On August 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced that the United States would no longer convert dollars to gold at a fixed value, thus completely abandoning the gold standard. That was almost 50-years to the day and future historians will one day come to recognise that day as the start of the collapse of the American empire. I talk about this because I’m often asked the question, “Will the American empire end, if at all?” 

The ultimate downfall of the USA will be the same as it has been for every empire that has preceded it: War. No, not in the sense that somebody else will defeat the US in a war, but in the sense that continuous warfare will deplete the people and resources to a point where the nation-state can no longer function as a world power. For example, consider Spain, which was the preeminent empire in the 16th-17th centuries. Spain essentially bankrupted itself fighting wars in Europe. It stripped the New World of gold and silver, and still did not have enough to finance its wars. Finally, it receded as a global power. Consider also the British Empire, which rose in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was still a global force in the 20th century. But the Great War so depleted its manpower that it emerged without the intellect and leadership to administer a global empire. 

By the end of WWII, the British Empire no longer existed. Consider the USSR, certainly a global force in the mid to late 20th century. But its whole economy was based on building and supporting its military— indeed, the Soviet constitution itself essentially wrote a blank check to the military. But the USSR ultimately collapsed because its military-based economy not only could not compete with Western economies but was inherently unsustainable. Arguably, we could also contend that the entire civilization of the Middle Ages collapsed because of warfare: The Crusades, the Hundred Years’ War, the Wars of the Roses and equivalent French civil wars, all contributed to a decline in a civilization that rose again only with the Renaissance— a period that emphasized arts, intellect, and commerce.

So it will go in the USA. The US currently maintains a global military presence, with permanent bases in almost 140 countries. Essentially, the US has over 800 military bases worldwide. The military is the single greatest expense of the federal US budget, and in Congress, military appropriations are passed almost without debate or opposition. In the private sector, the arms industry is enormous. In the past generation, many young people have chosen the military because the economy outside the military simply wouldn’t support them. And perhaps most importantly, the US uses its military as its primary foreign policy tool; it engages in military action every day, with almost no military objectives at stake— indeed, the objectives of military engagement generally can no longer be articulated, and such articulation as there may be is fuzzy, unclear, and conflicted. If you look at the old Roman Empire, it followed exactly the same track as America.

Simply put, the US is well down the path of every empire that has come before it, exhausting itself in warfare. This and this alone will be the downfall of the USA: It will cannibalise itself in its pursuit of perpetual warfare.