Imagine a world with no United States. No cheeseburgers. No ice-cream sundaes. No McDonald’s. No Ferris wheels. No iPhones or iPads. No Hollywood, pop music, or blue jeans.
These small contributions are nothing compared to the influence the nation has had on a global scale.
“For almost three centuries, the world has been undergirded by the presence of a large liberal hegemon—first Britain, then the United States,” news commentator Fareed Zakaria wrote in his book The Post-American World. “These two superpowers helped create and maintain an open world economy, protecting trade routes and sea lanes, acting as lenders of last resort, holding the reserve currency, investing abroad, and keeping their own markets open. They also tipped the military balance against the great aggressors of their ages, from Napoleon’s France, to Germany, to the Soviet Union.”
He adds, “…the United States has been the creator and sustainer of the current order of open trade and democratic government—an order that has been benign and beneficial for the vast majority of humankind.”
While America has been a global leader and sustainer of the free world during the past century, many believe the nation’s role as lone superpower is coming to an end.
Examining current trends reveals a United States in decline. It is experiencing a weakening in its foreign influence, an overextension of its military, and the worst economic downturn in decades, including a sharp devaluation of its currency.
In its place, countries such as China, India and Brazil are emerging, as are Russia, South Africa, and Kenya, among others.
According to Mr. Zakaria, such power shifts are inevitable: “There have been three tectonic power shifts over the last five hundred years…The first was the rise of the Western world, a process that began in the fifteenth century and accelerated dramatically in the late eighteenth century…The second shift, which took place in the closing years of the nineteenth century, was the rise of the United States. Soon after it industrialized, the United States became the most powerful nation since imperial Rome, and the only one that was stronger than any likely combination of other nations. For most of the last century, the United States has dominated global economics, politics, science, and culture. For the last twenty years, that dominance has been unrivaled, a phenomenon unprecedented in modern history.
“We are now living through the third great power shift of the modern era. It could be called ‘the rise of the rest.’ Over the past few decades, countries all over the world have been experiencing rates of economic growth that were once unthinkable.”
Those who want to see America “back on top” believe a world led by the waning superpower will be better off in the long run. They consider representative democracy the best form of government, and capitalism more effective than other economic systems.
This begs the question: what impact has America had on the world—and what effect would its disappearance have on civilization?
Author Robert Kagan, who describes the current world order as the “American world order,” wrote about the subject in his book The World America Made.
“The most important features of today’s world—the great spread of democracy, the prosperity, the prolonged great-power peace—have depended directly and indirectly on power and influence exercised by the United States.”
Of course, this is not to say the nation is perfect. It has made mistakes. Obviously, since the beginning of time, every country has.
In terms of benevolence, however, few countries in history have exercised the generosity and desire to protect the freedoms of others as has the U.S. Relative peace among the most powerful nations has largely been maintained for decades.
Economically, America’s impact on the world has also been unprecedented. Through manufacturing, aid programs, exports, free trade, and more, America has shared its prosperity like no nation before it. For instance, after World War II, the United States enacted the Marshall Plan, sending billions of dollars in aid to rebuild Europe and East Asia.
“For four centuries prior to 1950, global gross domestic product (GDP) rose by less than 1 percent a year,” Mr. Kagan writes. “Since 1950 it has risen by an average of 4 percent a year, and billions of people have been lifted out of poverty.”
He states later in the book, “During the period of American hegemony, the global economy produced the greatest and most prolonged era of prosperity in history. Between 1950 and 2000, annual GDP growth for the entire world was 3.9 percent, as compared with 1.6 percent between 1820 and 1950 and an estimated 0.3 percent between 1500 and 1820. This increasing prosperity was also much more widely distributed around the world than in the past.”
Language has been another export from America (and Britain) that has dramatically influenced the world. Notice this from a statement by the British Council: “English has official or special status in at least seventy five countries with a total population of over two billion…one out of four of the world’s population speak English to some level of competence; demand from the other three-quarters is increasing.”
Besides wealth and language, democracy has been another major export of the United States. While also far from perfect, this system has generally promoted peace and freedom wherever it has been instituted.
Mr. Kagan wrote that since the birth of the nation in the late 1700s until the close of the 1800s, no more than five countries around the world could ever have been considered democratic. With America’s growing influence on global politics, this number increased to around 20 to 30 by 1950. At the time, this was about 40 percent of the global population. Incredibly, looking at the time period from the late 1970s until the early 1990s, more than half the world’s population was living under a democratic government, with 120 democracies around the world.
Another way America has exercised its influence on the world is through peacekeeping. The second world war thrust the United States into a prominent place on the world stage, and forced it to take a stand as a “global sheriff.”
