The Collapse of America: What History Teaches Us about the Rise and Fall of Empires

“I wonder if the Emperor Honorius watching the Vizigoths coming over the seventh hill truly realized that the Roman Empire was about to fall. This is just another page in history isn’t it? Will this be the end of our civilization?”

– Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek the Next Generation [1]


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(Originally published Nov 20, 2021)

As thousands of civilian contractors and hundreds of soldiers hustled to get out of Afghanistan by August 31 of this year, and as the formerly defeated Taliban began to re-establish their toe hold in the locations they once inhabited, there is one inescapable conclusion one could come to. And I can assure you that after nearly two decades of the U.S. occupation there, over a trillion dollars in military spending, and over 100,000 civilians killed or injured, the first word out of a sane individual’s mouth will not be victory! [2]

Afghanistan would only be the latest in a series of military accomplishments that have proved expensive both in terms of money and in terms of bloodshed. Iraq has proven to be a disaster where President George W Bush early on declared it victory.

They are still at it in Syria ten years after the beginning of the civil war there was initiated with U.S. help. U.S. – led NATO is still failing to set up a neo-colonial government in Libya, an advanced African country turned into a calamity of economic devastation, human rights abuses and gangster rivalry.

In Latin America, Maduro is enduring in spite of years of sanctions and a failed attempt to sink the government with one of their sock puppets Juan Guaido.

There are accelerating tendencies in recent years to pick fights with Russia and China, however they seem to be surviving the sanctions, the increased war training, and the diplomatic rhetoric quite well.

This spectacular run of defeats suggest that the age of the U.S. dominating the world as its one remaining superpower is now at a cross-roads.

It suggests that the fearsome spectre of violent military might is losing its fangs.

It seems the era of the U.S. Empire is coming to an end.

To get a more comprehensive understanding if what fate may befall the once mighty “City on a Hill” as it fades from glory, we need to put the story of their decline through the lens of history.

How did other empires win the gold of imperialism and how did they ultimately lose it overtime?

This will be the approach of this week episode of the Global Research News Hour.

Joining me for the duration of the program is Alfred W McCoy.

A historian and educator based in Madison-Wisconsin, he will be guiding us through his book, in stores as of this past week, entitled To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.

Professor McCoy will go back seven centuries to the Black Death and the rise of the Portuguese and Spanish empire and guide us through the British and later the American era of empire.

He also points to the features these imperial ages had in common, the world orders of ethics that transcribed each separate age in transition.

And he also points to the reality of climate change as the current catastrophe from which China, will make its debut as a successor to America.



Alfred W. McCoy is a TomDispatch regular and the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (Harper & Row,1972) and of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books, 2017). His latest book is To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change (Dispatch Books, 2017). He is also published frequently at Global Research.

(Global Research News Hour Episode 333)


Click to download the audio (MP3 format)


The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM out of the University of Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at .

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  1. Star Trek the Next Generation (1990), ‘The Best of Both Worlds’


Published by GR



Republished by The 21st Century

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