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How Long Will GAE's Hegemony Last?
Everything has an expiration date
One of the questions we see commonly debated in Dissident Right circles is just how long can the Global American Empire (GAE) really last as a hegemonic force in international politics. Some, like Curtin Yarvin/Mencius Moldbug, speculate that the Regime could last for another century or more. Others believe its demise will be within ten years or less. Both sides are likely overstating their cases, but I do tend to believe that the truth of the matter is much closer to the latter than the former. However one lands on this, it must surely be accepted that the answer will not be one that depends on simplistic approaches to the data.
It was with interest that I saw this tweet a couple of days ago, since it obviously pertains to this question,
Certainly, the term “Forever Empire” is a bit of hyperbole. No empire lasts forever, of course. However, there is one empire to which the USA is often likened which came pretty close to doing so, which is the Roman. In this case, I’m not really convinced the comparison holds all the way to the end, but I’d like to delve a bit into why this is the case.
To do so, I’d like to begin by going back to the Mediterranean basin in the late 3rd/early 2nd centuries BC, which is the period in time when Roman hegemony took root. In the Greek world at this time there were three great powers - the Seleucid Empire, Macedonia, and the Roman Republic (which can be considered part of this world as it subjugated the Greek cities of southern Italy and, as we will see, was becoming more politically involved in Greece). We could add to this Ptolemaic Egypt, except that beginning in 207 BC, that kingdom underwent a combination of two severe crises - a succession crisis that put the child Ptolemy V on the throne and a massive revolt of the native Egyptians that spanned nearly the whole of Egypt and which wouldn’t be suppressed for more than twenty years.
I don’t want to belabour the point, so I’ll condense the history between roughly 205-188 BC. Due to Ptolemaic weakness, Philip V of Macedon and Antiochus III of the Seleucids crafted a treaty between themselves whereby they would seize and divide between them the Ptolemaic holdings, enriching and expanding themselves in the process. A host of second-tier Greek states such as Rhodes, Aetolia, and the kingdom of Pergamum got wind of this and were understandably alarmed at seeing the two nearest hegemons become even more powerful while eliminating their traditional ally and protector. They sent off embassies to the Roman Senate, informing them of this secret treaty and begging the Romans to intervene to protect them.
This they did and in the course of two sequential wars, the Romans defeated and humbled Macedon first and then the Seleucids next. After the treaty at Apamea in 188 BC, in which the Seleucids were forced to pay an indemnity and free much of Asia Minor, Rome emerged as essentially the single remaining superpower in the entire Mediterranean world.
It is at this point that we can really start drawing some close parallels between the Roman Republic’s geopolitics and those of post-Cold War America. In both cases, an ongoing conflict between two superpowers was resolved by the victory of one and the reduction in power and status of the other (Macedon and the Seleucids can be thought of as a two-part Soviet Union in our analogy). This created a unipolar world in which the victor was able to more or less act as and when they wished. This equivalence can even be extended to the fact that in both cases, the unipolar power (initially, at least) refused to exert the level of direct control over its allies and other second- and third-tier powers within the system that they could have easily done.
However, as Kenneth Waltz has noted, unipolar systems do not typically last very long because other actors in the international system will be constantly trying to find ways to undermine the unipolar hegemony and replace it with a more multipolar system. Eckstein (discussing Waltz) observed,
In Rome’s situation in Greece, by 171 BC they found themselves once again going to war with a resurgent Macedon under Perseus, who managed to align a number of disaffected Greek states with himself and very nearly beat the Romans in the Third Macedonian War. As such, the Roman unipolar system only lasted for 17 years - within the period Waltz notes. Following the end of the Cold War, the American unipolar system dominated, but is now facing serious challenges such that it really cannot truly be called a unipolar system anymore (though the USA is still the predominating power for now). This American hegemony lasted for roughly three decades before it started to succumb to the current challenges to it.
After defeating Perseus, Rome began to take a new and very different approach to its dealings with the Greeks. Whereas before, the Romans were content to arrange the Greek international system in such a way as to balance hegemonies and then withdraw back to Italy, they now began to actively establish control over the whole area. They abolished the Antigonid kingdom of Macedon and reduced it to a province. They also put a much tighter rein on the Greeks, even those who had been their allies. The Greeks chafed at this and gave the Romans trouble until the Romans finally and decisively defeated the Achaean League in 146 BC, destroyed the city of Corinth, and established complete hegemony over Greece.
