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Copenhagen Business School

And another Empire bites the dust

(Photo by Mette Koors)

Blog |   23 Sep 2019

But which Empire? The United States of course! Maybe it is a bit too early to say that but remember what The Lion King taught us: “It’s the circle of life”.

The circle of life is indeed one of life’s only certainties, and oh has history shown us its effect on Portugal, Spain, England, etc. They all had their moment in history when they were the most powerful nations in the world, only to become outdated and be replaced by the new generation that cannot escape a simple reality either – every Empire must come to an end.

But why call it an Empire? Well, I believe it is much straighter to the point than the usual “superpower”. It evokes what it truly takes to be the main actor on the global stage: control. It was the ability to control the global economy and politics gained after the collapse of the previous Empires during the last century that propelled the United States into the position it holds.

Every Empire must come to an end

Even though its weight in the global economy has continually shrunk since its golden age, from 40% in 1960 to 22% in 2016, according to Forbes, the world order it created was built on sound foundations. The United Nations, NATO, The World Trade Organization, etc., organizations that shape the world we live in, were themselves shaped by a country that saw a non-functioning world and, even though in its own image, sought to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity that served the Western world for many years.

But it all went wrong. For me, it all began with 11 September 2001, when a nation woke up to a tragedy. One that revealed that the world it helped shape was far from perfect, causing a frenzy that resulted in two misconceived wars, leading its allies to ponder on what would it mean to be a United States ally in the 21st century.

Besides the military and political connection to the United States, the 2008 economic crisis revealed cracks in the current economic system that created further mistrust in the current world order. This unleashed the forces of populism, which continue to shake the foundations of democracy to this day.

Being "the leader of the free world" is a role that demands respect, something that the current White House does not appear to comprehend

Not even a charismatic president like Barack Obama, who was hellbent on improving USA’s image in the world could escape the fact that the United States has become a victim of its own mistakes, unwilling to intervene in conflicts from which its status in the world demands attention, such as in the case of events in Eastern Ukraine, Crimea and Syria.

The dominos were falling but someone else appeared to increase the momentum, you know who he is.

Donald Trump is a product of a nation at a tipping point of its history. A nation that is still the strongest, with the necessary will and resources to project its influence outside its borders. One where the political divide has grown so large that corporate interests outweigh the interests of the population it is supposed to represent. The enormous army that provides its security and influence aggravates its enormous foreign debt, which is funded based on the position of the United States and its currency as the premier choice for investment.

Donald Trump is a product of a nation at a tipping point of its history

The current US president has shown disdain for the organizations its country helped create, openly criticizing the European Union and supporting figures who sought to destabilize it. A symptom of a country that views its diminishing power from a victim’s point of view, blaming its problems on the actions of foreign countries. This results in attempts to strip them of the power that enables them to respond to its increasingly protectionist policies.

Credibility built during decades can be damaged in moments, as in the case of the recent Greenland incident. Being “the leader of the free world” is a role that demands respect, something that the current White House does not appear to comprehend.

But there is good news! The recent wave of negativity is not towards a country, but its administration. If, in the next elections, Americans choose a president who can address the current problems the country faces while at the same time realizing the country’s historical responsibilities, this will all be forgotten, left in the history books as a glitch in the system, a mistake that was quickly corrected.

The Empire will still meet its end one day. Remember? The circle of life. But maybe the process will be more harmonious, not a theatrical descent into madness.

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