What will the end of American hegemony mean for diplomacy, the economy, and the world order of the past century? Nothing that is happening should be a surprise to those who understand Bible prophecy—and neither should what is going to happen in the years to come!
For many decades the world has enjoyed the Pax Americana—the American Peace. When it began may be disputed, but the fact of it cannot. The global dominance of the military and financial power of the United States has provided the world with a certain level of global peace, stability, and prosperity that has raised standards of living for citizens of many countries across the earth.
But that period is coming to an end.
The “indispensable nation,” as the Clinton administration routinely called the U.S., is no longer considered so indispensable. Its threats are no longer quite so feared. Its presence in international affairs is no longer quite so accepted. And the global stability once nurtured by American strength has become a worldwide instability encouraged by American weakness.
What has changed? And what lies ahead?
As the record of the Pax Americana joins the darkened pages of other closed chapters of history, what is written in the new chapter we are now opening?
The term “Pax Americana” refers to a period of relative stability in world conditions in recent decades and takes its name from the ancient Pax Romana, or Roman Peace. From the reign of Emperor Augustus through the reign of Marcus Aurelius (27 AD–180 AD), fear of Rome’s military strength helped to ward off the Empire’s enemies and inspire a feeling of security in regions under the umbrella of its protection—so long as they paid their taxes, governed themselves peaceably, and remembered who was ultimately in charge. Part of the nervousness of leaders in Jesus’ day can be explained by their desire to avoid causing Rome to see them as troublemakers unable to keep the peace and support Roman rule (John 11:47–48). Under such conditions, trade flourished and many prospered.
With the ascension of Aurelius’ son Commodus to the emperor’s throne, the Pax Romana came to an end. As the ancient historian Cassio Dio wrote of that loss, the end of that era involved a descent from “a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust, as affairs did for the Romans of that day.”
Still, the Pax Romana has lived on in historical memory and has inspired historians to give later periods similar names. From around 1815 to 1914—between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I—much of the world enjoyed what has been termed the Pax Britannica, when the unrivaled strength of the British Empire established an environment enabling free trade and relative global stability. The peerless might of the British Navy intimidated all who would upset the peace Britain maintained as the “world’s policeman.” Trade was bountiful—at great benefit to the Empire and its many colonies across the globe.
Of course, neither of these periods of “peace” were times of true, global peace. Rome fought when necessary to preserve its empire. Roman armies sacked Jerusalem during the Roman “Peace.” And, like the Pax Romana, the Pax Britannica saw the Crimean War and the Opium Wars, among other conflicts—yet the world’s “great powers” coexisted in relative peace, while prosperity flourished for many.
But nothing in this world lasts forever, and the Pax Britannica ended with the advent of World War I—a war that saw the rise of a new world power that would eventually take the mantle of leadership and bring a new period of relative global stability.
Before World War II began, a representative of the United Kingdom made an intriguing offer to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt. New Yorker columnist Daniel Immerwahr described the event in a November 2020 article:
In 1939, shortly before the German invasion of Poland, a British emissary, Lord Lothian, visited the White House with an unusual request. The United Kingdom was unable to protect the world from the Nazis, Lothian told President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Anglo-Saxon civilization” would thus need a new guardian. The scepter was falling from British hands, Lothian explained, and the United States must “snatch it up.” Though informally made, it was an extraordinary entreaty. London was willing to step aside and let Washington lead the world.
Roosevelt was reportedly uninterested. As historian Stephen Wertheim notes in his book Tomorrow, the World, “The president of the United States preferred British world leadership to a Pax Americana: let them bear the brunt. What Great Britain had been to the modern world, Great Britain would remain to the world of tomorrow” (p. 36).
Yet history records Roosevelt’s change of heart, as the war in Europe began and expanded. And history records, as well, the crucial role of American power in the conclusion of World War II—a war that began with a joint Soviet-German Invasion of Poland and ended under the shadows of two mushroom clouds in Japan, announcing the birth of the world’s newest superpower: the United States.
The strength and dynamism of the post-war U.S. economy powered the economies of other nations and turned the U.S. dollar into the de facto reserve currency of the world—a financial asset whose future value could be trusted because of the powerful nation that backed it. And with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the U.S. became the world’s only true superpower, able to exert unprecedented strength and influence around the globe with little resistance. The New York Post recently summarized the blessings much of the world has enjoyed under the Pax Americana:
We are in the most peaceful period of recorded time, and it’s because of the post-World War II alliances forged by the West. How many regional conflicts were kept in check by NATO? How many dictators discouraged? And in the global marketplace this fostered, the quality of life rose for all. To take just one benchmark: 36% of humanity lived in extreme poverty in 1990. Today, it’s fallen to 9%, per the World Bank.
