Putting current events in context: articles about the end of the post-WWII world

At the top of the right side menu bar are the FM Reference Pages.  Each page has links to posts on the FM site as well as valuable articles from other sources.

This is a current content on the page about The End of the Post WWII-Geopolitical Regime.


  1. Other relevant topics discussed on this site
  2. Causes
  3. Analysis
  4. Forecasts
  5. Niall Ferguson’s articles

1.  Other relevant topics discussed on this site

For a full list of topics, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

2. Causes

  1. A brief note on the US Dollar. Is this like August 1914?, 8 November 2007 — How the current situation is as unstable financially as was Europe geopolitically in early 1914.
  2. The post-WWII geopolitical regime is dying. Chapter One , 21 November 2007 — Why the current geopolitical order is unstable, describing the policy choices that brought us here.
  3. The US economy at Defcon 2, 11 March 2008 — Pretty self-explanatory.  Where are we in the downcycle?  What might the world look like when it ends?
  4. A picture of the post-WWII debt supercycle, 26 September 2008

3.  Analysis

  1. Power shifts from West to East: the end of the post-WWII regime in the news, 20 December 2007 — We are seeing another western industry ceding dominance to eastern competitors, one more step in a larger process.
  2. An important thing to remember as we start a New Year      (29 December 2007)
  3. A recommendation to read these bulletins from the front!, 21 January 2008 – A brief note on today’s articles in the NY Times and Financial Times, with Brad Setser’s explanation of why they are important.
  4. Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead, 10 February 2008 – Putting the end of the post-WWII regime in a larger historical context.
  5. Understatement can be a form of courage – a comment about the US economy, 28 February 2008 — Our leaders have begun to speak to us about unpleasant truths.  What might they be saying in a year or two?
  6. Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay, 3 March 2008 — More thoughts on the “dreamland” described by Wolfgang Schivelbusch in The Culture of Defeat, and what it tells us about the foundation of the American empire.
  7. Slow steps to nationalizing the US financial sector, 7 April 2008 — Slowly Americans recognize what is happening.  More about how this will change our society.
  8. The world changed last week, with no headlines to mark the news, 25 April 2008 — Unnoticed, we have passed an important milestone on the road to peak oil.
  9. The most important story in this week’s newspapers, 22 May 2008 — How solvent is the US government? They report the facts to us every year.
  10. A giant breaks his chains and again walks the earth: inflation, 10 June 2008
  11. The geopolitics of inflation, an introduction, 17 June 2008
  12. Prof Nouriel Roubini describes “The Decline of the American Empire”, 18 August 2008
  13. The World’s biggest mess, 22 August 2008
  14. “The changing balance of global financial power”, by Brad Setser, 22 August 2008
  15. Treasury Secretary Paulson leads us across the Rubicon, 9 September 2008
  16. High priority report: a geopolitical sitrep on the financial crisis, 15 September 2008
  17. Say good-bye to the old America. Welcome to our new socialist paradise!, 17 September 2008
  18. Another step away from our Constitutional system, with applause, 19 September 2008
  19. Essential steps to surviving the current crisis, 23 September 2008
  20. The most important news of the month. Perhaps the year., 29 September 2008
  21. German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück explains how the world is changing, 30 September 2008
  22. America has changed. Why do so many foreigners see this, but so few Americans?, 1 October 2008
  23. America is changing. Read some chillling words from a liberal economist, 2 October 2008
  24. No coins, no COIN, 6 October 2008

4.  Forecasts

  1. We have been warned. Death of the post-WWII geopolitical regime, Chapter II, 28 November 2007 — A long list of the warnings we have ignored, from individual experts and major financial institutions (links included).
  2. A warning from Professor Niall Ferguson, 4 January 2008
  3. Death of the post-WWII geopolitical regime, III – death by debt, 8 January 2008 – Origins of the long economic expansion from 1982 to 2006; why the down cycle will be so severe.
  4. Is America’s decline inevitable? No., 21 January 2008
  5. Geopolitical implications of the current economic downturn, 24 January 2008 – How will this recession end?  With re-balancing of the global economy — and a decline of the US dollar so that the US goods and services are again competitive.  No more trade deficit, and we can pay our debts.
  6. A happy ending to the current economic recession, 12 February 2008 – The political actions which might end this downturn, and their long-term implications.
  7. The US economy at Defcon 2, 11 March 2008 — Pretty self-explanatory.  Where are we in the downcycle?  What might the world look like when it ends?
  8. What will America look like after this recession?, 18 March 2008 – More forecasts.  The recession might change so many things, from the distribution of wealth within the US to the ranking of global powers.
  9. Another warning from our leaders, which we will ignore, 4 June 2008 — An extraordinarily clear warning from a senior officer of the Federal Reserve.
  10. Can the European Monetary Union survive the next recession?, 11 July 2008
  11. Big changes loom before us; why are they invisible to most experts?, 29 July 2008
  12. A look at one page of what lies ahead in America’s history, 7 August 2008
  13. “The Coming US Consumption Bust”, by Nouriel Roubini, 6 September 2008
  14. Can you see the signs of spring in the coming of winter? A note about the recession., 10 September 2008
  15. Effective treatment for this crisis will come with “The Master Settlement of 2009″, 5 October 2008
  16. A look at out future, 2009 – 2010 … and beyond, 9 November 2008

