When the Utopians of the left talk about a Post-American world, they mean a great borderless globe ruled over by international law, where there are no more citizens or nations, just people who happen to enjoy working and living in New York, Shanghai or Islamabad. This digital jet setting globocratic version of John Lennon's 'Imagine' is their envisioned outcome of globalization. No more governments. Only one single world girdling government.
The United Nations is a potemkin village backed up by the armies of the United States and Europe. If the United States should fall, then its nemesis ensconced in a modernist skyscraper on Turtle Bay will fall with it. The United Nations has built itself around gathering a consensus of support for American policy or gathering an opposing consensus to restrain it. But either way it turns in response to a world power. It has no potency of its own.
The Utopians visualize a world administered through international law. Numberless UN covenants on human rights have been signed on to by the worst offenders, without any internal changes taking place. And why would they. The "international community" has only two major enforcement mechanisms, trade sanctions and armed invasion. The former leverages Western economic power, the latter Western military power. Subtract the West and even these limited enforcement mechanisms fall away.
It's not that Pakistan, China and Russia couldn't agree on a set of sanctions or send in their own troops in blue UN helmets. But their goal wouldn't be peacekeeping, it would be colonization. Subtract the West and the current facade of international law would be reduced to Lebensraum campaigns traded back and forth by world powers in conference rooms. A new era of colonialism would take place under the blue flag of the UN and with the sanction of international law. Its security council would become a loose alliance of rival hegemonies, Chinese, Russian, Islamic, Bolivarian, trading territory to each other's "peacekeeping" troops. The UN would finally become a global Hitler-Stalin pact. And everyone else would be Poland.
That is the face of the Post-American world. Either empire building or a new dark age. Or both. Take your pick.
The Utopians are too enamored of their vision of progressive government to be able to view it as anything other than inevitable. Barring some massive natural disaster, asteroid or nuclear war, they see the entire world getting more and more liberal, casting off their mores, identities and beliefs to join in one great rainbow flavored dance number. They see the triumph of their way as inevitable. Which is a natural fallacy for those who see 'their way' as the inevitable outcome of social and economic development, rather than a philosophical quirk of 19th century unemployed intellectuals and hack writers.
The intellectuals who were wrong about an inevitable collision between labor and owners, are equally wrong about the dissolution of states into a vast body of world government. The states are indeed dissolving, but in the old Roman way. Empires and nations are decaying and falling apart because they lack any reason to go on. They have become giant bankrupt cradles overseen by men and women who no longer believe in nations or anything but the manifest destiny of a cradle globe run by themselves.
What those men and women don't understand is that they derive their power from the states, rather than from any growing awareness that their way is right. Submerge the nations of Europe in the EU. Submerge the US in the UN, and they are left in control of nothing at all except the paperwork in their own offices. The streets outside turn Third Worldian and the men and women who presume to dictate the fates of nations have to be driven in armored limousines through the chaos outside. This is how empires fall. This is how they are falling right now.
Empires derive from people, rather than people deriving from empires. The West built trading empires because its rising middle class were merchants. Now the Western middle class is increasing made up of government bureaucrats and so it is busy building them a bureaucratic world-state. The Western trading empires turned their attention to real world commodities and territories. The bureaucratic empires of the new West are obsessed with regulations and treat money as an imaginary number. That is how a degenerating empire behaves.
China isn't a rising empire because its mothers are abusive or because their science education is better, or any of the sillier notions advanced in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. It is a rising empire because it is a trade empire. Its rulers understand that their power lies in trade, not in laws. They do everything possible to build their manufacturing, take hold of mining resources and set the rules of international trade on their own terms. That is something which American leaders understood as a given until two world wars convinced them that their power lay in making rules for everyone else to follow. So far that hasn't worked out too well. And in a Post-American world, those rules will become weapons to be wielded by savage armies and new colonial empires carving up Africa for its natural resources.
While the Utopians dream up global air castles, the rest of the world is planning to grab a chunk of the post-American empire. China and the Muslim world are the most blatantly ambitious of the bunch, but there are others too. And as the collapse of the West becomes more obvious, even nations like Japan which were able to embrace the leisure of pacifism under an American umbrella, will have to go and learn war again.
