Harold Macmillan, the prime minister who watched US power rise as the British empire crumbled, used to say that Britain would play ancient Greece to America’s Rome.
These days it looks as if Rome is declining too. The US finds it increasingly hard to drive forward its vision of international trade and economics over the objections of big emerging-market countries.
The Visigoths and the Vandals who sacked Rome and undermined its empire, though far more cultured and sophisticated than their popular reputation, were unable to replicate the Pax Romana order it had established. European territories previously under Roman rule fractured into an unstable array of weak kingdoms and embattled city-states. Similarly, the vacuum created today by the erosion of US hegemony and the turmoil in the eurozone is resulting in stasis rather than a new direction.
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