“Autocracy versus democracy” does not usefully describe the moment. It feels like a discarded line from some kind of late-night brainstorming session. … No, it’s not about democracy versus autocracy. The wheels are coming off. Our predecessors bequeathed to us a period of unprecedented tranquility. They were not infinitely wise in getting us here — no wiser than we are. But we grew up used to it in ways they could never imagine. We assumed order was normality, that peace was what naturally arose when power-hungry hyperpowers minded their own business. A better and more just world was there for the taking, if only we were moral enough to push for it.
An exaggeration, perhaps; and yet, I find myself wanting to respond to the unfolding global disorder by just doubling down on my effort to focus on my regular daily life—work on client projects, get the kids to school and back and to appointments, clean the gutters, winterize the sprinklers, wash the dishes, sweep the floor. There is a lot to be said for the mental and spiritual health aspects of focusing on the now and just doing what one can. But at the same time, I have the nagging sense that there is more global disorder and disruption to come, that the U.S. government has been so hollowed out by partisan efforts to incapacitate it that it would not be able to respond, and that the U.S. economy would not be able to handle a major conflict in Asia—to say nothing of the military, which would be undersupplied due to the lack of a sufficient domestic production base.
Noah Smith, We’re not ready for the Big One:
But the final shoe has yet to drop. Russia’s dysfunction has bogged it down in Ukraine, and Iran’s military power is limited, so these wars are unlikely to spread and lay waste to whole regions. Nor will the global economy be upended, since Russia and Iran are both petrostates. The real cataclysmic event will be a war between the U.S. and China over Taiwan. . . . So to sum up, China has a significant chance of invading Taiwan in the next few years. And if it does happen, there’s a very significant chance the U.S. will go to war with China as a result. This war would eclipse anything in Europe or the Middle East. It’s not a tail risk — i.e., a highly unlikely but catastrophic event that we need to hedge against. It’s a realistic, major, imminent risk. We can’t get by with just hedging; we need to actively prepare.
… which comes just a few days after:
Anyway, Pax Americana always had an expiration date. If the U.S. had avoided the Iraq War and maintained its defense-industrial base, it could have prolonged its hegemony by about a decade, but ultimately the rising power of China would have ensured the return of the multipolarity that existed before World War 2. In any case, it’s over now, and until and unless a new dominant global coalition of nation-states can be forged — either a Chinese-led global order or some kind of expanded democratic hegemony that includes India and large other developing nations — we’re going to have to re-learn how to live in the jungle.
Over the past two decades it had become fashionable to lambast American hegemony, to speak derisively of “American exceptionalism”, to ridicule America’s self-arrogated function of “world police”, and to yearn for a multipolar world. Well, congratulations, now we have that world. See if you like it better.