The US is a blessed country. We’ve enjoyed a string of good luck since George Washington escaped capture by General Cornwallace at the Battle of Brooklyn because the fog blew the right way in November 1776.
We have nearly limitless natural resources. We’re protected on two sides by a vast ocean. Our land-neighbors are quiet, stable, and have rarely caused us problems. We’re lucky to have them.
We’ve been blessed to have just the right leaders at just the right time, like Lincoln.
And we’ve been blessed to have never been ravaged by the kind of modern war that has set countries a generation behind. It was remarked after WWII “The US didn’t lose so much as a shack.” Even our human loss of half a million soldiers pales in comparison to the USSR’s loss of 27 million.
During WWII the US aided Churchill “through the language of business” by a program called “lend-lease”. The gist being we sold Britain a bunch of our old WWI-era destroyers and equipment. In exchange they gave us land rights to much of their military bases. Our Congress didn’t have to wring hands over aiding in a war America wanted no part of. This was business!
We don’t talk about that much, but think about that for a second: Winston Churchill handed Franklin Roosevelt Britain’s empire. He had to. He knew by then “[their] little island” could not defend against Hitler as it stood. And he knew their empire was losing control of India, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and many more lands under attack.
That’s when America’s empire began.
Churchill even said afterward that a “torch has been passed” to the United States. In a way he was saying, “Thank you for helping us survive. But now the world is different, and you are responsible for much of it now.”
We also don’t talk about how US companies helped enemies like Hitler. Ford, GM, Singer, DuPont, and IBM funneled money around that ultimately aided the Nazis in pursuit of profits. The US Treasury froze and seized what they could, but other “neutral” countries like Spain and Sweden didn’t make it easy. Those companies knew what they were doing.
After WWII, the Cold War could best be described as what happens when your President can’t tell you what’s happening. The US was in such a furor over supposed gaps in our defense with bombers, bombs, and other equipment we spent and spent and spent. In reality, Eisenhower knew no such gaps existed. He just couldn’t say it because if he did, the natural reaction would be, “Well how do you know that?!” And he knew because of the new U2 spy plane. But saying anything would tell everyone our new capabilities. So he said nothing and just weathered the storm. Talk about leadership.
But today we face a new challenge in China. For the first time in modern history, the United States is no longer unchallenged. There are no nations ravaged by war among developed nations. China has the resources to pose significant challenges to us, unlike the Soviets. And we have no Eisenhower in office.
Like before, we have US companies stuck in a bind between profits and patriotism. China’s regime works. And for the first time the US’ long-time strategy of exporting culture and ideals to the world isn’t working.
What’s troubling to me about Hong Kong is that what was part of the British Empire, then released, and then absorbed into China to an extent has a history of democracy. They’re one of us. Our toe-hold into China to spread freedom of speech and faith and everything else about our country is asking for our help. Hong Kong is looking at the torch Britain passed to us. And our President is not smart enough to recognize this either because of a lack of historical understanding, racism, or both.
We have another cold war of sorts on our hands. America’s greatest threat is undoubtedly China. The best neutralizing force we have with them is continued trade to the extent their ability to earn money is tied to our ability to spend money and vice versa. But our president isn’t smart enough to recognize that, either.
These are vastly complicated matters. In the lead-up to WWII, Americans were firmly isolationist. Some 90%+ of the country wanted no part in a “European problem”. They couldn’t understand how we were all interconnected. To borrow a metaphor: when your neighbor’s house is on fire, you don’t squabble over whose hose you reach for. Our president is squabbling.
There is no moment in US history since immediately after the Revolution where we have been so dependent on another nation. We relied on British trade for nearly everything after the Revolution. Now in 2019, we rely on China. And like Britain in 1780, they need us, too.
The new cold war will not be faught with militaries or technology. It will be fought with innovation and commerce. It will be us versus China. And unlike the USSR’s Gorbachev in the 80’s wishing to compete on friendly terms in space for the advancement of human kind, China is unlikely to play that game.
I think we may look back at Trump’s decision to withhold support from Hong Kong as a flashpoint, like when Reagan walked away from total nuclear disarmament because he wanted his “Star Wars defense system”. We cannot allow our culture to become locked down by China’s. We can’t let our companies quietly aid China like many did in WWII with the Nazis. It is not okay. What starts small can quickly become treasonous.
Like Britons in 1946 watching as their empire faded, I am beginning to think my generation will be the last to witness the American empire. We are about to lose to China. A country with nearly limitless resources and monetary policy equitable to our own.
Where Churchill graciously and solemnly passed a torch to America in pursuit of continued existence, we aren’t passing that torch on to China under some grand cause. China is just going to take it because our president isn’t smart enough to recognize it or care. And I can think of no greater disgrace to our country, democracy, and our ideals than losing this torch passed to us from Churchill. No less to communism under an oppressive regime like China’s.