In short, the Romans finally solved the problem of challenges to their unipolarity by destroying the independence of all other states within that geopolitical system. This was a key point to their foreign policy moving forward as their empire progressed across the eastern Mediterranean basin. Pontus, Egypt, Asia Minor - these were all turned into provinces, though occasionally some tightly-yoked client kings were tolerated here and there. The ultimate solution to the problem of competitors challenging their unipolar system was to make sure there simply weren’t any other competitors, which explains why their empire was able to last so long.
America is currently facing a challenge to its hegemony, which is what we’re seeing play out directly in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and indirectly in the sanctions and response to those sanctions. Since the United States overthrew Ukraine’s elected government in 2014, that country has basically been a puppet state for American imperialism. Russia eventually refused to accept this and is overtly challenging it via military force. America applied sanctions with the expectation that the rest of the world would fall into line, yet they didn’t. Instead, a reconfiguration of the current geopolitical battlespace is taking place whereby the third major world power (China) and most of the major non-western second-tier powers (Brazil, India, Iran, Gulf States, etc.) are coalescing around an alternative to American unipolarity that also includes (but does not revolve around) Russia.
At this point, then, we enter the domain of the theoretical. Rome solved this problem by militarily destroying competitor states and establishing direct imperial (as opposed to indirect preponderant) hegemony. Yet, is this really an option for the United States? If the GAE were to try to establish a “forever empire” after the pattern of Rome’s longevity, to really last into the 22nd century as Curtis Yarvin and others think it could, how would it be able to go about doing this?
My answer would be that it couldn’t, for a number of reasons.
First, as we saw with Rome, to do this would require direct military confrontation with the other major players emerging in the reconfiguration - Russia and China. While the United States remains, for the time being, the single most powerful military force on earth, its relative preponderance is gradually eroding. America’s technology edge in several important areas (such as stealth and missile technology) is disappearing. So also is the basic quality of the personnel making up its military, something that diversity initiatives, woke progressive indoctrination, and the purging of major elements of its combat force personnel are only going to make worse moving forward. As it stands, America might be able to face off in an active military contest with either China or Russia, but almost certainly could not do so against both simultaneously. And it’s unlikely that China’s Seleucids would just sit around waiting for America to decapitate Russia’s Macedonia.
Second, and unlike in the Roman situation, is the fact that the stakes in a war between any of the three major world powers today has the very real possibility of becoming literally apocalyptic. Wars between Rome and eastern hegemons could be nasty and bloody, but didn’t involve the chance of destroying human civilisation. A full-on shooting war between major nuclear powers does however, which is why we can be thankful that cooler heads have so far prevailed to keep NATO from directly intervening in Ukraine via no-fly zones and so forth. What all of this means, however, is that the opportunity costs are prohibitively high for the GAE to try to “take out” Russia (or China) in the same way the Romans did their competitors.
Lastly, we need to consider the fact that in the 2nd century BC, the Roman Republic was a rising power that was still in the growth and expansion phase of its demographic-structural secular cycle. The United States, on the other hand, is deep in its collapse phase. This makes for real differences in the relative capabilities of these two states within their separate contexts. Rome had a unified population, credible leadership, and high asabiyya. America, on the other hand, has a divided and disorganised population, is ran by looters who don’t care at all about her heritage population, and has non-existent asabiyya. This makes a huge difference. While Rome could sustain the burden of frequent bloody wars, it’s extremely unlikely the USA could do so without facing major rebellions and secessionary movements.
As such, GAE faces a combination of geopolitical reconfiguration away from American hegemony and a functional inability to use force to maintain its current status. Referring back to the tweet I posted above, it’s not really a matter of whether the GAE “can suppress global challenges until 2030 or 2040” - it is currently failing to suppress such challenges now and will only be even less able to do so moving forward. No, there will be no American forever empire that perhaps gives Rome a good run for its money. While GAE may not collapse in on itself next year or the year after, it’s quite clear from America’s secular trends that the “Seneca point” in its collapse phase is likely not too far off. I simply don’t see Yarvin’s prediction of a 100 year perpetuation of GAE coming to pass. Instead, Americans of good will and foresight should be preparing themselves for what will come after.