Stephen Speicher

What if the United States disappeared?

45 posts in this topic

I have been reading news reports, analyses, etc. about how the United States is hated and despised, and about how Americans, their way of life and culture, are denigrated in many parts of the world. What would happen to the world if these haters got their wish? Let's say that, magically, a God swoops down and wipes the United States off the face of the Earth. The people are gone and the land is restored to how it was a thousand years ago.

What would be the effect of this on the rest of the world? What might happen, and in what time frame would it occur?

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I have been reading news reports, analyses, etc. about how the United States is hated and despised, and about how Americans, their way of life and culture, are denigrated in many parts of the world. What would happen to the world if these haters got their wish? Let's say that, magically, a God swoops down and wipes the United States off the face of the Earth. The people are gone and the land is restored to how it was a thousand years ago. 

 

What would be the effect of this on the rest of the world? What might happen, and  in what time frame would it occur? 

 

Would this hypothetical scenario include wiping out all the global effects the United States had since its inception (e.g., technological progress)? That is, are we to assume that the United States had never existed?

If yes, then the world would have been in the midst of a Dark Age ever since Western Europe self-destructed after totalitarian governments took over in the early 20th century and spread their ideology and social system throughout the rest of the world. Then they have perpetual wars with each other that leave the world fluctuating between states of anarchy and repression, and devastated by recurring plague and famine. In short, the state of Europe between the Classical Era and the Enlightenment, and the current state of Africa.

If no, then the scenario becomes a bit more complicated...

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U.S. Marines guard the gates of Heaven, they wouldn't let God do that :)

On a serious note, I would say that that there would be a massive world wide economic depression, followed by famine.

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Would this hypothetical scenario include wiping out all the global effects the United States had since its inception (e.g., technological progress)?  That is, are we to assume that the United States had never existed?

No. What I had in mind is the world as it is today, but magically the United States and its people disappear, today. With the U.S. and its people gone, what effect would that have on the rest of the world, today, tomorrow, next year, next decade?

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More daydreaming. Let's see . . .

Mexico would immediately grab what little they could, but there would be an instant clamor of protests and "claims" laid by other nations wanting their "fair share" of this newfound "wealth of resources". Canada, being responsible "citizens of the world", would refrain from any attempt to grab land. No European nation would be strong enough to take it, so they would go with the "it is the property of all the peoples of the world, not any one nation" position. Debate would commence in the E.U. while China immediately began preparing the naval forces necessary for an occupation of the west coast and beyond.

As the debate dragged on in the E.U., the territory would slowly become sparsely occupied by squatters of various stripes sneaking in via Canada, Mexico, and the now unguarded coasts, and would become a lawless land.

After about six months or a year, or however long it took, China would land on the west coast, daring anyone to do anything about it. No one would. Realizing that China could not be allowed to grab all the spoils however, Britain, France, and Germany would band together to occupy the east coast. A new cold-war stand-off would come into being between the two opposing forces; a stand-off that China would dominate for a very long time. China would become the dominant world-power, prevented from taking over the entire world only by Europe's nuclear arsenal.

Australia, New Zealand, and Japan would become the next great hope for humanity but, lacking significant military strength, they might simply be crushed by China. Or China might allow North Korea to attack Japan, and Indonesia to attack Australia and New Zealand. Then, China would "crack down" on Islamists, and end up wiping them out by the hundreds of millions. There would be Islamists waging jihad against the Chinese as long as they could.

Basically, the world would be enslaved by China and fall under totalitarian Communist rule, because the E.U. would never try to do anything more than avoid open conflict with China, and they're really not that different after all. Of course, since we know that that way of life is ultimately unsustainable, even that would all break down in the very long run, but it would take a very long time. Hundreds of years, perhaps? Some day, barring the demise of humanity, an opportunity would again present itself for freedom loving people to try again.

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Fun...

