Michael Lind: Pax Americana is Collapsing -- Here's the Debate We Need to Have

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Michael Lind is Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and is the author of "The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution."

We Americans are not good at thinking in terms of national and global strategy. That is no surprise; Madison's America, with its checks and balances and decentralized federalism, is not Bismarck's Germany or Colbert's France. But this inability to think in terms of the whole is a handicap, especially when the whole is collapsing.

Today we have economists rethinking American economic policy and national security experts pondering American military policy. But that is like assigning one team to fix the crack in the kitchen floor and another to work on repairing the bedroom wall, while ignoring the fact that the entire house is sliding into a sinkhole that has opened up beneath it.

The America-centered world order of the last half-century is collapsing. No, that does not mean that America is doomed. As long as it holds together and grows moderately, the U.S. will be a major military power and one of the world's leading economies for generations or centuries to come. And even slow growth, if it is equitably distributed, can ensure that future Americans are richer and healthier. But the fact remains that a particular system of world security and trade centered on the United States is crumbling around us.

That system has been called the Pax Americana, after the Pax Romana -- the American Peace. The Pax Americana originated during the Cold War, when the U.S., rather than rehabilitate West Germany and Japan as independent military powers, made them American military protectorates. Under the terms of the bargain, the two former Axis nations would specialize in civilian manufacturing for export, with Germany targeting the markets of its European neighbors and Japan relying on access to American consumers. Make cars, not wars. The U.S. agreed to protect not only the territories but also the vital interests of Japan and Germany, like access to Middle Eastern oil....

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