5.  Links to article by Niall Ferguson

Sinking Globalization“, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2005 — Summary:

Could globalization collapse? It may seem unlikely today. Yet despite many warnings, people were shocked the last time globalization crumbled, with the onslaught of World War I. Like today, that period was marked by imperial overstretch, great-power rivalry, unstable alliances, rogue regimes, and terrorist organizations. And the world is no better prepared for calamity now.

The unconscious colossus: limits of (& alternatives to) American empire“, Daedalus, Spring 2005 — The first part is a summary of his book, Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire.  The second part discussed the future of the American, considering the war in Iraq and our internal weaknesses.

Political risk and the international bond market between the 1848 revolution and the outbreak of the First World War“, Economic History Review, February 2006 — Abstract:

This article uses price data and editorial commentaries from the contemporary financial press to measure the impact of political events on investors’ expectations from the middle of the 19th century until WWI. Why do political events appear to affect the world’s biggest financial market, the London bond market, much less between 1881 and 1914 than they had between 1843 and 1880. In particular, why was the outbreak of WWI, an event traditionally seen as having been heralded by a series of international crises, not anticipated by investors.

The article considers how far the declining sensitivity of the bond market to political events was a result of the spread of the gold standard, increased international financial integration, or changes in the fiscal policies of the great powers. I suggest that the increasing national separation of bond markets offers a better explanation. However, even this structural change cannot explain why the London market was so slow to appreciate the risk of war in 1914. To investors, WWI truly came as a bolt from the blue.

Empires with Expiration Dates“, Foreign Policy, September/October 2006 — Summary:

Empires drive history. But the empires of the past 100 years were short lived, none surviving to see the dawn of the new century. Today, there are no empires, at least not officially. But that could soon change if the United States – or even China – embraces its imperial destiny. How can they avoid the fate of those who came before them?

Empire Falls“, Vanity Fair, October 2006 — Summary:

They called it “the American Century,” but the past 100 years actually saw a shift away from Western dominance. Through the long lens of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Rome 331 and America and Europe 2006 appear to have more than a few problems in common.

9 thoughts on “Putting current events in context: articles about the end of the post-WWII world”

  1. The Post-WWII era may be over, but is there any other country better positioned from the US to be a major player in the next era? Europe and Russia have demographic issues. India and China have different, but unsustainable political issues.

    The underlying advantages the US enjoys: a huge and flexible internal market, political stability, rule of law, an environment structured to foster innovation, tremendous education opportunities and a cultural outlook that emphasizes tomorrow over yesterday.

    Maybe I’m naïve, but couldn’t one argue that, relatively, the advantages the US enjoys outweigh the negatives?

  2. Reply to Andrew: 1) the “huge and flexible internal market” is currently flat on its back. Many of America’s major corporations have already abandoned the domestic market. 2)”political stability” without a true opposition party is not an optimum state.
    3)”rule of law” has certainly been less than perfect in the past few years. Aside from constitutional violations, transparency and responsibility, both in government and business, been been routinely flaunted. 4) “an environment stuctured to foster innovation” — GM must have missed the signals.

    I could go on but don’t want to sound grumpy. I hope your optimism (or contrarianism, on this site) proves right.

  3. Who will end up the dominant party in the next 20 years is unclear. There might not even be a dominant party. A lot will depend on how intelligently people respond to the problems that arise, and it’s not obvious yet what those problems will be. Luck will also probably play a role.

    It’s worth asking too whether we want to be dominant. Honestly, I want the people here to be prosperous, ambitious, and to have opportunities, but I could care less whether we’re the hyperpower or not. No one I know’s going to get to be an imperial governor.

  4. Good comment, DBake! Some of the nicer countries in the west (with best social support systems and lowest income inequality) have learned to live without being a dominant super-power. So we might too. FM has already raised the question, though, of how Americans will adjust to the fact of their diminished status in the world. After decades of coasting on our priviledged geographic and economic position, what tougher moral values will motivate us to work (and bind us together as a society willing to make sacrifices)?