The United States quickly became the lynchpin of a relatively stable and generally profitable international world order, even as it shaped that world order as it saw fit to suit its own purposes. With military bases across the globe, deterring bad actors and offering the promise of aid at a moment’s notice, the Pax Americana seemed a global peace if there ever were one.
Speaking at the 2014 commencement ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy, President Barack Obama took note of his nation’s pivotal role:
Our military has no peer. The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.... From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.... And when a typhoon hits the Philippines or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past and it will be true for the century to come.
The century to come, however, had other ideas. President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1999 gave the world a “wake-up” call when U.S.-led NATO forces intervened for an easy victory in the Kosovo conflict—without United Nations authorization and with Russia and China opposing the unilateral U.S. action. For those who saw America as an ideological opponent, the high price of participating in the Pax Americana began to be clarified: sharing the world with a nation capable of imposing its will at will.
But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, during the administration of President George W. Bush, things seemed to change. Few questioned the United States’ legitimacy in declaring war on the Taliban in Afghanistan in response, but declaring war on Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 was a different matter. While Iraq’s military fell to U.S. power quite easily, the discovery that there were no weapons of mass destruction—meaning that the war was fought on a false pretext—was a devastating blow to America’s perceived moral authority in the world.
Many wondered, if the U.S. could unleash its unprecedented military power without being held accountable for its mistakes, what could prevent the Pax Americana from becoming the American Empire. The integrity of the U.S. as an ally came into further question in its handling of a crisis in Syria. In August 2012, President Obama declared that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad would be crossing a “red line” if he used chemical weapons against opponents in his nation’s civil war. Yet when Assad did just that in 2013, the U.S. took no military action, causing the world to wonder just what a “red line” meant—beyond a relatively empty threat.
By the end of President Obama’s term, the U.S.—both its citizens and its politicians—had grown weary of international involvement. Among the many reasons Donald Trump was elected was a growing sense that America needed to turn its focus inward to address growing domestic problems, such as its dangerously porous southern border. In his inaugural speech, President Trump promised that “a new vision will govern our land, from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.” This meant pressing other countries to rely less on the U.S. for their own defense.
Still, one of the “last hurrahs” of Pax Americana occurred under President Trump, when he signed the Abraham Accords—historic agreements to normalize U.S. and Israeli relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The Abraham Accords would have been considered a historic agreement for any presidential administration, potentially earning Mr. Trump consideration for a Nobel Prize. But in its collective irrational hatred for the President, American media effectively ignored the Accords, and the administration of Mr. Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, generally refuses even to call them by their official name.
Since the Abraham Accords, successes for the Pax Americana have been hard to come by. Failures, on the other hand, have not been so shy.
Perhaps the most painfully obvious symptom of a dying “American Peace” is the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. After waging two decades of war, spending in excess of two trillion dollars, and losing thousands of lives, the United States fled Afghanistan in a manner that many saw as the hurried retreat of a defeated nation, calling to mind images of U.S. troops pulling out of Saigon with the loss of the Vietnam War.
“We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit,” the President had promised. “We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely.” But the images and reports that poured in appeared the very opposite: a rushed exit performed irresponsibly, haphazardly, and dangerously. America’s allies were devastated. In Britain, Lionel Shriver offered this comment in the Spectator:
In scheduling a scandalously shambolic withdrawal to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, Joe Biden has managed not to reverse the humiliation of 9/11, but to repeat it....
In the main, NATO is the United States. UN peacekeeping forces are a farce. So if the US is truly cowed (if not exactly humbled) and determined for the foreseeable to shelter in place, we’re looking at a future in which malefactors can get away with anything. Why, malefactors may think they can get away with anything already.
Recent events may indicate that Shriver’s speculation is accurate. More than one analyst has suggested that the most important factor encouraging Vladimir Putin’s foray into Ukraine was his perception of American weakness—if not yet a weakness of ability, certainly a weakness of will. Starting a full-scale war on the very doorstep of Europe, historically a region under the clearest and brightest of U.S. promises for protection, would once have been unthinkable—or, at the very least, a risk not worth taking.
But as the Pax Americana wanes and the world’s policeman all but walks off the job, risks once unthinkable become new opportunities. The world once again is available for carving up. Taiwan and China are surely taking note.
So is Germany. In February of this year, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told an emergency session of parliament that his nation would pour US$113 billion into its army in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As reported by the BBC, “There was an audible ripple of shock in parliament. Some MPs clapped, some booed, others looked stunned.” It is Germany’s largest military investment since the end of World War II—a step that would have been unthinkable before the war in Ukraine. And it is a step long encouraged by more than one U.S. administration, increasingly tired of maintaining the Pax Americana.