OK - first effect would be the UN voting the North American ex-USA territories "World Patrimony", without any property rights. This would be meaningless as the UN would be in the midst of a huge crisis.

This would be swiftly followed by an invasion by Mexicans, shortly followed by the alienation of the Southwestern part by Mexico.

Canada might or not take over the Northern part, I don't know if they would have the cojones. They would probably claim Alaska, but I don't know how hard they'd be willing to fight over it.

I could envision a WW taking place over the remains of the ex-US territories, involving 2 of the following 3: Europe, China, and Latin America.

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Wow, I posted that without reading Charles' post. It's eery how we agree on the short term effects.

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Instant worldwide economic depression. Everyone's economy depends upon the US.

The middle east would invade Israel. With no one to defend them, Israel would probably last a year. It would be a very phyrric victory for the Arabs, as Israel would put up one tough fight. But eventually, it would be wiped out.

Japan and South Korea would totally collapse...both are dependent upon imports and US protection. China would invade them, and Taiwan. With no significant military, they would fall pretty easily.

Thus the only hopes left for the world would be India and Australia/New Zealand. Pakistan/Middle East and China would then turn on India. After a horrible nuclear war, the Middle East/China would wipe out India.

All that is good about the UK would collapse. All the pro-Americans there would succumb to the onslaught of modern, nihilistic Europe. The EU, who by this time would be in a major depression, would make peace with China/Middle East, and try to co-exist.

Latin America, Africa, and the Russian area would all break down into total tribalistic warfare.

Australia and New Zealand, though collapsed, would probably try and stay out of the way of China. They would hopefully try and rebuild the world by rebuilding their nations/economies.

China of course would not last as a powerful state, ala George Orwell. Instead, the world will look MUCH like it did after the fall of Rome. All nations will soon splinter into warring tribes, surrounded by technology too advanced for them to use. We will shoot back 1,000 years. People will die at the age of 40, if they are lucky. Most will only live till 30. Most women will die in Child-birth. If they survive, most children will die before the age of 5. Disease will wipe out billions. I would expect the population of the world to be 1 billion (counting wars, famines, uprisings, etc.) by 2050.

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Wow! What a bunch of interesting responses. I had something more general in mind, thinking of the United States as the moral, economic, scientific, and intellectual stabilizer of civilization. But the detailed analyses of what would happen were really fascinating.

One point, though, that I am really curious about.

The middle east would invade Israel. With no one to defend them, Israel would probably last a year. It would be a very phyrric victory for the Arabs, as Israel would put up one tough fight. But eventually, it would be wiped out.

Every time Israel was attacked by its neighbors, Israel demolished them in short time. Israel has shown itself to be far superior militarily in every way. Granted that we would not be there to supply them with additional arms, but I think Israel has what it takes to wipe out their neighbors ten times over (which they might have done long ago without our intervention).

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The basic thing that would happen is that the rest of the world would first notice just how much they'd been taking the US for granted. For example:

- No US Navy - there would be piracy all over the world, because nobody else has a navy that would be able to stop it. Overseas trade would be seriously slowed; maybe almost stopped, because there would be nobody to protect world commerce.

- Without US wealth any more, many countries that depended on us for trade would collapse into poverty.

- There wouldn't be anybody around to give out aid to these pitiful third world countries that have disasters. Tsunami somewhere? Nobody would do anything. Earthquake in Pakistan/India? Nobody else would care.

- A whole bunch of the world just would not be able to get along any more, because there'd be no US forcing them to behave.

In short, lots of people who today profess hatred of the US would be longing for the good old days of the Pax Americana.

In general, I think now would be the time for the best people in the world to stand up and do something. So the better westernized nations (Japan, Australia, Israel, UK, for example) would need to lead the world out of the mess, if there was going to be any leadership at all. They'd either succeed, or there'd be another dark ages. The big question is: has America managed to transplant enough enlightenment virtue beyond her shores so that the rest of the world could survive?

