energy to keep our whole population at a living standard better than that of 99% of China’s population even in the event of another Great Depression and the complete shutdown of global trade. It would hurt us a lot to simply devalue the dollar and shut down trade; but it would kill China and most of the rest of the world.

    So who is in charge if push really comes to shove?

  4. Sully wrote:

    This idiot Salon writer is probably one of the Americans who thinks China already has a stronger economy than the U.S.

    Considering that the “idiot” – not a regular Salon idiot, however – spent a substantial portion of the article examining the question in detail, and was quite clear about the when’s and how’s of China’s projected gains, that’s a very weak criticism.

    So who is in charge if push really comes to shove?

    Today, us. But what about the next “push,” and the one after that? The author projects on current trends and makes basic assumptions about aggregate economic strength sooner or later equating with ability to project and maintain political/military power. He attempts to consider synergistic effects. Other than briefly in the speculative scenario-building, he doesn’t attempt to get down to the level of specificity that Krepinevich does in SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS.

    McCoy doesn’t make any claims about the per capita consumption or average living standards of the post-imperial American populace. They might indeed be higher than those of the average Chinese peasant, but they would be experienced by many as a massive loss. “Well, we’re mostly doing better than Haiti,” is a lot different from “We’re the last best hope for mankind re-making the world in our image.”

    It’s impossible to reverse the overall trend he describes, and efforts to do so will likely accelerate and deepen it, and make the effects of it worse. Whether the material consequences will come rushing upon us, accelerated by technology and globalization, or whether other aspects of the situation will retard developments and soften the blows, is harder to see. America may be materially or relatively dominant militarily and economically for generations to come, but whether it will be a nice place to live for most of its citizens, or in other respects the same America we thought it was, is another question.

  5. Which country has a history of nonconsensual government again, typified by the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, and is likely to exhibit
    massive social dislocation because of it, Warlordism with nuclear weapons, is one such situation to look forward to. And McCoy’s
    schadenfreude, leaps off the page, along with the old standby, peak oil

  6. narciso wrote:

    Which country has a history of nonconsensual government again, typified by the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, and is likely to exhibit
    massive social dislocation because of it, Warlordism with nuclear weapons, is one such situation to look forward to. And McCoy’s
    schadenfreude, leaps off the page, along with the old standby, peak oil

    From my position it looks more like your cast-iron ideological commitments leap into the page.

    China could disappear into the Gobi Desert tomorrow and someone could come up with a way to power cars and industry with blog comment threads, and the trends would still be intact.

  7. @ narciso: Most everywhere has a history of non-consensual government, including Cuba, New Jersey, and Florida.

    China has a history marked by having a big bunch of real hungry people. It looks like that’s no longer going to be the case. There’s going to be some fairly large changes coming, and a bit of trouble, but warlordism isn’t likely.

  8. @ CK MacLeod:

    The author projects on current trends

    Projecting on current trends we ought to shut down the space program because the bamboo in my yard will reach the moon in twenty or thirty years, and Mars fifty or so years after that.

    Which is my point. We observed the result of wistful trend projecting by those of a central planning mindset in the case of Japan and here we are ten years after Japan was supposed to overtake us economically.

    China builds a few windmills and just the same sort of idiot as McCoy focuses on that, forgets the two coal powered power plants they’re building a week, and projects that they will own the renewable energy industry. China builds a supercomputer and sets a speed record and McCoy projects that their info science industry will build better cyber war weapons than one that produces a myriad of new tech products each year.

    whether it will be a nice place to live for most of its citizens, or in other respects the same America we thought it was, is another question.

    That, of course, depends on the threat level. If worst comes to worst we can always elect a new Woodrow Wilson and bring back the sort of progressive laws he (and I presume McCoy) liked and got passed to make sure we all pull our oars as needed without a lot of whining.

  9. @ Sully:
    It goes without saying that to project on the basis of current trends usefully, one must understand the trend accurately in its relevant dimensions. Your bamboo example would be an example of failing that test.

    I’m happy to believe that China will and must disappoint its boosters even worse than Japan has disappointed the “Gung-Ho”-ists of the late ’80s early ’90s, or as the Soviet Union frustrated the predictions of those who thought it had all of the necessary advantages to win the Cold War. But the same would go for those who project an inevitable happy ending based on longer “trends” regarding American exceptionalism/imperialism.

    You also seem to attribute to the author a level of Sinophilia that his piece doesn’t really demonstrate. He doesn’t seem to believe, for instance, that China is culturally prepared to take on the role of world leader, much less world hegemon. His main scenarios are more “things fall apart,” not Yellow Menace.

    Paul Kennedy and other pessimists of the ’80s-’90s, like earlier Cold War pessimists, especially the ones with books to sell, may have been wrong on the timing. The closer you can date the apocalypse to the present day, the more interesting to readers, for obvious reasons. Just ask your local Jehovah’s Witness, as you could have asked one of his precursors at any time going back to the birth of Christianity. Apocalyptic fiction is not a new literary genre. But if Kennedy was as wrong about Japan and the U.S. looking forward from ca. 1990 as the Jesus Christ of the Bible was about the end of the world looking forward from the 1st Century AD, that doesn’t mean that either was wrong about the larger issues he had in mind.

    The fall of the American pseudo-empire won’t be the same as the fall of Rome or the fall of Babylon the Great, but it will happen, or pseudo-happen, and the entropic trends are readily visible. Japan then, the Soviet Union previously, China now, are just external symbols for inexorable internal processes that may happen to take longer than a publisher’s time horizon to work themselves out.

  10. According to Ghost in the Shell, the American Empire lasts much longer,
    even after WW 111, we’re still in the Jugurthan war period for those with the copy of the home game, I didn’t happen to come upon some
    Van Wolferen by the way, and he insists that the Americans are in part
    responsible for the LDP, which birthed the MITI alliance, which was the inspiration for Gary Hart’s neo liberal industrial policy,

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