Is this a victory for the U.S.? As the nation will quickly learn, allies that do not need you may not remain allies for long—and perhaps America is learning already. In the early days of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, seeking support from allies, President Biden reached out to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the U.A.E.’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan. According to the Wall Street Journal and others, both men declined his calls. Each did take a call, however, from Vladimir Putin.
Some observers have taken heart that the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown the West to be more unified than it has been in recent years. A few have tried to credit President Biden for playing a leading role in that unity. But, for most observers, the writing remains on the wall for the “American Peace.” But if the Pax Americana has come and gone—having lasted for a shorter time than either the Pax Romana or the Pax Britannica—what will come next?
Biblical prophecy reveals details of the final, climactic period of world history. Scripture suggests that, while the world will see its share of momentary ups and downs before the end of this age, our fast-approaching future could contain yet one more global-scale “Peace.” One might call it the Pax Europa, the European Peace. Yet, even more than any previous war-stained Pax, it will be an utterly false peace fostered by levels of bloodshed and warfare unprecedented in human history. Perhaps a better name for it would be the Pax Bestiae—the Peace of the Beast.
This coming “Peace” will be enforced by a globe-girdling superpower with enough military might to subjugate all who would dare to disagree with it. In fact, the book of Revelation describes this European “beast power” as being so unstoppable that the people of the world will marvel at it, asking, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:4). And Daniel 11 describes this supranational entity as coming against its foes “like a whirlwind,” overwhelming and subduing countries and moving on (vv. 40–41).
While this European “beast power” will wield an unprecedented capacity to wage war, it will be more than an unstoppable war machine. Prophecy reveals that it will enable a great deal of economic profit, as well. Merchants from all over the world will do business with the great city of this global powerhouse, trading in goods of every kind—including, even, the “bodies and souls of men” (Revelation 18:13). Indeed, as this end-of-days resurrection of the Roman Empire supplants the U.S. and Great Britain as the world’s unrivaled supreme power, it will even bring vanquished Americans and Britons from their militarily and economically devastated homelands to serve as slaves in other nations. For more details about the future of these nations, request a free copy of The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy, or read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org.
Many around the world will be made rich by cooperating with this coming European superpower, even as those at the other end of the scale will suffer its wrath. This “beast” will wage war against true Christians who maintain their faith in the face of a militant, global, counterfeit form of Christianity. Profoundly influenced by a powerful end-time false church, pictured as a harlot riding atop a great beast (Revelation 17), this behemoth will wield its military powers as tools of horrific persecution (Revelation 13:7). Literally billions will perish as conflicts between this prophesied “beast” and other powers of the world bring the deaths of one third of humanity (Revelation 9:18).
The coming Pax Europa will devolve quickly into the very opposite of peace, as global conflict reaches a brutal climax that will put all of mankind at the risk of extinction—conditions so dread that, in Jesus Christ’s own words, “no flesh would be saved” unless God were to intervene to prevent us from destroying ourselves (Matthew 24:22).
Only then, in this moment of greatest despair, will hope for real peace finally arrive—for God will intervene.
After a prophesied series of cosmic displays in the heavens and miraculous events on earth, the world’s armies will turn their attention away from destroying each other and will join in battle against their common “enemy” descending from heaven—the returning Jesus Christ. But He will defeat them utterly and will reign in their place with His glorified and resurrected saints at His side, fulfilling the divine announcement made at His appearing: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15). Beginning at Jerusalem, His reign will spread all over the world until every knee has bent in acknowledgement of His Lordship (Philippians 2:10).
With the commencement of His reign, the world’s first true era of peace shall begin. One might call it the Pax Christi—the Peace of Christ. Yet while the Messiah will wield overpowering force in the world—indeed, greater than any potentate in history—such force will be far from the only key to His peace. Rather than merely crushing dissent or bribing other nations into agreement, as have been the keys to world domination ever since the Pax Romana, the returned Jesus Christ and His saints will accomplish what no other world power has ever been able to do: They will teach the world how to live in peace by helping people everywhere live in loving obedience to their Creator’s laws and commands. Indeed, Isaiah 11:9 says of this time, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” God will write that knowledge within human hearts through His Holy Spirit, transforming human nature itself (Hebrews 10:16).
Only then will each fleeting Pax of the past fade into distant memory. A new era will have begun, and the world will finally be ruled by a leader capable of bringing true peace, the returned Son of God. Indeed, those who live under His reign will look to His capital in Jerusalem, reflecting on the manifold blessings He has brought to all who live under the safety of His wings, and will call His name “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). May Almighty God bring that peace soon.