Victor Davis Hanson

The post-Cold War new world order is rapidly breaking apart. Nations are returning to the ancient passions, rivalries and differences of past centuries.

Take Europe. The decades-old vision of a united pan-continental Europe without borders is dissolving. The cradle-to-grave welfare dream proved too expensive for Europe's shrinking and aging population.

Cultural, linguistic and economic divides between Germany and Greece, or Holland and Bulgaria, remain too wide to be bridged by fumbling bureaucrats in Brussels. NATO has devolved into a euphemism for American expeditionary forces.

Nationalism is returning, based on stronger common ties of language, history, religion and culture. We are even seeing the return of a two-century-old European "problem": a powerful Germany that logically seeks greater political influence commensurate with its undeniable economic superiority.

The tired Israeli-Palestinian fight over the future of the West Bank is no longer the nexus of Middle East tensions. The Muslim Arab world is now more terrified by the re-emergence of a bloc of old familiar non-Arabic, Islamic fundamentalist rivals.

With nuclear weapons, theocratic Iran wants to offer strategic protection to radical allies such as Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, and at the same time restore Persian glory. While diverse, this rogue bunch shares contempt for the squabbling Sunni Arab world of rich but defenseless Gulf petro-sheikdoms and geriatric state authoritarians.

Turkey is flipping back to its pre-20th-century past. Its departure from NATO is not a question of if, but when. The European Union used to not want Turkey; now Turkey does not want the shaky EU.

Turkish revisionism now glorifies the old Ottoman sultanate. Turkey wants to recharge that reactionary model as the unifier and protector of Islam -- not the modern, vastly reduced secular state of Kemal Ataturk. Weak neighbors Armenia, Cyprus, Greece and Kurdistan have historical reasons to tremble.

Japan's economy is still stalled. Its affluent population is shrinking and aging. Elsewhere in the region, the Japanese see an expanding China and a lunatic nuclear North Korea. Yet Japan is not sure whether the inward-looking United States is still credible in its old promise of protection against any and all enemies.

One of two rather bleak Asian futures seems likely. Either an ascendant China will dictate the foreign policies of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, or lots of new freelancing nuclear powers will appear to deter China since it cannot count on an insolvent U.S. for protection.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.