Now that their "philosophical parents" are dead, can the best of the "children" lead the world, eventually filling in for America successfully? I tend to think the answer is "yes", because of the impotence of evil. There is quite a lot of evil today that could be wiped out in very short order if the good only decided to do so. Perhaps with America gone, the remaining good nations would decide to no longer tolerate evil they way they had been doing.

More specifically, here's what would happen in some parts of the world:

1) Europe would finally have to grow up, or die. They wouldn't have the US there any more to provide their defense, or to bail them out like we did in 1917-18 and 1942-45. Either the better elements would lead Europe to a new renaissance, or they'd collapse into tribal warfare.

2) As for Israel, I was thinking along the lines of what Stephen said. I think the Arab nations would foolishly attack, following which Israel would smash its enemies and probably incinerate a few enemy cities just for good measure. After that, none of those Islamic cowards would dare touch Israel. I believe Israel would take over at least some of the oil fields in the area.

3) Japan would rapidly rearm, becoming a nuclear power in a few months. There would probably be some kind of showdown between Japan and China.

4) Africa would collapse into chaos. But nobody else would care.

5) Parts of the old British Empire, such as Australia, Canada and India would have to take a huge role in the new world? Would they be up to it? Here again it would be a case of "do or die". The best people in those nations would have to fight for the best within them, and the best in the world that remained.

Finally.... I sure as hell hope there are some copies of Atlas Shrugged and the rest of Ayn Rand's works that survive, because the world's going to need them!

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Ayn Rand wrote a book and showed us what would happen if the mind went on strike. Someone should write a book and show the world what would happen if the United States of America disappeared.

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One point, though, that I am really curious about... 

Yes they did. And I praise Israel for her amazing ability to defend herself. However, I think that what would eventually do Israel in is sheer numbers/size. From Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Iran to Libya, Egypt to Syria...Israel has many, many enemies. Iran alone has over 60 million more people than Israel...in fact, Israel is about the same size as the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metro area, or a bit smaller than NYC itself. And I think that, with no fear of defeat (from the US), and being the man-hating nations they are (not fearing to lose lots of life), they would wear Israel out purely by attrition. Not to mention the fact that Israel depends upon billions of dollars of aid from the US.

So of course they will do an amazing job. And those people 1000 years from now who returned to Enlightenment would look at what Israel did and hail it as one of the greatest military operations of all time. Of all nations in the world, Israel is closest to what the US stands for.

Who knows, however? I'm not ignorant of history, and I know that just a few Greeks beat off the mass of Persians, thereby saving freedom and Western Civilization. Could Israel do the same? I would certainly hope so.

Jay P,

What you said here:

4) Africa would collapse into chaos. But nobody else would care.

is absolutely hysterical! :)

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I agree with you Stephen that would be a great idea for a novel, but I think you'd agree it'd be better if they didn't magically disappear. Maybe the citizens of the United States could colonize Mars or another planet and leave the world to realize what it has lost and I would imagine they would be waiting for either the world to basically destroy itself or the people remaining on earth would finally realize the error of their ways and we could see the United Laissez-Faire States of Earth and Mars. :)

What do you think? Too sci-fi?

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Yes they did.  And I praise Israel for her amazing ability to defend herself.  However, I think that what would eventually do Israel in is sheer numbers/size.  From Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Iran to Libya, Egypt to Syria...Israel has many, many enemies. Iran alone has over 60 million more people than Israel...in fact, Israel is about the same size as the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metro area, or a bit smaller than NYC itself.  And I think that, with no fear of defeat (from the US), and being the man-hating nations they are (not fearing to lose lots of life), they would wear Israel out purely by attrition.  Not to mention the fact that Israel depends upon billions of dollars of aid from the US.

I think this is another case where size does not matter. Nuclear obliteration of Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh will send the cowards running for at least a generation or two. When backed against the wall, without us to reign them in, Israel would do what it should have done long ago.

