The global empire of the United States bears staggering similarities to that of the ancient Athenian empire; both rose through an influx in foreign wealth, fought long and costly wars, and lost their supremacy due to singular, devastating defeats.
Athens’s rise and fall was intertwined with the grand conflict of the Peloponnesian War. Before the war, Athens dominated Greece. Tribute, paid through monetary and naval capital by Delian League, was arbitrarily used by Athens for its own betterment. Under Pericles, Athenians built great public works, such as the Parthenon, with foreign money.
Later, the tectonic Peloponnesian War erupted between Athens and Sparta. Neither could defeat the other, so the conflict evolved into a regional, strategic struggle. Foreign campaigns, like in Sicily, eroded the strength of the Athenians. Athens was too heavily invested in these foreign conflicts.
Athens risked too much and the Peloponnesian League, Sparta and her network of Allies, punished them for it. The tipping point for the Athenian Empire was at Syracuse. Athenian generals procrastinated at the beginning of the conflict; this delay resulted in the unsuccessful siege of the city rather than a victorious strike. Spartan reinforcements had enough time to reinforce Syracuse and beat back the Athenians. Countless ships of Athens were lost in the harbor of Syracuse. Athenian morale was splintered with their strength broken. The downward spiral of Athens lasted eight painful years before they surrendered to Sparta.
America is on the downhill slide of the Athenian curve as she circles her own defeat. Historians would place the high point of the American empire at the close of World War Two. At this point, many nations adored the victorious liberators. Wealth flowed into America in exchange for manufactured products. Destruction of international economic competitions, with the bombings of Europe and the wars of East Asia, enabled this modern reincarnation of Athenian tribute. Buoyed by foreign wealth, politicians constructed highways, funded Social Security, and created Medicare. Meanwhile, the Cold War flickered into forest fire.
Forces mobilized against the United States; America’s Cold War would mirror Athens’s Peloponnesian War. Many nations sided with the USSR, and later China, in a manifold communist threat against the United States. Communist converts were afraid of being poached by America’s predatory foreign policy; the CIA coup of democracy in Iran, GI’s fought the rightful rule of Vietnam, and paratroopers invaded Grenada. This only empowered America’s enemies.
American capitalism and USSR’s communism fought long and hard, sapping global capital. China besieged the United States in Korea, freedom fighters in Afghanistan killed millions of Russians, and the Middle East burned as Israel, Egypt, and Syria warred. Ideological conflicts continue to this day in various modern forms. By 2011 America had overextended herself. Tens of thousands of troops were stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, NATO jets controlled the airspace of Libya, and drone strikes assassinated opposition figures in Yemen.
Here the American model caught up to the Athenian timeline. The next chronological event was a major defeat of the American Empire at the hand of the Chinese. Despite having the best universities, arguably the most innovative populace, and the most capital the American economy was overtaken by the oppressive, environmentally destructive, and antagonistic Chinese economy. The Americans would be surpassed by 2020; China was declared the Sparta of the modern age. As early as 2011 the Chinese were flexing their strength, the flow of resources, such as rare metals, was halted to the United States. It would not be long until other essential elements of the globalized economy simply went missing. America’s empire unraveled, just as its star-crossed ancestor Athens did before it.