In the British case, the angst was a result of the unexpectedly protracted, bloody and costly Boer war, in which a small group of foreign insurgents defied the mightiest military the world had seen; concern about the rising economic power of Germany and the United States; and a combination of imperial overstretch with socio-economic problems at home. In the American case, it's a result of the unexpectedly protracted, bloody and costly Iraq war, in which a small group of foreign insurgents defies the mightiest military the world has seen; concern about the rising economic power of China and India; and a combination of imperial overstretch with socio-economic problems at home.Here.
Iraq is America's Boer war. Remember that after the British had declared the end of major combat operations in the summer of 1900, the Boers launched a campaign of guerrilla warfare that kept British troops on the run for another two years. The British won only by a ruthlessness of which, I'm glad to say, the democratic, squeamish and still basically anti-colonialist United States appears incapable. In the end, the British had 450,000 British and colonial troops there (compared with some 150,000 US troops in Iraq), and herded roughly a quarter of the Boer population into concentration camps, where many died.
Ash goes on to say that we should lament, not celebrate the end of the American empire. I can't say I'm ready to weep. Ash's main point seems to be that autocratic China will replace the United States, and this is a bad thing. I disagree on two points:
First, despite the recent hype about China, there's no reason to believe that it will replace the US anytime soon as global hegemon. For the next few decades at least, China will still be a poor country in both relative and absolute terms. (In absolute terms, China's economy is just a bit bigger than Canada's.)Meanwhile, what happens inside China will be far more important to the course of the planet. I've previously written that I don't believe the Communist Party of China will survive another decade, due to increasing unrest within China. Assuming China is able to make the transition from autocratic to democratic, why should any of us fear Chinese hegemony?
Secondly, the benefits of American democracy are pretty hard to point to in the international arena. Has America's democracy forgiven African debt? Helped provide cheap AIDS drugs? Lowered tarriffs for developing countries? No, on all counts. America has been just as ruthless in pursuing it's own interests as China has been. Criticize China for buying Sudanese oil, sure. But pretending that the US has a great record in opposing tyranny post-1945 is delusional.