I've been obsessed with this idea for days (and the broader questions for years), and I think it's time to admit it won't fit in a single post. This was a question I stumbled into myself, and one that seems important to ask: is American military preparedness enough to replicate the feats of its past? Is the end of Pax Americana unavoidable, even in the short term?

I ask these things because I care – if there's one thing I've learned from my studies of Chinese is that Chinese people and society have capacity for greatness, but that greatness would catapult a haunting government into the center of global geopolitics. I vote third party with enough regularity that it's safe to say I have substantial disagreements with most of how the American government operates, but it's vitally important to the future of humanity that American values (or something very similar) are the values back by the most devastating military might.

The 20th century saw an American rise to greatness, and every other world power destroyed. With that kind of power, even reasonably virtuous people would casually develop a policy of routine horror. And yet the 20th century also shows the ascendance of civil rights and dignity of Americans and those abroad we interact with. The end of the century was far from perfect, but I think it's fair to say: it was a high water mark, when it occurred. No reasonable person could live in such an age and truly pine for times past. And let me be as clear as possible: that fate was bought with the blood of American soldiers.

It was also a transformative time for war. The Boxer Rebellion, in progress as the 1900s began, was fought by people using cannons, rifles, and swords. Villagers believed they were immune to these weapons, and some would go into battle believing the soldiers of Heaven itself would come to assist them. One hundred years later a superpower dissolved from the mere threat of weapons too terrible to risk battle in. The world had learned no one was invincible, and there were no angels coming to save the righteous.

Today, a fat four-star general will acknowledge the human and cyber domains of war are the most important – but insist brute physical strength isn't just useful for many soldiers, but crucial to how we view the modern American fighting force. My own experience informs the prediction that the military does not have access to even the reasonably qualified graduates of state schools' computer science department. I've decided to try and examine what, if anything, can be said about modern military understanding would say about the rise of American military force – not because I'm an expert, but because I hope that frank comments from an amateur might provide ideas.

It's vitally important we get this right, and I detect a tremendous diligence and will to succeed in the American military, combined with obstinate dislike of the modern, creative, service-oriented world they ought to be a shining example of. American hegemony is crumbling under the watchful gaze of generally competent and patriotic leaders, which seems avoidable. Tomorrow, I will begin with a discussion of one of the more frustrating and under-discussed parts of running the military: the accounting. Don't worry, it's not all bad news.