We are a seriously distracted superpower and our future enemy is happy to see it. While the American Empire has been busy making the Arab world safe for democracy and absorbing yet another wave of demographic-shifting immigration, a natural and inevitable enemy of these re-United States is rising across the Pacific. The current leader of the world's most populous nation is visiting the US this week. President Hu of the Peoples' Republic of China had dinner with Bill Gates earlier this week and will have lunch with the second most powerful man in America today. During his visit, Hu will smile disarmingly and utter platitudes of friendship and cooperation. He will then go back to China and tell his comrades that following Sun Tsu's maxim that "all war is deception" is working well.
If the 20th Century is known to historians as the American Century, the 21st will most likely be known as the Chinese Century. By 2045, at its present growth rate, China's GDP will eclipse that of the US. It's military, once a ponderous third rate behemoth incapable of much more than human wave tactics, is quickly modernizing and will soon possess global power projection capabilities rivaling ours. The Chinese are challenging us in a little-publicized space race, the technologies springing from which will give the winner technological dominance on the globe (See the result of the US--USSR space race, circa 1957-1971). But, most of this ominous Chinese growth has been cloaked behind images of cuddly pandas and inexpensive shoes. And that has been on purpose. Sun Tsu taught that "the acme of skill is to defeat the enemy without fighting" and to deceive your enemy of your intentions by appearing weak where he is strong. We should not be deluded by smiles and empty assurances. But we will be.
Empires never last indefinitely. They inevitably become weighted down under the load of their excesses, both internally and externally. We can expect nothing different. What we can do, however, is delay the inevitable and not go quietly. History will judge us not for the brilliance of our flash, but for the endurance of our light. If China were another freedom-loving democracy, giving way to them would be one thing. But China is a horribly insensitive user of its people--you can be that way when you have 1.4 BILLION people. The future peoples of this planet will judge America for how well we delayed and shaped China's ascendancy.
I figure my grandson will be commanding a Marine infantry regiment about the time we go to war with China. The first book I'll give him to read will be Sun Tsu's "The Art of War."