Monday, 23 April 2012

The End Of Manifest Destiny

At the moment we are all fixated on our own troubles.  In the UK we are bothered about the price of pasties, The Olympics and the reform of the House of Lords.  In Europe more serious matters are in hand.  Politically, it has become sticky in France, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece with Germany to come.

So the USA seems to be pottering on in its own way with the lobbyists and Wall Street fixing it with the President to ignore a Congress which they have bought anyway whilst a Presidential election is going on.

But all is not well there and the stresses are beginning to show.  Whilst the Empires of Europe have long crumbled into corrupt foreign adventurism the USA could well be soon at the point when the policy engine of Manifest Destiny, central to its thinking since 1823 goes into reverse.

The map above shows what the USA in 1820.  It is very different from that of today.  Were you to have maps of the disposition of American troops in 1820 and that of 2012 the contrast would be startling.  Then there were confined to limited areas within its own sphere, now they reach across the world.

It was President James Monroe, (how many people in Europe have ever heard of him?) who put the strategy into effect.  There is plenty in Wikipedia and the web on both him and his ideas.  It became the template for the expansion of the USA.  But it also proclaimed the need for Europe to keep out of the America’s and for America to keep out of Europe.

For almost a hundred years it worked fitfully and with many lapses.  The City of London was still important at times but impacted little on actual policy or how events unfolded there.  Where it did tell was in helping to create the American business model relatively free from traditional European encumbrances.

Eventually, America could not keep out of European trouble, if only because of the trade and monetary implications of allowing them to cut each other’s throats.  So in 1917 they joined in the First World War. 

In 1918 when The German Empire finally collapsed, with others, it was the USA who took the initiative and controlled much of the subsequent treaty making but then withdrew from the follow up engagements, leaving a nasty mess that eventually resulted in World War II. 

The USA made its own contribution to the mess by failing to control or manage the financial mayhem in New York of the late 1920’s that culminated in The Great Crash and Depression. 

This reinforced the latter day Manifest Destiny ideas of avoiding Europe.  In 1941 they were forced into wars again by foreign policy failures arising from the increasingly muddled interpretations of the Doctrine.

For the rest of the 20th Century and into the second decade of the 21st Century, Manifest Destiny came to mean that the USA would control or influence as much of the world as possible.  It was reinforced when the home oil supply ran short of demand and meant a dependence on foreign imports.

This was accompanied by a massive increase in fiat money supply to fund all the relevant military, diplomatic, economic and others measure to maintain and expand that influence.  A major consequence was that the money men began to run riot with the inevitable consequence of crashing the system.

Now the policy engine of Manifest Destiny has stopped working.  The USA is at the point when it cannot afford or maintain all that effort and soon the system will fall apart either quickly or slowly. 

It is slow it might be managed.  If it is quick then the impact might not just be beyond the borders of the USA.  Given its constitution and the lack of regard being shown to it in Washington DC and New York how soon will it be before we begin to see the sort of disintegration that history shows us can happen?

Some historians think it could be like the Byzantine Empire, others the Ottoman Empire.  But what if it is like either the Soviet Empire, where corruption rules or the British Empire, where chaos and stupidity rules?

Which stars of the flag of Stars and Stripes will be the first to go?  In our local church we have the coat of arms of a branch of the Washington Family from the early 17th Century, stars and stripes.  These arms have only three stars.

Could it happen?

1 comment:

  1. I think it will be slow. The US has plenty of energy resources which will help. After that who knows, but I won't be around to find out.