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The Pax Americana is officially over

U.S. influence is at a new low and will keep falling under Trump. What comes next is going to be ugly.


 
Egypt, Africa

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo on September 11, 2012 over what they said was a film being produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

I watched a video this morning. It was filmed in Damascus. A father held his two daughters on his lap. The girls were aged 7 and 9, but they looked younger and smaller. The children are stiff, and uncomfortable, staring past the camera. Their mother, off screen, tells them to be patient as they squirm a little while their father talks gently to them.

The man explains he is sending them off to be suicide bombers, to kill the infidels. The mother hugs them, the father offers parting words of comfort: “You won’t be scared, because you’re going to God, isn’t that right?” Then the girls walk out the door, like they are heading to school, a confused expression on their face and looking tiny in their winter coats.

According to news reports, a few hours later the youngest one approached a policeman. She was lost and asked to use the washroom. After he let her in, her bomb was triggered remotely, killing her and injuring three others. There’s another video of the aftermath. The ceramic in the washroom is sooty and broken. The remains of the girl have been collected in a very small bag—one more death to add to the 400,000 others who have lost their lives during the Syrian civil war.

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After the end of the Cold War, the world became considerably less dangerous, moderately less bloody, and much more predictable. Without the superpower rivalries, nuclear tensions eased and the doomsday clock was rolled back. The number of armed conflicts fell by half and the rate of battle deaths dropped even lower. And although American foreign policy lumbered from one misadventure to another, Washington presided over an imperfect peace, and you mostly just needed to watch the White House to get a sense of how events were likely to unfold overseas.

But this New World Order has slowly eroded over the last decade. The Afghan and Iraq misadventures strained American alliances, and sowed chaos across the Middle East, central Asia and northern Africa. Russia began to expand its sphere of influence into the former Soviet republics, and beyond. The rise of China, Brazil and India gave Washington less room to manoeuvre. Coupled with President Barack Obama’s instinct to talk more, do less, and always underreact, America’s influence began to wane, even if the chaos left in its wake continued to wax.

MORE: Russia’s new influence in the Middle East

Not coincidentally, the long-term trends toward a more peaceful and less violent world have been reversed over the last five years. There are now more refugees globally than at any time in history. And while the number of wars and combat deaths remains relatively low within the context of the last century, violent conflicts increased by over 60 per cent during that time.

It’s unlikely that the Syrian civil war could have happened during the Cold War. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States would have benefited from it spiralling out of control like this and destabilizing the entire region. Earlier in the post-Cold War era, after Rwanda and during the heady days of “Mission Accomplished,” Washington would not have hesitated to send a cruise missile down Assad’s chimney, or to march in ground troops to stamp out ISIS. But this is a new era now, more multipolar and less predictable than any time since the 1930s.

It is clear that this new age is not an American one. In fact, 2016 arguably marked the lowest point in American influence since the Second World War. The last several weeks have seen it drop even further. Obama reported that during one of his conversations with his successor, he asked the president-elect to refrain from weighing in on international issues because “there can only be one President at a time.” Nonetheless, Trump continues to throw zingers at whatever international issue catches his fancy. Foreign powers like China, unable to decide if they should take Trump’s muddled and juvenile foreign policy spitballs “seriously or literally,” are choosing to simply ignore the United States entirely.

RELATED: Donald Trump and the new world order

Consider the Syrian summit this week in Moscow. The three countries at the table? Russia, Iran and Turkey. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wasn’t invited, and the absence was not missed. The three parties were still able to agree on a joint approach that included a ceasefire and peace talks.

For Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the agreement supports his goal of creating a buffer zone in northern Syria so it can relocate the large number of refugees currently in camps on the Turkish side of the border. It also advances Turkey’s efforts to build a new alliance with Moscow as Ankara shifts away from Europe. And for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the deal props up their ally in Damascus. This will ensure another year of bloodshed, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claws back Aleppo and other cities still held by the rebels.

The Pax Americana is over. It is still too soon to know what comes next. But, sadly, it is more likely be a world where a father sends his young daughters off with bombs strapped to their chest, than the sane, humane, predictable world we have longed for.


 

The Pax Americana is officially over

  1. Isn’t this what Canadians and much of the rest of the world has been calling for?
    America minding its own business? Not to worry. I am sure Canada will step in
    to fill the leadership void. After all, ” The World Needs More Canada”

    • When the core of your country, which ranks 28th in education worldwide, composed as it is of ignorant bigoted hicks, finally gets reflected in your leadership (Drumpf and his disciples of greed), do not expect to be liked. Close all your bases worldwide and go home to your movies amd tell each other how wonderful you are.

      • “go home to your movies and tell each other how wonderful you are”

        Hey that sounds like true Canadiana

  2. Pax Americana? Your joking, right?

    The American hegemon has been at war basically continuously since the end of WWII. After the end of the Cold War, the world did not become less dangerous. It became more dangerous, because of imperial overreach by the Americans, which gave the delusion that things had gotten better initially, but now all the chickens are coming home to roost because of that imperial overreach.

    Obama has been as great or greater war monger than any of his predecessors. He (and Hillary) destabilized Libya and North Africa, Ukraine and Eastern Europe, and allied with ruling Saudi Wahhabists to use radical Islamists to seek regime change in Syria, leading to the massive North African and Middle Eastern humanitarian crises and mass refugee migrations. Obama has succeeded in outdoing Bill Clinton’s Rwandan genocide.

    • Yeah it’s all the fault of a black guy and a woman eh Weetabix?

