Suppose it were assumed true that the United States of America was reaching the end of its effective life as as a functional, coherent and organized political unit. What would the implications be? Globally? And for us as individuals?
If such a statement seems alien to you, I would HIGHLY recommend you spend time re-evaluating your world view. Because at the moment of history in which we are currently co-occupying, such a scenario is straying out of the realms of fiction and into the realms of probability. As the US of A confronts a crippling level of debt, mandated cuts in military spending, increasing restrictions of civil liberties in the name of national security, a withdrawal from the hot zones of conflict across the Middle East under the auspices of "mission accomplished" and an increasing amount of sectarian unrest at home (driven by insurmountable social and fiscal differences) - it becomes necessary to objectively review the implications of a world where America is not only no longer a superpower, but is actually non-existent IN TOTO.
Why? One need only look at the sister nations throughout history that share the model that America has so remarkably capitalized upon - and the two most enduring lessons stem from the Roman Empire and from the USA's erstwhile enemy: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Rome is actually an amazingly pertinent comparison, although the troubles that confront the US today confronted Rome in two parts - first the death of the Roman Republic and its replacement by "benevolent" despotism under a series of emperors, and finally the violent, brutal and ultimately cataclysmic destruction of the Roman Empire (at least the original Western half of it) some four hundred years later.
Stop me if you've heard this before: a young and aggressively expansionistic nation founded originally as a colony by an older and more "civilized" culture creates a myth of its own destiny and through good morals, hard-work, business acumen and military innovation manages to create a large, multi-ethnic power that prides itself on its adherence to justice, the exercise of popular power and its ability to bring the light of progress and civilization to the dark corners of the world. And then after centuries becomes corrupt, lazy, elitist - dominated by special interest groups, crippled by legislative inertia and in-fighting and a massive split between two mutually exclusive social groups whose ideological conflict is unresolvable through democratic processes.
(p.s. I'm talking about Rome here - and certainly NOT the U.S.A... *wink*)
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi - Thus Passes the Glory of the World. In this case, the Roman Republic. Now fast forward. Now we have a tired, over-extended military power facing massive deficits, unemployment, an over-bloated bureaucracy, an overwhelming amount of illegal and semi-legal foreigners who "put hard-working citizens out of work" by working for less, and undermine the cultural norms and language of the nation. Wars rage everywhere, mainly against under-privileged outsiders jealous of the empire's success, who launch assault after assault against the crumbling nation. Loyalties are divided, the people are apathetic and uninvolved as responsible citizens, civil conflict rages, the economy crumbles, inflation spirals out control - and inevitably central power collapses entirely and regional and local authority asserts itself.
Do I speak of Rome at the destruction of the Western Empire during the 5th century, or do I speak of the years to come for the US?
Or, if I have not driven the comparison home enough - let us review the last years of the Soviet Empire. The USSR was for decades a stalwart bulwark of Communist ideology, and the philosophical and political antipode to the US. America feared and hated the threat the USSR posed: its ideology, its national agenda, its brutal economic efficacy ("we shall bury you!" was not an idle threat in 1956), its weaponry and its geopolitical machinations. It was an enemy that, it was assumed, was going to last for generations (as Arthur C. Clarke's "2010" taught us).
And yet how quickly the dragon was dispatched. In 1979, at the start of the Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan, the USSR could potentially lay claim to having an upper-hand on the US geo-politically, and perhaps even militarily. A decade year later, as the Soviet Army limped out of Afghanistan, the USSR was economically broken, politically divided, militarily outmaneuvered, increasingly isolated internationally and confronting internal dissent unseen in decades. Three short years later (as of Dec. 31, 1991), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceased to exist as an entity.
While historical correlations are no definite precursor to predicting the future, it must be emphasized that when large, complex, pluralistic states such as Rome and the USSR face the sort of challenges that the US faces, the centrifugal social forces constantly at play in such societies have a strong tendency to cause them to fly to pieces in times of intense crisis. Why? Well - consider what holds the US together - is it religion, ethnic identity, clan loyalties or a shared popular myth?
Ultimately, it is a matter of a nebulous sense of "Americanness" derived from very definite expectations of economic and political privilege. We implicitly assume that as Americans we will have a fundamentally better chance economically than people who live elsewhere, and enjoy a higher level of social and political freedoms. An America failing to deliver on those expectations due to a fiscal down-spiral, economic disparity, bureaucratic strangling, political dis-empowerment, lagging innovation, the revocation of civil liberties, and collapsing military hegemony abroad is an America increasingly in danger of its citizenry weighing the pros and cons of on-going participation in the Great Experiment that this nation really is.
Much like the citizens of Rome and the Soviet Union who confronted the same hard realities as their states withered from an incompetent and ineffectual leadership that no longer understood the intangibility of "Roman-ness", or "Soviet-ness" that motivated the citizenry to maintain and protect the state: likewise, the citizens of this country must also confront what "American-ness" actually means to them in their lives, and consider the consequences of maintaining that identity, or choosing to redefine themselves. Ultimately, that choice is driven by a sense of expectation of the capacity of the individual and the group to create a better situation for themselves. If it is in our benefit to maintain "America" or is it better to seek a new path?
And if America and its leadership does not awaken to that blunt truth and strive to create new possibilities for individual and social improvement, they can only realistically expect the same fate that befell the echelons of power that held sway in our two test studies.
Transform, or be swept away by the tides of history.