The Absent Superpower

By Alan Caruba

Mongol Warriors in hand to hand combat at the battle of the Kalka River, 1223
Mongol Warriors in hand to hand combat at the battle of the Kalka River, 1223
Alan Caruba
Column by Alan Caruba

New Jersey –-( I have been reading “The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople” by Susan Wise Bauer.

Minus its notes and index it is 681 pages long and when you include them, it’s 785 pages. It is filled with gore. Between 1100 AD and 1453 AD, in Europe, in Africa, in South America, and in Asia, it is a chronicle of constant warfare, usually accompanied by slaughters that seem gratuitous, but were the normal order of the day.

(Note: For history buffs, the Renaissance is a name assigned to a period between the 14th to the 17th century, so the title of the book includes the period known as the Middle Ages.)

It was a period of constant conflict between kings and their nobles, between kings of England, France and Germany, between the Western and Eastern branches of the Church, with Muslim armies and with the Mongols who had conquered China and came close to the gates of Europe, pausing only because of the death of Genghis Khan. Even the fabled crusades were little more than an excuse for looting and pillage. Kingdoms and empires rose and fell everywhere as the tumult continued with only brief periods of peace for a lucky few.

Just as in the past, the threat of Islamic fanaticism looms large again and just as in the past we are seeing its most potent instrument of conquest, terror, being used. From 9/11 to the slaughters in Sudan’s Darfur region, the attacks in Nigeria, and tumult everywhere the Muslim population reaches a tipping point, the headlines are a reminder of its former history. Islam and bloodshed are synonymous.

If one were to look at just the last century, its history would resemble those that went before. Two world wars were fought along with lots of lesser ones. After World War II two major powers squared off, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. For most of my life they would arm themselves, fight proxy wars, and were deterred only by the unprecedented prospect of mutual annihilation by nuclear weapons.

In time the Nuclear Club would grow to include many other nations including France, the United Kingdom, China, North Korea, and, in the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and Israel. Twice Israel destroyed nuclear facilities under construction, first in Iraq and later In Syria.

It is no secret that Iran has spent billions of dollars and several decades since its 1979 Islamic Revolution to have its own nuclear capability. No one in the Middle East and elsewhere wants this to happen, least of all Israel. A fifteen-minute call between President Obama and Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, was heralded only because no American President had talked to his Iranian counterpart in over thirty years.

Since taking office, Obama has made it manifestly clear that he wants to end the impasse between America and Iran. Obama has an almost mystical belief in his powers to negotiate his way to a satisfying solution. Most observers believe that the Iranians are playing him for a fool.

What is astonishing and dismaying is that Obama recently said that the world is more stable now than in the last five years. What world is he talking about?

His foreign policy failures in the Middle East are ceding much of it and the African Maghreb to militant Islamists.

Withdrawing from America’s superpower role since the end of World War II, Obama has managed to render America too weak to even gain the support of our most steadfast ally, Great Britain, when he ventured to threaten Syria over its use of poison gas. The result of that fiasco was a victory for Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation for intervening to initiate talks regarding the removal of the poison gas. No one in the real world thinks this will ever happen.

When one reads history, it is the arrogance and rapaciousness of various rulers that runs throughout the whole of it. They literally slaughtered hundreds of thousands over the years between 1100 and 1453. It didn’t matter if they were Christian crusaders, the Mongol horde, or those leading a Muslim jihad. It is happening today in Syria with well over 100,000 killed by the Assad regime.

The rules today are no different than those in the past. Today Iran is controlled today by a Supreme Ruler, Ali Khamenei who replaced Ruhollah Khomeini. Though the outward trappings of democratic processes exist in many nations, does anyone believe the Iranians believe their elections are not rigged, along with those of many other nations? A functioning democracy requires people accustomed to living in freedom, protected by laws. There’s not much of that in many places throughout the modern world.

The power of the United States came from more than just its military capabilities. Much of the developed world and even those who resent its power understand America is a bastion of democracy and a stalwart for liberty.

Now, however, that moral power is in question. You can thank Obama for that.

Deep in debt due initially to the two wars that followed 9/11 and mostly from the policies of the Obama administration, the U.S. is on shaky ground when it reaches a point of shutdown over disputes between the President and the Republican Party. The issue, of course, is Obamacare. The nation can still easily pay its debts.

Seventeen times since 1976, the government has encountered a shutdown, usually for just a few days. The most recent shutdowns in 1995 lasted from Nov. 13 to Nov 19 and again from Dec. 5 until Jan. 6, 1996.

It feels different this time. We have a President who makes many of us wonder if all the debt he’s piled up has been to ultimately bring the world’s only real superpower to its knees.

If the current shutdown continues too long, the vacuum of power that it would provide might tempt other nations to engage in some very dangerous behavior.

c Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba’s commentaries are posted daily at “Warning Signs” his popular blog and thereafter on dozens of other websites and blogs. If you love to read, visit his monthly report on new books at Bookviews.

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If he really did say that, he is delusional and should be removed from office as per the 25th amendment.


Caruba is clearly a proponent of the Throw-Weight Theory of Modern Foreign Policy, the mechanism which has rendered our world into its current highly unstable state. As early as the 70s, clear-thinking people recognized that the Soviet system was incapable of bearing the kind of weight as was our republic. About then some suggested we let the USSR gobble everything it (thought) it could with the assurance that it would collapse of its own weight. This is what happened in the 90s — Reagan essentially upped the ante and within the decade the Soviets folded. The age of us being… Read more »