      • Are you calling Obama black??? I thought he was bi-racial? I know you’re all into science and stuff Emily — so technically Obama is 50% white and 50% black. Or course in an interview he did refer to himself as a mutt (mixed race). But — in his biography he self identifies as black — although he gives an entire chapter to being raised by his single white mother and his white grandparents. Oh well — science trumps all. Can’t change his DNA you know.

        And — why would you not refer to Clinton as a “white” woman?

        Alas Emily you’re that typical left leaning Liberal who is always mixing race and colour into their arguments.

          • I’m sorry for your problem Emily. While I cannot dispute whether you were into the eggnog a little too much while you were posting online, I can at least be sympathetic.

            It still is no excuse for your posting wrt to skin colour. Our PM, that you hold in such high esteem, has said “this is 2016”. We don’t refer to people by their skin colour — but if you should — then equality is always the best choice.

        • Yer a newbie on here arncha…..otherwise you’d know I’ve long said there is no such thing as race…..it’s a social construct

          And I’m not left or Lib or any of your other fantasies.either.

          • Wow Any excuse eh Emily? If you’re not drinking to much eggnog than it must be someone’s fantasy?

            You don’t have to be on these forums long to read that you extol the virtues of anything that leans left and smells, looks and tastes like a Liberal. You’re not left bias — LOL — you must be a comedian?

            Anyways — you were caught “red-handed” so to speak using a person’s colour. That’s wrong. But hey — you extolled the virtues of PBS in a previous forum — so why don’t you catch up on one of your PBS episodes “Origin of the Idea of Race”. Then we’ll see how much faith you put into science LOL.

        • Ahhhh the Con ‘double down’ gambit

          Sorry dude I was PC for 30 years…..then Reform and finally Con

          I have no interest in playing your games…..Ciao.

    • Just look at raw numbers. Deaths in conflicts, number of conflicts, lenght of conflicts… If you look at it not just this century, but over the last couple century, it is a fact the post WW2 era, and especially post cold war era, has been comparatively peaceful. Of course the US has intervened over the world – but look throughout history and you’ll see dominating world powers at different times have always been doing that. I’m not saying that to justify the US financing the contras and talibans and all. Still facts are facts…

    • So Obama organized and performed the Arab Spring and the Maidan protests in Ukraine? Obama refused to lead the mission into Libya because he wanted Libya’s neighbors to do it and they did. The American forces only prevented Qaddafi from killing more people.
      IMO demographics and the internet are more responsible for current conflicts than a decrease in American involvement. For cultural reasons some people are overpopulating their resoective regions. When there are not enough resources it leads to competition among groups. This was also true in Rwanda. Pre-internet groups of people could hate each other but never come into contact. There is a kind of sectarian awakening in the Middle East that wouldn’t be possible without modern media.
      The war in Syria is an outlier because several countries are willing to invest more than the US for their side to prevail (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia). There was no comparable situation during the Cold War.

      • This is the way Hillary describes Libya, which is at odds with yours. “We came. We saw. He died.” …. Her “mission accomplished” statement. She claimed “paternity” before Libya and North Africa turned into a mess. Libyan arms were then shipped to the radical Islamists she and Obama and Saudi Arabia were backing in Syria.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgcd1ghag5Y

  3. Well, with the current American leadership as it is, what can people expect? After the past eight years, it’s clear they’re become part of the problem. If that is what hope really looks like, then I’m glad to see them go.

    MAGA

  4. It is quite a leap that the write makes to assume that the US will have no influence. Just because under Obama and Clinton/Kerry they have no influence doesn’t follow that the US under Trump will not. I suspect that change will be that the US is clear on its intentions and who is does and does not support (something that was never clear with Obama/Clinton/Kerry), and when Trump chooses to act it will be a full and clear action with clear consequences. And the enemies of the US will know that and the allies of the US will also know it.

    • I feel sure and hope that, under President Trump, there will be sweeping changes. It’s a given, I suppose. BUT, for goodness sake can we, please, wait until AFTER the inaugural ceremony next month, before making abusive remarks.

      I wonder if Gilmore, et al, are capable of a possible apology.

      • Some people on here have had far too much eggnog!

      • We should of course wait until after the inauguration to comment on Trump as president. And we would, if only he hadn’t begun to act like a president (or emperor, or dictator) already. The nerve! He altered – or rather, shattered – existing China policy, Russia policy, Philippines policy, almost as soon as the election was over. Now he has advocated a nuclear arms race and tried to tell President Obama what decision to make at the UN on Israel.
        This behaviour, in my opinion, justifies any amount of criticism that is in no way premature.
        The benefit of the doubt? That was forfeited long ago.

        • You may say what you wish, but be careful what you wish for … if you have no alternative.

  5. It appears that it is fashionable now to continually bash Donald Trump, his followers, supporters, and even his cabinet picks. At least America got an international businessman, a jobs creator, a builder, and a leader with balls, rather the grade five drama teacher and part-time ski instructor that we got lumbered with.

    • Well now you’ve lied about two leaders…..

  6. It appears that it is fashionable now to continually bash Donald Trump, his followers, supporters, and even his cabinet picks. At least America got an international businessman, a jobs creator, a builder, and a leader with balls, rather the grade five drama teacher and part-time ski instructor that we got lumbered with.

    • Obviously this is meant to be satirical, William, but it is just a ridiculous comment.
      The Americans have saddled themselves with a lying, hypocritical,misogynistic crook for a president- and he is enriching his friends and family already. All he cares about is growing his brand and public attention- (note the tweets instead of press conferences)
      Attempting to denigrate our PM, (who has done a fairly good job of his first year) with childish insults is so part of the failed conservative 2015 talking points.. You know he taught Math & English- and served as an MP.
      Grow up.

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