Since the close of World War II, a third world war has so far been averted largely because of America’s efforts. Think of the closest thing to it—the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. Nothing happened. Large numbers were not killed. No mass troop transports took place. Allies of either nation were not dragged into a long, violent conflict. No peace treaties needed to be signed, no land re-staked due to battles. A disastrous worldwide war was avoided.
The previous 60 years of relative peace on a worldwide scale has had almost everything to do with the role America has played as world policeman.
“The power of the United States has been the biggest factor in the preservation of great-power peace,” Mr. Kagan writes.
“Contrary to what one often hears, multipolar systems have historically been neither particularly stable nor particularly peaceful. War among the great powers was a common, if not constant, occurrence in the long periods of multipolarity in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, the latter culminating in the series of destructive Europe-wide wars following the French Revolution and ending with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815…”
“The great powers today act in a restrained fashion not because they are inherently restrained but because their ambitions are checked by a still-dominant United States.”
Although sometimes begrudgingly, U.S. military power and foreign policy has acted as the glue that has kept the current world order from splintering into chaos. American might has kept other countries with a history of aggression in check, specifically Russia and China.
Throughout the millennia of man’s existence, the “American era” could be viewed as a golden era for peace and abundance around the world. A single nation has never brought so much prosperity and freedom to all.
Historians clearly recognize what happened regarding the United States’ ascension to such great heights, but cannot provide a full explanation of why. Credit is given to capitalism or the character and work ethic of the American people. Others believe it is the nation’s form of government or its Constitution that brought it greatness.
Yet the full story of America’s meteoric rise to international dominance lies in its origin and the peoples from which it descended.
Long ago, a promise was made to the ancient patriarch Abraham. Due to faithful obedience, God stated He would bless him and his descendants: “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get you out of your country…unto a land that I will show you: and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3).
Notice how this promise was passed on to Abraham’s son Isaac: “And the Lord appeared unto him [Isaac], and said…I will be with you, and will bless you; for unto you, and unto your seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore unto Abraham your father; and I will make your seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because that Abraham obeyed My voice…” (Gen. 26:2-5).
Jacob, Isaac’s son, also qualified to inherit the promises made to Abraham: “And God appeared unto Jacob…and blessed him. And God said unto him…your name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name…I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins; and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to you I will give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land” (Gen. 35:9-12).
This promise had two aspects—one regarding rulership, a dynasty, and the other a birthright, consisting of physical blessings. After being passed to Jacob, the birthright was conferred on his son, Joseph (read I Chronicles 5:2) and his two children, Ephraim and Manasseh. When fully understood, this promise originally made to Abraham was fulfilled in the descendants of Ephraim—Great Britain—and Manasseh—the United States. (For more about these prophecies, along with historical facts and proof, read David C. Pack’s book America and Britain in Prophecy.)
Return to Mr. Zakaria’s quote: “These two superpowers [America and Great Britain] helped create and maintain an open world economy, protecting trade routes and sea lanes, acting as lenders of last resort, holding the reserve currency, investing abroad, and keeping their own markets open. They also tipped the military balance against the great aggressors of their ages, from Napoleon’s France, to Germany, to the Soviet Union.”
Just one example of this is the dominance America has exercised over the world’s sea gates. In 1948, United States Navy Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz wrote, “Sir Walter Raleigh declared in the early 17th century that ‘whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself’…The United States possesses today control of the sea more absolute than was possessed by the British. Our interest in this control is not riches and power as such. It is first the assurance of our national security, and, second, the creation and perpetuation of that balance and stability among nations which will insure to each the right of self-determination…Our present control of the sea is so absolute that it is sometimes taken for granted” (The Navy Department Library).
Unknown to almost all, God is the Source of America’s unprecedented wealth, influence and power. The soaring prosperity America has been given was due to one man’s faith centuries ago—not American exceptionalism, chance, fate, hard work, or capitalism. It was God who lifted America above other nations, making it great. This is the little understood truth of why America rose to greater heights than any other nation in the history of the world.
Yet this same God also foretold what would occur if America did not obey Him with the faithfulness Abraham exhibited.
Leviticus 26 reveals the blessings God would pour out on His people if they obeyed His commands: “If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword” (vs. 3-7). This passage so obviously came to pass in America and Britain during the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham.
Due to widespread national disobedience, however, God is now removing these blessings from America. The latter part of Leviticus 26 (along with Deuteronomy 28:15-68) outlines the consequences of disobedience to God.
Since the nation has rejected its Creator, and not recognized Him as the Source of its abundance, the United States is in decline. This is not due to the natural course of events all great nations or empires experience. It is God’s doing, and it is inevitable. It can only be stopped through national repentance, which history and prophecy show is unlikely. (To learn how individuals can escape what is coming, read Promised Protection – Secret Rapture or Place of Safety?)
