During the 19th century, the United States fought five wars, of which it won three, the Indian, the Mexican, and the Spanish-American ones; the War of 1812 was a draw; and then there was the Civil War, the bloodiest war of mankind until that time and the one that proved the grand failure of the American Constitution, even though that had not yet been overweighted by unnecessary amendments. During the 20th century, the United States fought six wars, of which it won three (the two world wars and the so-called Gulf War), drew one in Korea, and lost one in Vietnam. (The present war in Serbia is not yet over.)

One essential difference between the American wars in the two centuries ought to be noted. In the 19th century, the United States won all of its wars alone. In the 20th century, it did not. In both of the world wars, it was dependent on great allies, including Russia. (However, in the Pacific, the United States won its 1941-45 war against Japan practically alone.) On the other hand, the Vietnam War, which the United States fought alone (except, of course, for its South Vietnamese allies), it lost.

One of the odd and perhaps (but only perhaps) promising things in the history of the United States is this country’s enormous vitality. Its recovery after the Civil War—yes, even in the South—was phenomenal. The recovery of the prestige of the United States after the lost war in Vietnam was also remarkable. A decade or so after that sorry defeat, the United States became the only superpower of the world, the Russians having given up on the Cold War (which, however, was not a real war at all). These recoveries have had something to do with the enormous size of the American population. Neither the Civil War (except for portions of the South) nor the Vietnam War involved more than a relatively small segment of the population able (or willing) to bear arms. But then, in both eases, the very composition of the population was also changing—due to mass immigration.

I am coming to this change of the composition of the American people, but meanwhile there is another comparison. During the 19th century, we have the first examples of American inventiveness. The steamboat, the telegraph, the telephone, farm machinery, and electric power were all invented by Americans. During the 20th century, the Americanization of the world has been implemented by the automobile, the airplane, movies, radio, television, space rocketry, atomic power, and computers, of which only one, the first airplane, was made by an American; the rest were invented by Europeans, then perfected and mass-produced by people in the United States. However, for the peoples of the world, these facts were, and are, irrelevant. The 20th century has been marked by the Americanization of the world. This was not so in the 19th century. The emulation and adaptation of institutions and things American were not widespread then. The advance of democracy—or, rather, of parliamentary government—across Europe and even elsewhere was marked by the adaptation of British or Western European institutions, not of American ones. In the 20th century, the opposite has been true. The conscious, or half-conscious, emulation of things American—even by hundreds of millions of split-minded peoples who, on one side of their brains (and mouths) profess to hate America—has been worldwide.

It is unreasonable to attribute all of this to American material power. The industrial age in America has been remarkably short: a half-century, at most. By 1956, all Americans employed in producing things, workers in agriculture and manufacture together, had become a minority. Since that time, the great majority are engaged in administration and in services. But then this is a worldwide (certainly a Europe-wide) phenomenon. It involves the image of wealth rather than the reality of wealth itself It corresponds to enormous changes in society, including first of all the very lives of families. The decline of rural life and the growth of real wages 100 years ago had made it possible, for the first time in history, for the vast majority of women of the socalled working classes to stay at home. About 40 years ago, most women began to choose to work in offices and in other odd places. It is too early to say what will be the results of this socalled “emancipation” of women. It is not too early to say that this has developed together not only with the decline of the traditional family but also with the decline of the ideals of privacy. of religion, of respect for manners, morals, and law, and, yes, with the decline of proper education and of the general intelligence of a people.

Near the year 2000, the emulation of America everywhere amounts to the emulation of a “culture” of entertainment that is, essentially, puerile. Meanwhile, the very composition of the American people is changing radically. The 21st century will not only have a different history—it will be the history of a different people. Because of the still existing capacity of American mass culture to—at least superficially—absorb and assimilate masses of diverse immigrants, and because of the worldwide abhorrence of great wars, it is still possible that the Americanization of the globe may continue. Whether a very different American people will be able to withstand great natural or man-made catastrophes, we cannot tell.