  5. Seneca,

    thank-you for the optimism compliment. As an entrepreneur, it might be baked in my bones, but there’s question of relativity which is important. I have many Indian friends who are entrepreneurs and they all have one thing in common, they took advantage of the US structures and openness starting their business.

    That GM et. al. are imploding at the same time Software-as-a-Service firms are exploding, I see, as examples of creative destructionism succeeding.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with “Times change, we change with them.” Business models, cost structures and conditions change, the country that can relatively change the fastest has the advantage.

    I absolutely agree that we are changing from the Post-WWII world and I am optimistic that it will be a better world. I love your grumpy blog as it is an example of idea evaluation in the better Post-WWII world.

  6. THE USUAL SUSPECTS, uh, sorry, USUAL COMMENTS from CNN on BOMBAY this Thursday AM – “Reaction from the United Nations, United States and United Kingdom was swift as world leaders joined in condemning the attacks.”

    Easy to condemn, not so easy to understand and act (OODA?). World hasn’t changed much since Nov 4 has it? Global War on Terror all gone? Bad name for sure and Police problem anyway, right? 4GW all America’s fault, and particular President Bush’s? Sing the praises -the world will be different now. Sorry for the smart a-ness, but India shouldn’t be happening, right?

    Fabius, this post gives me opportunity to ask why (and maybe I just missed) no one (you, DNI, Small Wars Journal, et al) seems to have discussed, or even puts on their website reading lists, British General Rupert Smith’s 2005 book “The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World?”

    On my own PWH site I have noted that veiwing the world through a 4GW “lens” will change your perception of the world on a number of levels. But many have no clue about 4GW, particularly at the political decision level, some (see Small Wars Journal) have severe r4eservations, others think it only an over-there issue. I have questions about certain elements as not quite completely surrounding the problem. Why do we think our new leaders will understand the world any better than the last? We made a bunch of mistakes since 911, General Smith gives thought to the idea we haven’t understood it or acted well since 1945.
    What to do?

    General Smith’s concept of “war amonst the people” and the dynamic of constant and crisscrossing “confrontation and conflict” does much to explain world events not just since the end of the Cold War, but indeed since the end of WWII – thus the tie to this post and I stop. Best, most meaningful thing I’ve read in a long long time and intersting to have read in parallel to the Defense Meltdown, Winslow Wheeler, et al, pieces. Your comment appreciated.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree, General Smith’s book has recieved too-little attention, and is broadly speaking in accord with much that Chet Smith (“If We Can Keep It“), myself, and others have written.

  7. Sorry one more put from your links most related to General Smith’s thinking on how to use force appropriately in war amonst the people (or 4GW)in total not just warfare context: “Prof Nouriel Roubini describes The Decline of the American Empire”, 18 August 2008

    …by now three factors suggest that the US has squandered its unipolar moment and that the decline of the American Empire – as the US was in effect a global empire – has started.

    …First, the US squandered its power by relying excessively on its hard military power in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan and in its unilateralist foreign policy – including economic issues such as global warming – rather than relying more on its soft power of diplomacy and multilateralist approaches to global policy issues…

  8. ““war amonst the people” and the dynamic of constant and crisscrossing “confrontation and conflict. . .” (Ed Beakley)

    If this is the future that 4GW is preparing us for, I think I’d rather go live in the desert.

    However, it’s an interesting alternative to the vision of 1984 (less relevant now than during the Cold War), in which three global super-powers apparently are engaged in a permanent armed confrontation. I say “apparently” because it’s never clear whether the other powers really exist or are merely made up to keep the one power’s domestic population in submission.

    I have somewhat the same skepticism about the doctrine of 4GW — is it an honest projection from empirical evidence, or merely a sexier way of justifying a state of permenent warfare?

    Since I believe that the cause of the majority of conflicts is ultimately the unequal distribution of wealth, I believe there are better ways to solve than militarily.

  9. I believe the cause of most conflicts are first, some form of identity politics, ethnic/ national and/or religious; and second, a strong feeling of prior injustice.

    Every justice system requires force, and it is almost always injustice which ‘justifies’ using force/ violence/ war.

    There is no just solution to Israel-Palestine; but is most conflicts there isn’t really a justice side. When America fights, it tries to fight for democracy, and claims justice for this, which is a pretty strong claim.

    Until America is fighting for something other than a justice based democracy, I’d argue the post-WW II / post Cold War era hasn’t ended. The unipolar US hyperpower 20 year phase is ending (1989 – 2009).

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