By Lee Chor Pharn
Bruno Macaes in his latest book “History has Begun — the birth of a new America”, outlines a new American culture that turns away from Western civilisation. This is an America that leaves behind the global order underpinning the West, and in so many ways Macaes emphasises this is not a decline but the birth pangs of a new organising principle of how the new America will come to understand itself. It will be a new claim to primacy — with energy and resources aplenty — and new America will be in opposition to Europe’s traditions of liberalism and the EU’s technocracy. But what is this new America? Macaes does not describe explicitly what it looks like, but the “unreality principle” will dominate. In his view, America likes to see the world as an action movie. “Television is the secret to understanding the America century”. Pages are devoted to Trump’s running the administration like a TV series, with plot lines, conflicts, resolutions slotted in as an older story line turns stale. This goes beyond Trump to new idols like Alexandria Ocasia Cortez, feted in the media not because of any policies (so far) but because her story to power read like a melodramatic soap opera. As America turns away from the global leadership, what of its foreign policy? Macaes dips back into his previous books “Dawn of Eurasia” and the “Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order” to draw out how the new America will be a “great balancer” of different Eurasian powers.
This “great balancer” theme is echoed in Peter Zeihan’s third instalment in his trilogy, begun with “Absent Superpower”, “Accidental Superpower”. The new book, “Disunited Nations” talks about a near future where the US withdraws from the global order it built, based on the assessment it no longer benefits much from the American-led post war alliance structure and economic system it built. Zeihan goes on to postulate the general unraveling of the European Union, China, Middle East as the US retrenches into its sphere. Manufacturing relocates to where energy, market, resources, skilled labour are present in the same contiguous geography — namely the USA. Access to the US market is a privilege, and an American core emerges composed of Canada, Mexico with peripheral nations the UK and Japan, proxies used by the US to keep Europe and Asia off balance. The US engages in dollar diplomacy to profit off the world’s instability.
This turnaround in the US’ global role was highlighted in a 2017 essay “Without America” by former Australian Deputy Secretary of Strategy and Intelligence Hugh White, now emeritus professor at the Australian National University. In a podcast interview by the Lowy Institute, Hugh White talked about his new book “How to defend Australia” on planning Australia’s defence assuming the US alliance vanishes, including considering going nuclear and defining Australia to New Zealand as an exclusive zone.
Much could be different … or not … in the post Covid world. Covid acts to accelerate many existing trends and surface contradictions for resolution. What Zeihan, White and Macaes pontificate about could happen in a compressed time. I look forward to seeing more points of view up and down the spectrum on a post-America America.
Lee Chor Pharn is Principal Strategist at the Centre for Strategic Futures.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of Centre for Strategic Futures or any agency of the Government of Singapore.