I've been thinking about a heavy scenario the last couple days. What if the world woke up the next day, and the United States had simply disappeared?
The reason makes no difference. A giant asteroid, the zombie apocalypse, God suddenly calling for a rapture of 300+ million people, whatever. The cause is irrelevant. The world's richest nation, the largest economy, the most powerful military, the largest and most favored destination for immigrants, poof, gone. No cities, no people, all that is left is a 3,000 mile long, 2,500 mile wide mass of barren land between Canada and Mexico.
What would happen?
What country or countries would rush to fill the power vacuum? Russia? The EU? China? What country or countries would lay claim to that massive expanse of land? And how would Canada and Mexico feel about its new neighbors?
What would be the immediate effect on the global economy if its biggest player suddenly disappeared? How would the loss of the so-called "Policeman of the World" affect the Middle East and all the other hotspots around the world?
How would culture be affected? The US is one of the biggest exporters of mass culture, for better, or for worse.
From the time of discovery, how long would it take for the world to recover from the initial shock to the economy, geopolitics, and mass culture?
I do not use this post as a jingoistic flag-waving show of the greatness of the United States, or proof of its indispensability. It's just a thought exercise to raise conversation about the aftereffects on the world when one of its major players abruptly leaves the stage.
I have some of my own opinions, but they are of a layman with but a casual interest in the United States' role in the world. As much as I love this country warts and all, I am not like so Americans who think the world ends at our borders. We are a large part of a very diverse planet, and much of what we do affects the other 6.7 billion people we share this rock with.
To be sure, a lot of nations would be dancing in the streets if the US disappeared. We have made more than a few enemies.
But I tend to think that while most of the nations of the world have very strong opinions about how we in the United States conduct our business and that we should keep our noses out of their's. For better or worse, I believe that they do see the US as an overall stabilizing force in the world, or at least the best of a questionable lot. And that the world would be in a lot worse shape if we were not around. But what do I know?