Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Right-wing Doomsday

This is an common event. We are all the time bombarded by the nagative nancy doomsday senerios of the Left but it's rare we see one from the Right. I hope you get a chance to enjoy, "The End of Power " from The Wall Street Jounal. Like many doomsdays from the Left there are interesting points to be made and also like many of the doomdays from the Left it is a possibility. There is however one large if and that is their prediction will only come to pass if a large number of factors all develope as they predict. And this one falls to the most base of junk science predictions, the "if this trend continues" school of thought.

In this doomsday senerio we have the polulation of Yemmen becoming larger than that of Russia all thanks to the hard work of continuing trends. I wonder if when people of this school of thought read that a Kia Sedona minivan can go 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds they then assume that it will break the sound barrier in under 2 minutes at full throtle.

The problem with these things is that people get so hung up on the few good points or the details of numbers that the miss the reallity that it's nothing more than a work of "what if" fiction. Niall Ferguson has created for us an interesting world where a decent author could live well off the series of books they could write but I don't think it or any other doomsdays need to be considered too hard when making policy decisions.
Wow. Followed the link all the way down tinfoil hat lane. You're right: this could make a marvelous series of books or films, but as serious political research it's silly tripe. Using ridiculous scare tactics to influence a political course of action? First of all, it doesn't work and typically only makes your opponents laugh at you. Secondly, it's lifting the Left's single weakest tactic. It would be as if Bill Clinton had courted the religious Right. The essay was like reading the script of The Day After Tommorrow if it had been written by someone with over a sixth grade reading level.

Seriously, the idea of all potential global hegemons retreating or collapsing in short succession, while possible, (hey, anything that hasn't happened yet is theoretically possible), isn't something to be given weight to while charting a course of national action. It would be a much worse planet, as you were getting at, if any doomsday scenario, be it environmental, economic, military, whatever, were used as an operational paradigm. Employing them is something like driving your two-year old, well maintained car with the constant suspicion that the engine is going to seize, sending you careening out of control into the freeway median. Sure, it could happen, but obsessing over it makes one far less likely to observe and respond appropriately to more common and likely events, like someone changing lanes abruptly or braking hard in front of you.

But the comparisons of the U.S. with Rome prior to the dark Ages grow tiring as well. Repeat one thousand times: political instability featuring coups, assasinations, and renegade generals allowed the Germanic peoples to invade. Hell "invade" isn't even the right word. "Stroll in unmolested" is more like it in a number of spots along the Danube. These weer the same tribes that the Legions had been whipping the tar out of for centuries, and, being illiterate savages, hadn't advanced much technologically along the way.

But, hey. You already know this.

So when I see the Naderites assasinate the President and seize the White House (the only way, I hope, that they will ever get in there) without all being arrested, convicted, and executed and the Veep peacefully taking over the job, I'll refer back to Niall's Doomsday Review. Until then I believe that: 1) At present, and for the near future, America on the whole is neither weak, nor stupid, nor spineless enough to reduce its presence in the world in response to individuals and groups who would hate it regardless, and; 2) Should the U.S. become such, Europe or China, while hardly suited to the role perfecly (is any nation ever?) would step up tp the plate and perform their own version of "keeping the savages at bay." That they do not now is a logical result of both their lack of a perceived threat and the fact that a rich, powerful global hegemon is doing the hard stuff for them. If Al-Quaeda flew planes into The Forbidden City, you better believe the People's Army would be on the march the next day. Am I ignoring the possibility of Chinese economic decline? No. I am ignoring, for present, the possibility of the latter, and the U.S. totally losing its will, and Europe dying of old age and being slowly Islamized, and the continued growth of global terrorism, and the perfect extrapolation of all existing demographic trends, and no one state saying "to hell with it" and nuking Tehran or Riad before this can occur. While history's chains of events are always marvelously complex and a great story, they are sadly, a story ubiquitously told in hindsight and rarely in foresight. The variety told in foresight tends toward a different kind of story--the children's story.
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