Atomic Geography: It, and the argument against it, are also perhaps the unifying idea behind the structures of neo imperialism you have explored previously.
We haven’t discussed “neo-imperialism” in these parts [Ordinary Times] very much. Maybe someday.
Sorting out the contradictions that bleed into your description of them would be part of that discussion, and one of its most difficult if not impossible requirements. Understanding them perfectly would require something, really, like absolute knowledge (or we might say “absolute knowing”) of world history. We can see how even our resplendently intelligent, articulate, cosmopolitan, wonderfully informed, by now thoroughly experienced, reasonable and well-meaning president is far from being able to master the case.
The fourth is that the world cannot afford to see the diminishment of U.S. power.
We could, indeed, put the statement in both positive and negative forms and declare them equally true: The world cannot afford the diminution of U.S. power, and, to use your phrasing, the world cannot afford “the continuation of an exceptional America.” One question elided in this formulation is whether, in fact, “continuation” is possible without constant expansion. Since the world keeps revolving and changing, there may be no staying in place, or, to say the same thing, staying in place would require a constant movement forward in two ways. Or we always need to be getting ahead of ourselves in order to keep up with ourselves.
If that proves too much for us – or has already proven too much for us – then the other way to put the observation two-sidedly would be this: The world cannot afford the diminution of U.S. power, but U.S. power is diminishing: The world is therefore in some kind of danger or is going bankrupt or whatever we mean when we say that something is happening to an entity that that entity cannot afford.
I think it means that the world will be, or would be, or is a different world under the diminution of U.S. power. I think it also means that no one should feel too confident about predicting what such a transformation will entail. I think that even if the neo-empire has passed its half-life, there might be still a lot of less-than-half to go, including multiple opportunities for everyone who got what they wished for to beg for a do-over.