Paradigms and demographics peter zeihan on geopolitics electricity and magnetism quiz questions

I like to say that I sell context. It’s all about how seemingly disparate things like age structures and trade patterns and political evolutions and technological advances interact. In any such dynamic system there are winners and losers. My concern is that the global system itself now faces a moment of truth in which the countries of the world, first and foremost the United States, will fail to rise to the occasion. Which is a nice way of saying that what I’m really seeing – what I’m really selling – is the end of the world.

This world system was put into place 70 years ago. The core of the international system during the Cold War was the Americans’ support of the global trade and security order. The Americans agreed to provide global and regional security to their allies in exchange for deference on security matters. When issues of economic import rose to prominence, the Americans tended to give way. When issues of strategic import rose to prominence, the Americans tended to get their way because that was the deal.

This arrangement froze geopolitics as previously independent countries were pulled into a massive, interconnected system because of not only America’s overwhelming economic and military power, but also the power of the alliance structure it controlled. This was such a powerful force that it even pulled in America’s enemies one-by-one and allowed them to rise, fueled on exports. In the process, the US made the global economy dependent on the relatively free flow of goods, people, and money while also alleviating the need for the large militaries that defined the first half of the 20 th Century. In other words, the US and its alliance shifted every global system that mattered for literally every country in the world.

Everyone except the US, which managed throughout this to remain isolated economically. It maintains its own military, largely produces what it needs (though it imports a lot of what it wants) and remains the largest economy in the world. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, just as the world began to truly bet their economies on the American plan, the American’s need for this incredibly expensive system faded. It’s taken the US awhile, but it finally noticed.

There is no replacement for US power, economic or military. “Europe” as a concept, China, and Russia are all in existential struggles and each of them is likely to lose. There is no alternate reserve currency. There is no one who can react to any event anywhere in the world like the US can. The Americans are leaving a power vacuum and we know what happens in power vacuums.

I’ve been speaking and writing about this approaching “end” for the better part of the past decade. One of the fun things – and incidentally, one of the things that helps keep me sane – is that it is all very abstract. I can blithely note that wars will happen, that supply chains will break down, that the lights will go out, that famine is an inevitability, but so long as the timeframes are fuzzy and the locations are over the horizon it is easy to speak and write with a degree of detachment. This doesn’t affect me, and certainly not right now.

I think/fear that I’m about to lose that insulation. The end is pretty god-damn nigh. Exactly how this plays out is still very much up in the air. The blow by blow will matter immensely in the short and even medium term. So I’m going to lay out the most recent big events that seem to be giving shape to the Disorder over the course of several newsletters.