The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has garnered America almost as much schadenfreude from the world as the original events did. Back in 2001, the line was that we had it coming to us for lording it over the world since the Cold War's end. Today, it takes the form of writing off our alleged "hegemony" in light of the shifts in global power over the intervening decade, a claim that is as absurd the previous one was insulting. Naturally, the Chinese are celebrated as our presumed replacement. So, as always throughout our history as a superpower, we're being treated to "sophisticated" analysis that says America fought the war, but they -- our next security obsession -- won the peace.
First the absurdity: A few of the most over-the-top Bush-Cheney neocons did indeed promote a vision of U.S. primacy by which America shouldn't be afraid to wage war to keep other rising powers at bay. It was a nutty concept then, and it remains a nutty concept today. But since it feeds a lot of major military weapons system purchases, especially for the China-centric Air Force and Navy, don't expect it to disappear so long as the Pentagon's internal budget fights are growing in intensity.
Meanwhile, the Chinese do their stupid best to fuel this outdated logic by building a force designed to keep America out of East Asia just as their nation's dependency on resources flowing from unstable developing regions skyrockets. With America's fiscal constraints now abundantly clear, the world's primary policing force is pulling back, while that force's implied successor is nowhere close to being able to field a similar power-projection capacity -- and never will be. So with NATO clearly stretched to its limits by the combination of Afghanistan and Libya, a lot of future fires in developing regions will likely be left to burn on their own. We'll just have to wait and see how much foreign commentators delight in that G-Zero dynamic in the years ahead.