This descent has been underway for some time. For instance, militarily, America has not decisively won a war since World War II.
God warned Israel He would “break the pride of your power” (Lev. 26:19) if they disobeyed Him.
In Mr. Kagan’s book, he confirms America’s diminishing will to use force: “When the United States had 1 million troops deployed overseas in 1953, the total American population was only 160 million. Today, when there are half a million troops deployed overseas, the American population is 313 million. The country is twice as large, with half as many troops deployed as fifty years ago.”
American forces across the world are becoming overextended and exhausted. A Washington Times article “Troops Stressed to Breaking Point” reported, “…an exhaustive study of nearly 500,000 soldiers, reservists and veterans…notes that as many as 236,000 suffered from PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“For military analysts, the reason is the nightmarish experience of sustained combat: Soldiers have been fighting the longest war in U.S. history, with frequent stressful deployments and compressed rest time back home.”
Economically, America has become a debtor instead of a lender. It has become service oriented instead of production-and-manufacturing oriented. Mr. Kagan writes, “America’s share of the world’s GDP, nearly 50 percent after World War II, fell to roughly 25 percent by the early 1970s, where it has remained ever since.”
Clearly, the decline of the United States is fast becoming a simple fact of history. Ask: if America were to slip into obscurity, what would the world look like?
The United States has long been a country that has prided itself on its “free press” and “free speech.” If it were to disappear, different forms of “freedom” would take its place.
Notice just one example of China’s approach to the Internet: “Two Chinese political websites said…they had been ordered by authorities to shut for a month for criticising state leaders, the latest move in a broad government crackdown on the Internet…China launched a sweeping Internet crackdown…highlighting official unease ahead of a leadership transition later this year…China, which has the world’s largest online population with over half a billion users, has long blocked content it deems politically sensitive as part of a vast censorship system known as the Great Firewall” (Agence France-Presse).
Mr. Kagan provides a more sobering example: “The fact that China is trying to use its growing naval power not to open but to close international waters offers a glimpse into a future where the U.S. Navy is no longer dominant.”
Next, a world without America would lead to a huge increase in global poverty. Recall from earlier, “…in you shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), and “…in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (26:4).
America has typically given the largest amounts of foreign aid. This has been a way through which it has been able to act as a type of blessing to other nations. The disappearance of America would mean that already struggling nations would be on their own. The seemingly unending reservoir of Western funds distributed around the globe would dry up.
A world without America would also be a dangerous one for democracies. Think of the common slogan used to describe the role of the United States, “Making the World Safe for Democracy.” No U.S. means there would be no great power reinforcing, sustaining and protecting democratic governments across the world. Non-democratic, totalitarian forms of government would fill the power vacuum.
A report by The Economist titled “Democracy Index 2011 – Democracy Under Stress” shows this transition has already begun: “Global backsliding in democracy has been evident for some time and strengthened in the wake of the 2008-09 global economic crisis. Between 2006 and 2008 there was stagnation; between 2008 and 2010 there was regression across the world. In 2011 the decline was concentrated in Europe…There has been a decline in democracy across the world in recent years. The decades-long global trend in democratisation has come to a halt in what [has been] called a ‘democratic recession’.
“The dominant pattern globally over the past five years has been backsliding on previously attained progress in democratisation.”
Finally, and most important, return to the idea of America acting as a world policeman. What becomes of a city with no police? Thieves, murderers and criminals freely roam neighborhoods. Lawlessness abounds, and the consequences for wrongdoing disappear.
A world without America holding back aggressive nations is the same. Rogue regimes can act with impunity. In fact, with the United States military severely overcommitted, other nations have already been pushing the limits. Communist North Korea recently announced plans to test-fire a long-range missile. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad routinely rails against America and Israel in front of the United Nations General Assembly, all while evidence indicates his country is developing nuclear weapons. Washington’s solution? Economic sanctions.
A United States exit from the world scene could increase the likelihood that nations will attack each other. Its dwindling influence in foreign relations and diminished power of deterrence—which has prevented offensive attacks by the threat or power of retaliation—could eventually lead to World War III. Order could quickly be replaced by chaos, as occurred in the past when there was a shift in the balance of power.
As Mr. Kagan describes it, “We may discover then that the United States was essential to keeping the present world order together and that the alternative to American power was not peace and harmony but chaos and catastrophe—which is what existed before the American world order came into being.”
Bible prophecy reveals that all of the above conditions are coming. Both history and God’s Word prove that another nation—or company of nations—will fill the void left by America.
To learn more about how this will happen, and the good news that lies in the United States’ long-term future—and that of the whole world—read America and Britain in Prophecy.