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I agree with you Stephen that would be a great idea for a novel, but I think you'd agree it'd be better if they didn't magically disappear. Maybe the citizens of the United States could colonize Mars or another planet and leave the world to realize what it has lost and I would imagine they would be waiting for either the world to basically destroy itself or the people remaining on earth would finally realize the error of their ways and we could see the United Laissez-Faire States of Earth and Mars. :)

What do you think? Too sci-fi?

Seeing such a book published is a fantasy of mine. I'm perfectly willing to leave the details of how the plot-line comes about to the writer who will make the fantasy come true.

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I think this is another case where size does not matter. Nuclear obliteration of Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh will send the cowards running for at least a generation or two. When backed against the wall, without us to reign them in, Israel would do what it should have done long ago.

But what about Nuclear obliteration of Tel-Aviv, or Jerusalem...by Pakistan? Or China? Or...Russia?

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But what about Nuclear obliteration of Tel-Aviv, or Jerusalem...by Pakistan? Or China?  Or...Russia?

China or Russia could, but why would they? Besides, I challenged your comment:

"The middle east would invade Israel. With no one to defend them, Israel would probably last a year. It would be a very phyrric victory for the Arabs ..."

I don't think Russia and China are part of the middle east, nor are they Arabs. :)

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China or Russia could, but why would they? Besides, I challenged your comment:

"The middle east would invade Israel. With no one to defend them, Israel would probably last a year. It would be a very phyrric victory for the Arabs ..."

I don't think Russia and China are part of the middle east, nor are they Arabs.  :D

:). The reason I bring those two up are because both nations have pledged support for Middle Eastern Nations (Russia and Syria?). It would seem totally logical, to me, for either nation to support the Middle East against a pro-US Nation. If not directly, then at least by providing them nukes.

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Seeing such a book published is a fantasy of mine. I'm perfectly willing to leave the details of how the plot-line comes about to the writer who will make the fantasy come true.     

     

I'd love to follow your basic premise for a plot idea...in a purely fantasy setting. Meaning a galaxy, world or time far removed, but with the same foundation or meaning.

As to getting the US to vanish, I know of only one author that could believably pull that off, and that is Frederick Pohl, the premises that would follow would not be to anyone's taste here, I don't think.

Still, your idea got me thinking of Atlantis, and a world far away that disappeared, and what those people meant to those that remained when they were gone...

Thanks!

PS. I love a good "what if...?"

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A few comments...

1 - I think people overestimate the impact of America and under estimate the impact of the ideas that are best emboddied in it. Those ideas would stay, and they would continue to make progress. Would the progress be slowed or accelerated? I don't know. The American laws and institutions are better than those of Europe, but it are still rife with Statism and Altruism.

2 - One key country I don't see mentioned here is Russia. I believe Russia would quickly invade Eastern Europe yet again. Europe of course would do the usual posturing, and not follow through. One interesting question is what would happen in Siberia. China would be more likely to invade Siberia than India, IMHO. Russia doesn't have the strength to fight off China. China would probably suffer most from the disparition of the US (main export market), and the leaders in Beijing would probably see a war with Russia as a good way to both distract the population and create short term economic growth.

3 - I don't think Israel is the closest to the US there's ever been, at least not in the good sense. It is undoubtfully a pearl of (relative) rationality in an ocean of mystic chaos, but it is still not an enlightened country. Both Statism and Mysticism still have a very active role (Socialism was a founding principle after all). I believe that the national airline isn't allowed to fly planes on Fridays for example (or wasn't - I know it's been privatised recently). I remember someone discussing their divorce experience in Israel, and it didn't raise my opinion of the country (which is still high overall).

4 - I don't believe the disparition of America would cause worldwide instant chaos and economic stagnation. Slow down, yes. Some hot spots and regional wars, yes. But the effect would be felt hardest 2 or 3 generations later, when people have to deal with slow technological progress, than right away.

