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1 Bob Levin  Tue, Apr 17, 2012 2:13:48pm

I wouldn’t compare Britain to the US. The model for imperialism changed from the British having an occupying force in every nation to the form best practiced by the US—being an agent of trade and modernization. The American armed forces were actually the American consumer—which would create the demand for underdeveloped nations to modernize.

Whereas Britain always had military leverage to get its way in foreign relations, the US did not use its military in a similar fashion. Our leverage came from our ability to produce factories, tools and dyes, products, and financial organization. This model was very effective if one is working in an infinite ecosystem.

The model is changing to a finite ecosystem. The rest of the world knows the dangers of over-consumption. It appeared that the US financial machine was slipping—now all finances the world over have a greater degree of uncertainty.

The bottom line question is—where is American leverage? Lack of leverage means lack of influence in foreign policy. And for many years, it appeared that other nations have had more leverage on the US foreign policy—I’m talking about oil.

The fact is, the world is between paradigms. Which means that feelings of great uncertainty will be with us for a while, as the new paradigm develops.

2 Romantic Heretic  Tue, Apr 17, 2012 2:37:05pm

Highly recommended is Blood, Tears and Folly by Len Deighton. When I read it I couldn’t help but be struck by the parallels between Britain’s fade from power and that of the U.S.

Both gained their power buy being the world’s industrial powerhouse. Both decided that more money could be made in finance and so they lent money to those who would be their rivals soon. Germany and the U.S. in the former case, Japan and China in the latter. Each let their industrial infrastructure rot.

And so they fell. By the time of the Second World War Britain could not make the instruments needed for aircraft and they had to import steel of high enough quality to armour their battleships. Most of their anti-aircraft guns were manufactured abroad.

As Mark Twain remarked, “History does not repeat, but it does rhyme”

3 Bob Levin  Tue, Apr 17, 2012 4:03:11pm

re: #2 Romantic Heretic

Many historians try to compare empires, mostly to portend the coming collapse of their civilization. I don’t think this follows. A better case could be made that Britain did not take advantage of their discoveries in the chemical industry because there was no coordination between industry and higher education, scientific research—for commercial products.

Germany took full advantage of England’s lack of foresight and developed a huge chemical industry, tied to universities as places for their R&D. Consequently, Germany needed more raw materials, which directly led to WWI. England’s strength was textiles, and coal. Their colonies were used for manufacture and raw materials.

However, when it came to production, during WWII, no one could keep up with the US. Even if Britain was at peak capacity, they couldn’t come close to the US. The US supplied the British Army—but you wouldn’t know this from the BBC documentaries.

There was simply no way the US could sustain its Post-WWII dominance. The nations destroyed would rebuild. Factories could be moved abroad—because, to a large extent, we all wanted this. We didn’t like the pollution, and the companies liked the cheap labor.

The world economy, right now, must have the US consumer operating at peak capacity. And we’ve still not recovered from the crisis. This is de facto leverage, but it is not leverage that the government can play diplomatically.

I would agree that history rhymes, but in a Cole Porter way, not a Dr. Seuss way.

4 Bob Levin  Tue, Apr 17, 2012 4:13:47pm

re: #2 Romantic Heretic

I believe England may also disagree about their manufacturing problems during WWII—in that they produced radar, the Spitfire, and the engine that powered the American fighter, the P-51 Mustang.


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