I was lucky to take a class with Dr. Organski at the University of Michigan on political science. Organski is one of those political scientists who isn't popular with the media or the governments because he happens to be right most of the time. Hence, he disagrees with government "experts" and the "leaders in the field" most of the time. He co-developed a theory of warfare called (if I remember correctly) the 'power transition' theory. Boiled down, it states that in large wars the victor is determined by economics and that large wars occur when either 1) a formerly lesser economic power feels it is now economically dominant or 2) the economically dominant power feels it is in danger of losing its economic pre-eminence. This theory nicely models everything from the late crusades to Desert Shield/Storm with numbers that make solid predictions.Predictions that tend to be true.
So, since we are in broad generalization territory (and remember - everyone who makes a broad generalization is an idiot), let's talk some numbers.
The European Union is being formed in an attempt to create a single, unified European economy in the hope that this economy will rival the American economy. It isn't certain that this will happen. Heck, with all of their oil wealth the Kingdom of Saudi Arabiahad a GDP of only $241 billion in 2001. "Only $240 billion+?" you say? Yes, only. After all, California had an estimated GDP of $1.3 trillion the same year. Yup, trillion with a 't'. Or roughly the GDP of France.
Let's take a quick break and talk about hegemonic theory. This is the concept that if there is only 1 superpower it will act as a hegemon, or consolidator of power. According to political theory, this is inevitable. Dr. Organski said in lecture that with strong presidents imperial attitudes and actions on the part of America could be delayed until 2050 or so. With average presidents until 2025 or so. But with one weak president it could happen almost instantly.
What is the natural reaction to hegemonic (or imperial) actions? 'Lesser' nations will band together in attempts to create power blocs that can balance the hegemon.
Remember power transition theory? It predicts that when these blocs look like they are surpassing the hegemon it will result in war. Let me repeat that - if either side believes the challengers are a serious economic threat it will result in a major war. And with a hegemon like the US, that almost certainly means a world war.
Of course, that might be a few years down the road. After all, like I said, California is an economic power roughtly equivalent to France. Heck, Indiana has a GDP equal to about 150% the GDP of Finland - the European Union will not actually challenge America ecomically for some time. BUT, if either side thinks that they do, it could be vey, very bad.
More importantly, one of the actions of a hegemonic power is to weaken its potential foes and consolidate power. And there are certainly some people in the current administration who are conversant with political theory and economics. So I am convinced that we are seeing a knowing and deliberate attempt on the part of political leaders, under the guidance of political advisors, to begin the process of hegemonic activity by the US. Not only for the influence and power it gives current leaders but because there is another side to these theories - once the US is deeply involved enough into hegemonic activities it will be virtually impossible to cease those imperialist activities without a major weakening of America either by economic disaster (natural or imposed) or the loss of a major war. Let me say that again - if we are led far enough down the path of imperialism the only way out is by the economic or military defeat of America so that it can no longer threaten the non-hegemonic powers.
"But Deep Thought," I hear you ask, "why would anyone purposefully do such a thing?". Well, two main reasons.
First, being an hegemon is pretty nice for ideologues. Don't like a foreign government? Change it! Don't like a particular strain of political thought? Crush it. Rome certainly tried to remake the world in its own image and succeeded well enough that they have strongly influenced Europe, Northern Africa, Western Asia, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere for over 1,500 years since they were destroyed. There are plenty of ideologues in the current administration who would kill or die for a fraction of such a legacy. And with a long-lasting, aggressive hegemonic power it is certainly possible.
Second, being an aggressive hegemon is pretty cushy for the ruling elite. Face it, America is controlled by the wealthy. And being hegemonic is about making the wealthy both wealthier and more powerful. If you are the 1% of Americans control 36% of the wealth of America, or about $1.2 trillion a year. And no one really knows how much of the world's wealth they control (no on seems to research that....) but if they could use hegemonic action to control 50% of the Wworld's wealth....
Who could say no?