5 - Africa is probably the continent that would be least impacted, since it's hard to see things get worse there. Widespread famine and tribal warfare would continue. It would be interesting to guess which area would be most impacted, economically speaking, after China. It wouldn't be Europe, maybe LatAm and Japan?

6 - The key to the Middle East is whether Pakistan would intervene. If they do, then I think Israel is doomed because it's nuclear capabilities are matched (although I don't know whether Pakistan has the right delivery medium). The best chance for Israel in case of a Middle East war might be a war between pakistan and India, which is highly likely anyway. If Pakistan has it's hands full, I think Israel will succesfully fight off the Arabs, and yet again increase the size of its territory. One has to keep in mind that Arab countries are not unlikely to wage war against each others. Also, the nuclear capability of Israel can be used very intelligently: how would Europe react if Israel communicated to them that if threatened they would detonate several nukes in Saudi Arabia's oil fields, thereby threatening worldwide production?

7 - I believe the next bearer of the standard of liberty wouldn't be Canada (wrong philosophical outlook) or Australia (small population, too remote), but England.

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2 - One key country I don't see mentioned here is Russia.  I believe Russia would quickly invade Eastern Europe yet again.  Europe of course would do the usual posturing, and not follow through.  One interesting question is what would happen in Siberia.  China would be more likely to invade Siberia than India, IMHO.  Russia doesn't have the strength to fight off China.  China would probably suffer most from the disparition of the US (main export market), and the leaders in Beijing would probably see a war with Russia as a good way to both distract the population and create short term economic growth.

I find it more likely that the Chinese forces would be annihilated.

Russia simply has far to much strategic depth for China to successfully take Russian territory. The vast majority of Chinese equipment dates back to the 1960's, including their aircraft. The Russians by comparison have equipment dating back to the 1980's (and some modern equipment), they also have the third greatest experience in modern maneuver warfare, behind only the US and the UK. You must also keep in mind that the temperatures in Siberia get so low (well below zero) that offensive operations become prohibitive. It is likely that any offensive would take place in the summer months, where they would probably make some advances into Russia, but once the fall and winter comes on, their offensive would stall, giving Russia ample time to call up their reserves, pull tens of thousands of tanks, transports, armored fighting vehicles, aircraft, artillery, et all. Then move against Chinese forces in the spring.

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The American laws and institutions are better than those of Europe, but it are still rife with Statism and Altruism.

True, but the American sense of life is much better than that of Europe. Inspite of the beating it has taken in the two centuries of America's existence, I think it is still very prevalent.

I don't believe the disparition of America would cause worldwide instant chaos and economic stagnation.  Slow down, yes.  Some hot spots and regional wars, yes.  But the effect would be felt hardest 2 or 3 generations later, when people have to deal with slow technological progress, than right away.

How much do you think other countries support freedom?

Consider that twice, 179 countries out of 183 have voted in the UN to persuade US to end the embargo on Cuba.

Consider how eager they are to take the control of the Internet from ICANN.

The disappearance of America, IMO, would result in the loss of freedom and prosperity and in lesser time than two or three generations.

I believe the next bearer of the standard of liberty wouldn't be Canada (wrong philosophical outlook) or Australia (small population, too remote), but England.

Given the current state of the world, any bearer of the standard of liberty would remain after America.

I may very well be wrong but given the level of anti-Americanism in the world, I don't think I'm way off the mark.

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any bearer of the standard of liberty would remain after America.

I meant I don't think any bearer of the standard of liberty would remain after America.

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The reason I bring those two up are because both nations have pledged support for Middle Eastern Nations (Russia and Syria?).  It would seem totally logical, to me, for either nation to support the Middle East against a pro-US Nation.  If not directly, then at least by providing them nukes.

But with the U.S. gone, why would China or Russia care? If they wanted something from the Middle-Eastern nations, they would just take it.

However, clearly you are correct in that Israel could not withstand a global assault, not against what both China and Russia could deliver. But I still think that Israel could decimate its Middle-Eastern enemies.

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