Let’s bust out on the realpolitik for a second.
So Europe wants to sell weapons to China, and the U.S. is raising a stink about it. It struck me that this is not a case of the world’s big brother setting a couple of other kids on the playground straight, but rather a case of the old guard trying desperately to hold on to influence in the face of a couple of rising powers.
Whether you see the EU as a nightmarish instance of Big Government or harbor a fondness for ol’ Europe because they all hate Bush as much as you do, there’s no denying that a united Europe is an economic force to be reckoned with. Sure, the U.S. isn’t going to get into a military tangle with them, but the economic rivalry itself could very well make them the next big threat to American hegemony (Charles Kupchan “thinks so”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200211/kupchan).
But I’ve still got my money on China. One point three billion people. There is no getting around that number. We have yet to feel the full extent of it on the global stage, because China is a big-ass boulder edging slowly down a shallow slope. But at a certain point its momentum will reach a tipping point, and it will start to roll, and then there will be no stopping it.
At this critical juncture the current U.S. government is running unheard-of deficits and has its military tied up in an ill-advised foreign occupation. While our diplomats appear to have shifted to damage-control mode, there is no denying that way, way more people hate our guts than did a few years ago, an outcome that was not inevitable, but required the deliberate squandering of goodwill and sympanthy engendered by the events of 9/11.
This has “end of empire” written all over it. And I’m not saying that triumphally. I have quibbles aplenty with our current government, but taking the long view, I’d still rather have us as the bully on the block than China, or even Europe. But that’s not the way we’re heading.