Who Will Police the World after America?

An Iranian oil tanker, detained by London in Gibraltar, is released at the end of September after the mullahs promise that its cargo will not go to Syria, which is under U.N. embargo for crimes against humanity.  But after identification via American satellite images from October 1, 2019, this is exactly what happens.  U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo accompanies the photos with a tweet: "Despite Iran FM Zarif's promise to the UK that the AdrianDarya1 would not deliver oil to Syria, it is now transferring oil off the Syrian coast.  Will the world hold Iran accountable if this oil is delivered to Syria?"

Britain can no longer hold anyone to account.  Pompeo's America, which has served, since 1945, as a last-resort global law enforcement power, no longer is strong enough.  The secretary of state does not even hint at a possible address of "the world" to turn to — unless his visit to the Vatican on October 2 was a hidden reference to tomorrow's global white knight.

Humanity no longer has a source of authority — neither one that it would have to fear nor one that it could appeal to.  No one will be left to tie the hands of regimes that acquire weapons of mass destruction.  Fascinated, disturbed, or drunk with victory, the world's nations observe America's hesitant yet unstoppable withdrawal from this noble role.

What is this country between Boston and San Francisco telling us?  In 1945 — with fewer than 140 million inhabitants — it defeated the globally attacking forces of Germany and Japan while keeping the superpowers of Stalin and Churchill afloat.  As late as 1968, when its student protests electrified the world, America supplied two fifths of the world's output.  By 2018, it had dropped to one fifth.  In terms of purchasing power, it has even dropped to 15 percent.

America's Africans and Hispanics — 130 of its 330 million citizens — live in households that, on average, do not even have 2,000 dollars in savings available in the event of need.  Although their total fertility is falling, too, they are now providing half of all newborns to the nation.  Time and again, their children underperform in school.  In a major crisis, 50 percent of America's new generation and 40 percent of its total population must be helped with welfare and social aid programs.  Such prospects rarely inspire dreams of white supremacy.  On the other hand, the main bearers of the financial burden could be inspired by secession fantasies à la Catalonia and Northern Italy, where separatists want to save the future of regions that are still economically strong by walling them off from their neighbors.

The 200 million American whites and East Asians have the lowest number of children and — at 44 — the highest median age in their history.  In this group are 10 million citizens from China, Korea, and Japan.  Their children can easily compete with their East Asian counterparts.  But there are not many of them because it is highly qualified students, wage-earners, and entrepreneurs who work hardest to succeed and who therefore can least afford the time for having offspring.

China — as Washington's top challenger — has "only" four times as many inhabitants as the USA, but it has at least eight times as many children at the highest mathematical level or with MINT degrees.  Moreover, the soon-to-be 1.4 billion Han Chinese with an average age of 38 are noticeably younger than the Americans who are still the shield of civilization.  Forty percent of America's whites have academic degrees.  This puts them just ahead of Africans (30%) and well ahead of Hispanics (20%) but far behind East Asians (over 60%).  When it comes to beating back China's challenge, where are the masses of talented people and ambitious innovators supposed to come from?

After all, the U.S. fleet and air force are still considered unrivaled.  But even the showpieces of the Air Force, the F-35 stealth bombers, would have to stay on the ground without special circuit boards of PCB from Shenzhen.  In World War II, the U.S. Navy lost twelve aircraft carriers and never thought of surrendering.  Today, however, casualties from the loss of just one carrier would likely be their mothers' only sons, or even their only children.  In aging nations, such losses become intolerable.  This increases the readiness to retreat without a fight.

What the great democracy will be able to do in the future depends on America's offspring.  If one looks at the cohorts below the age of 15, in 2020, there will be a good 60 million American children.  But 32 percent of them are overweight.  Moreover, they are faced with 140 million children of the same age in the Arab world, 160 million in South America, and 460 million in sub-Saharan Africa.  China has 250 million who not only want to surpass the USA, but also have the skills to do so.  When faced with such numbers, who could still serve as the world's policeman?  Can it be any surprise that already today almost half of the U.S. Millennials (born 1981–1994) and Generation Z (born 1995–2015) prefer to live under socialism rather than capitalism?

More than 180 million Latinos currently want to settle in the USA.  Their own nations are suffering from premature deindustrialization.  Their factories are being wiped out by better and cheaper products from China and other East Asian countries that, however, do not accept any immigrants from the nations they have bankrupted.  Latinos, on the other hand, simply lack the talent to outperform East Asia's high-tech and artificial intelligence industries on the world markets.  Therefore, low-skilled Hispanics must flee north, where they can only further weaken America's ability to rescue the world.

Gunnar Heinsohn (*1943) taught war demography at NATO Defense College (NDC) in Rome from 2011 to 2019.

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