When the Cold War ended, the Americans had the opportunity to do nearly anything. Instead, on both the Left and the Right, we started a lazy descent into narcissistic populism. The presidential election record that brought us Clinton and W Bush and Obama and Trump and Biden isn't an aberration, but instead a pattern of active disinterest in the wider world. It is our new norm.
Nor is there leadership beyond America. There is no new hegemon-in-waiting, nor countries that will rise to support a common vision. There is no savior waiting in the wings. Instead, the world's secondary powers have already fallen back into their old habits of mutual antagonism. . . .
China and Russia have already fallen back on instinct, heedless of the lessons of their own long sagas. In the post-Cold War era, the pair benefited the most by far from American engagement, as the Order prevented the powers that had impoverished, shattered, and conquered them through the centuries from fully exerting themselves, while simultaneously creating the circumstances for the greatest economic stability they have ever known. Instead of seeking rapprochement with the Americans to preserve their magical moment, they instead worked diligently—almost pathologically—to disrupt what remained of global structure. Future history will be as merciless to them as their dark and dangerous pasts.