America is still a world power thanks to its population, its economy and its military. But no thanks to its leaders who are enthusiastic about giving up all that power in the service of a global hegemony. Even its conservatives see international law as a means of bringing human rights to all the globe. But they forget that American human rights don't exist because of international laws, but because colonial intellectuals championed a populist revolt against onerous taxation and centralized government, and prosperity and economic opportunity expanded the middle class and its legal rights along with it.
You can't export a revolution based on the rights of the individual, to cultures that don't believe in the supremacy of the individual over the system. China's Confucianism and Islam's theocratic fascism have their own definition of law, and they don't derive from the rights of the individual. While Americans rapturously praise democracy, they don't see the point. One man, one vote, is nothing special to cultures that don't believe one man counts for anything unless he dies gloriously in battle or shoveling manure on a collective farm.
In these cultures, the individual attains worth only by sacrificing for the group. A democratic vote there is a vote against the selfish individual, and for the collective identity of the group. Identity, not welfare. Collective groups are ruled over by oligarchies and the voting booth affirms their power in defense of the group identity. The individual only matters when he is part of that group. If he is not, then he is quickly stamped on and tossed aside. And the group rejoices in the sense of power that gives them. Whether they're stepping over the battered bodies of women or burning churches, the cruelty of the mob is the closest that the average individual comes to empowerment.
To the Westerner the image of a lone protester facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square is a show of moral courage by an individual. To the ambitious Chinese citizen it is a despicable act of crazed selfishness being properly suppressed by a patient and loving state which has reached its limits. We see ourselves in the protester. They see themselves in the tank. Similarly to the Westerner, the Muslim girl beaten bloody for sneaking off with a boy is a horrible indictment of the culture. To a Muslim, it is a horrible indictment of her.
Cultures such as these will not pass laws of equality. Instead their highest values are laws that perpetuate inequality in the name of morality.
The Arab Spring is not an awakening against repression. It is a call for representative repression. For the most part the protests are not driven by an opposition to dictatorship, but only to dictatorships that don't reflect their values and tribal affiliations. The philosophical European ideas about natural rights and the virtue of self-government have not made it over there. Nor will they take root in these desert sands. Not when the dominant model of belief rejects the imperfect individual for the perfection of Mohammedan law.
The Muslim world would like to use the UN to impose that perfection of Mohammedan law on the world. The progressives have their scripture and faith, and the Muslims have theirs. The vacuum of a Post-American world order means that 1 billion plus Muslims will be better positioned to impose their laws that stone women to death and treat non-Muslims as second-class citizens on the world. As Europe falls to the representative repression of migration demographics, its cathedrals will become mosques and its women will become second-class citizens.
Muslims understand what the West has forgotten, that nations are defined by their citizens. Fill up any European country with men who believe that the laws of the Koran are absolute and binding on all, and no matter how forward thinking it might have been, it will shortly be as hopelessly backward as the places that its new citizens came from.
If this is happening in the West, what hope is there for a world state of international law to be anything but what it has been all along, a rubber stamp for tyranny and oppression, but without the hope of relief for its victims.
The rise of Western democracy was the rise of the Middle Class protecting its rights and its interests. Now the Middle Class is dying, it is being replaced by a class of professional government workers subsidized by the slowly dying industries that once powered the commerce of a mighty nation. It cannot be exported by NGO's or replicated by global covenants. Not when the same progressives vowing to export democracy and human rights are hard at work crushing them at home.
The progressive ideal is a tragic misunderstanding ending in national catastrophe. The idealization of government is not only the second best possible route to tyranny, but also the death of the institutions that generate a nation's vitality. Reformers champion change, but their worship of government leads to static systems that make change and reform impossible. Their final vision of world government is an idealized failure from the start. Their failure to understand the nature of power and the extent to which their own ideals are cultural, rather than universal, dooms their inevitable world order to be not only not inevitable, but impossible.