For the next century Americans moved from the coastal states inland, finding more and better lands linked together with more and better rivers. Rains were reliable. Soil quality was reliable. Rivers were reliable. Success and wealth were assured.
The trickle of settlers became a flood, and yet there was still more than enough well-watered, naturally connected lands for all.
North America was viewed as a remarkably safe place.
In the former, the Americans were far ahead of the Soviets in terms of chemistry, electronics and metallurgy — the core skills needed in the space race.
But because the Soviets managed to hurl something into space first the result was a nationwide American panic resulting in the re-fabrication of the country's educational system and industrial plant.
The American defeat in the Vietnam conflict similarly triggered a complete military overhaul, including the introduction of information technology into weapon systems, despite the war's never having touched American shores.
This paranoia was the true source of satellite communications and precision-guided weapons.
In contrast, even with recent upgrades, the Mexican border is very porous. While estimates vary greatly, roughly half a million immigrants legally cross the United States' southern border every year, and up to twice as many cross illegally. There are substantial benefits that make such immigration a net gain for the United States. The continual influx of labor keeps inflation tame at a time when labor shortages are increasingly the norm in the developed world (and are even beginning to be felt in China). The cost of American labor per unit of output has increased by a factor of 4.5 since 1970; in the United Kingdom the factor is 12.8.
The United States launched the war in late 2001 to dislodge al Qaeda and prevent the region from being used as a base and recruitment center for it and similar jihadist groups. But since geography precludes the formation of any stable, unified or capable government in Afghanistan, these objectives can be met and maintained only so long as the United States stations tens of thousands of troops in the country.
Central control is so weak that non-state actors like al Qaeda will continue to use it as an operational center, and some of these groups undoubtedly hope to inflict harm upon the United States. But the United States is a long way away from Afghanistan, and such ideology does not often translate into intent and intent does not often translate into capacity. Even more important, Afghanistan's labor, material and financial resources are so low that no power based in Afghanistan could ever directly challenge much less overthrow American power.
Because of those regional and ethnic splits, however, when China's command of this system fails as Japan's did in the 1990s, China will face a societal breakdown in addition to an economic meltdown. Making matters worse, China's largely unnavigable rivers and relatively poor natural ports mean that China lacks Japan's natural capital-generation advantages and is saddled with the economic dead weight of its vast interior, home to some 800 million impoverished people. Consequently, China largely lacks the capacity to generate its own capital and its own technology on a large scale.
|Mission Not Accomplished|