Fictional Scenario: Pax Americana

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The scenario portrayed below looks at how US predominance may survive radical changes to the global political landscape, with Washington remaining the central pivot for international politics. It is depicted as the diary entry by a fictitious UN Secretary-General in 2020. Under this scenario, key alliances and relationships with Europe and Asia undergo change. US-European cooperation is renewed, including on the Middle East. There are new security arrangements in Asia, but the United States still does the heavy lifting. The scenario also suggests that Washington has to struggle to assert leadership in an increasingly diverse, complex, and fast-paced world. At the end of the scenario, we identify lessons learned from how the scenario played out.

The original and full scenario for Pax Americana can be explored at the National Intelligence Council web page.

"Lessons Learned" A geopolitical environment in which US power dominates would become more complex.

  • A rising China might put the US in a different position, having to act as the balancer between China on the one hand and Japan and other Asian countries on the other.

Competing coalitions would be likely to fight over moral and ethical issues. The US would be looked to for leadership, but the scenario suggests it would take dexterity to achieve consensus. And the Pax Americana would not necessarily be a "sweet" deal for the United States.

  • Deeply entrenched expectations about the US providing the heavy lifting on security would likely to be hard to change, particularly given the underlying reality that only the US has the military capacity.
  • The scenario suggests that international architecture is not designed for security burdensharing. Other than the US-dominated NATO, no other regional security organizations appear to be operational in the scenario.