Beyond the Flat Post-American World

earth from space-800

author: Walter M. Spink | September 2007


After the present decades of American megalomyopia we are beginning to listen to those voices that are describing what is to come. Thomas Friedman, looking toward our opening horizons, declares that the world is “flat”. Fareed Zakaria, seeing the USA’s eroding boundaries, proclaims the “rise of the rest”, in a post-American world. However, although the world will become more flattened and perhaps more fair, these views herald no essential change in our present world system. A crucial fact remains: in a more equal world, the world’s arsenals will also become more equal. Soon as many as a dozen nations, as well as clandestine powers, will have the capacity to destroy civilization. Our only ultimate deterrent will be Mutually Assured Destruction, and even this MAD protection could not deter anonymous aggressors, safely immune to retaliation.

Although the Harvard Nuclear Study Group ultimately concluded that “living with nuclear weapons is our only hope”, such a hope is hopeless. The world, in the end, cannot survive its arsenals. Armed to the teeth, that final reckoning will ultimately come, set off by fear, or pride, or anger, or madness, or patriotic fervor, or greed or stupidity, or even computer error. The end of the world. A bang, and then a whimper. Unless something drastic is done.

There is only one drastic thing to be done. This is to disarm completely. We must get rid of war. Can you imagine the world a thousand years from today, its developing arsenal on every shore, in every mountain pass? Obviously our world will not and cannot come to this.

To disarm the world? To let our neighbors harvest in our cherished fields? But down those fences have to come, once the boil of proliferation has ripened to the breaking point. This is something that the future promises.

There are three ways in which the world could, or will be, disarmed:



Advance Preparation.

The first is global destruction. The vaunted End of the World. This would finally get rid of war. But the destruction would have to be total. If shreds remain, they will grow again, and the world will stagger back, a few flags flying, until the ultimate crisis comes.

The second is global domination. Perhaps to save the world from imminent destruction, or from pride or greed or deep concern, some power would use its world-shattering potential to take over the world completely, securing its hold by total disarmament, except for its own single policing arsenal. Such a global takeover could be most safely achieved by an anonymous, unreachable, nuclear power, whether terrorist or altruist. Immune to retaliation, address unknown. Safe on the sidelines in our macabre game of Mutually Assured Destruction.

More ominously yet, the hijacking of the world might be achieved merely by bluff, by some mad Hitler, so paranoid that he would wager his own survival to win the world. Here is the question: would you launch your arsenals upon his crazed warning, with the world at stake? The point is: someone, somewhere, someday, using their powers may well destroy the world.

Unless something drastic is done. Unless—and we must have faith in this—destruction is trumped by domination. We must, in fact, we willing to yield, before destruction begins, if this is necessary to save the world.

Advance Preparation Lest our only options are either Destruction or Domination, we must change the world before it changes us. Although our motive may well be fear, fear must be mixed with hope, and with the excitement of a directed transformation. The “flat post-American” world with its scores of competing nations, “secured” by its energetically competing arsenals, is inexorably doomed to remain in the past. Controlled by its satisfying assumptions, it can only go on until its enmeshments in the self-aggrandizing web of nationalism, are finally resolved by a global trauma. And then, finally (if the world is not destroyed) we will be implacably headed for community, even though we may have to go through the healing hell-mouth of Domination to achieve it.

Having forced global submission, the dominator’s highest priority must be absolute disarmament for the whole world. The end of nations. But how, we must ask, can a single dominating force deal with such an open situation, where the strong are suddenly as weak as the weak are newly strong; where what is available for the world to give must suddenly be shared; where the dominator must temper an inevitable need for repression with cooperation. This is why, in anticipation of such a global takeover, an “ideal” program must be prepared to help the surely unprepared, perhaps even desperate, dominating power to plan out the future.

Of course, different “templates” must be considered, depending on whether the takeover is benign—where cooperation is openly desired—or malign. In either case the conqueror will need the conquered, if our new world is not to fall back into the past. For the dominator is holding the world only in escrow. The moment of domination is a moment of transition, a chance, in the end, to achieve a new community; even if we must give up our flags and our guns to achieve it.

In fact, since the world is destined for an inevitable transformation, it is the young who should and will define the future. Using the opening distances of the developing media to talk and to act together, they should be caught up in a surge of awareness and action to plan the new world that they want: to alleviate poverty and suffering; to reverse our damage to the environment; and to bring the world together not by a massive build-up of the military, but of “student troops” being deployed to every country, back and forth, to enhance global understanding and to learn to talk together. To change the world.

The painful loss of present political power, economic privilege (the two-car garage), and our treasured national identities: we must accept these pains with joy. Not only will we have escaped destruction, but the world, for the only time in its long history, will have been disarmed. This means, in effect, that our future can begin. There is no future in a world on unending Red Alert—a world rooted in the past; a prelude to Armageddon. There is a better world than that.