纽约时报双语:美利坚帝国的衰落

美利坚帝国的衰落
The American Empire in Retreat
ROSS DOUTHAT
2021年9月6日
纽约时报双语:美利坚帝国的衰落

In one of the more arresting videos that circulated after the fall of Kabul, a journalist follows a collection of Taliban fighters into a hangar containing abandoned, disabled U.S. helicopters. Except that the fighters don’t look like our idea of the Taliban: In their gear and guns and helmets (presumably pilfered), they look exactly like the American soldiers their long insurgency defeated.

喀布尔沦陷后,流传着一些较为引人注目的视频,其中一个是一名记者跟随一群塔利班战士进入一个机库,机库内有被遗弃的美国直升机。不过这些战士看起来不像我们想象中的塔利班:他们穿着装备、枪支和头盔(大概是偷来的),看起来和他们长期的反抗行动所打败的美国士兵一模一样。

As someone swiftly pointed out on Twitter, the hangar scene had a strong end-of-the-Roman Empire vibe, with the Taliban fighters standing for the Visigoths or Vandals who adopted bits and pieces of Roman culture even as they overthrew the empire. For a moment it offered a glimpse of what a world after the American imperium might look like: Not the disappearance of all our pomps and works, any more than Roman culture suddenly disappeared in 476 A.D., but a world of people confusedly playacting American-ness in the ruins of our major exports, the military base and the shopping mall.

正如有人在Twitter上迅速指出的那样,机库场景具有强烈的罗马帝国末日气息,塔利班战士代表西哥特人或汪达尔人,即使他们推翻了罗马帝国,他们也接受了其文化的点点滴滴。有那么一刻,它让我们瞥见了美利坚帝国之后的世界可能是什么样子:不是我们所有的繁荣和成果的消失,一如罗马文化也没有在公元476年突然消失,而是一群人在我们的主要输出——军事基地和购物中心——里,乱哄哄地假装成美国人的样子。

But the glimpse provided in the video isn’t necessarily a foretaste of true imperial collapse. In other ways, our failure in Afghanistan more closely resembles Roman failures that took place far from Rome itself — the defeats that Roman generals suffered in the Mesopotamian deserts or the German forests, when the empire’s reach outstripped its grasp.

但视频中提供的一幕,并不一定预示着实际的帝国崩溃。从其他方面看,我们在阿富汗的失败更像是发生在远离罗马本身的帝国失败——罗马将军在美索不达米亚沙漠或日耳曼森林中遭受的失败,那些帝国鞭长莫及的地方。

Or at least that’s how I suspect it will be seen in the cold light of hindsight, when some future Edward Gibbon sets out to tell the story of the American imperium in full.

或者至少在事后看来,我预计在未来,类似爱德华·吉本(Edward Gibbon,英国著名历史学家,是《罗马帝国衰亡史》一书的作者——编注。)的人将会这样开始讲述美利坚帝国的完整故事。

That cold-eyed view, taken from somewhere centuries hence, might describe three American empires, not just one. First there is the inner empire, the continental U.S.A. with its Pacific and Caribbean satellites.

这种冷静的观点来自几个世纪后的某个时候,可能会描述三个美利坚帝国,而不是一个。首先是中央帝国,即美国大陆以及周边太平洋和加勒比地区的属地。

Then there is the outer empire, consisting of the regions that Americans occupied and rebuilt after World War II and placed under our military umbrella: basically, Western Europe and the Pacific Rim.

然后是外展帝国,由美国人在二战后占领和重建并置于我们的军事保护伞下的地区组成:基本上是西欧和环太平洋地区。

Finally, there is the American world empire, which exists spiritually wherever our commercial and cultural power reaches, and more practically in our patchwork of client states and military installations. In a way this third empire is our most remarkable achievement. But its vastness inevitably resists a fuller integration, a more direct kind of American control.

最后,还有美国的世界帝国,在精神上,它存在于我们的商业和文化力量所及之处,在现实中,它存在于我们的附庸国和军事设施的组合中。在某种程度上,第三个帝国是我们最了不起的成就。但它的浩瀚不可避免地阻碍了更全面的整合,更直接的美国控制。

Seen from this perspective, the clearest American defeats of our imperial era, first in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and then in the Middle East and Central Asia after 9/11, have followed from the hubristic idea that we could make the world empire a simple extension of the outer empire, making NATO-style arrangements universal and applying the model of post-World War II Japan and Germany to South Vietnam or Iraq or the Hindu Kush.

从这个角度来看,我们帝国时代最明显的美国失败,始于1960年代的东南亚,然后是9·11之后的中东和中亚,都是源于我们的傲慢想法,即我们能够把世界帝国作为外展帝国的一个简单的延伸,普遍使用北约那样的协定,并将二战后日本和德国的模式应用于南越或伊拉克或兴都库什山脉。

We have experienced similar failures, with less bloodshed but more significant strategic consequences, in our recent efforts to Americanize potential rivals. Our disastrous development efforts in Russia in the 1990s led to a Putinist reaction, not the German- or Japanese-style relationship we’d imagined. The unwise “Chimerican” special relationship of the last two decades seems to have only smoothed China’s path to becoming a true rival, not a junior partner in a peaceful world order.

在我们最近将潜在竞争对手美国化的努力中,我们经历了类似的失败,虽然没有那么多流血事件,但战略后果更为严重。我们1990年代在俄罗斯的灾难性发展努力导致了普京主义的反应,而不是我们想象的德国或日本式的关系。过去二十年不明智的特殊关系“中美联合体”似乎未能使中国成为世界和平秩序中的新合伙人,而是让它成为了一个真正的对手。

Both kinds of failures and their consequences — Russian revanchism and growing Chinese power combined with quagmire in Iraq and defeat in Afghanistan — have meaningfully weakened the American world empire, and extinguished our post-9/11 fantasy of truly dominating the globe.

两种失败及其后果——俄罗斯的复仇主义和日益增长的中国力量,再加上伊拉克的困局和阿富汗的失败——都切实地削弱了美国的世界帝国,并熄灭了我们在9·11后真正统治全球的幻想。

But so long as we have the other two empires to fall back on, from our cold-eyed Gibbonian perspective the situation still looks more like a scenario where Rome lost frontier wars to Parthia and Germanic tribes simultaneously — a bad but recoverable situation — than like outright imperial collapse.

但是只要我们还有其他两个帝国可以依靠,从我们冷静的吉本式的角度来看,这种情况看起来仍然更像是罗马同时输掉了帕提亚和日耳曼部落的边境战争——一个糟糕但并非不可挽回的局面——而不是像彻底的帝国崩溃。

That said, defeats on distant frontiers can also have consequences closer to the imperial core. The American imperium can’t be toppled by the Taliban. But in our outer empire, in Western Europe and East Asia, perceived U.S. weakness could accelerate developments that genuinely do threaten the American system as it has existed since 1945 — from German-Russian entente to Japanese rearmament to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

话虽如此,边陲的失败也会影响靠近帝国核心的地方。美利坚帝国不会被塔利班推翻。但在我们的外展帝国,在西欧和东亚,美国给人留下的虚弱形象会加速事态发展,真正威胁到美国体系,这种威胁自1945年就存在——从德俄协约到日本重整军备,再到中国入侵台湾。

Inevitably those developments would affect the inner empire, too, where a sense of accelerating imperial decline would bleed into all our domestic arguments, widen our already yawning ideological divides, encourage the feeling of crackup and looming civil war.

这些发展不可避免地也会影响中央帝国,在那里,帝国加速衰落的感觉将渗透到我们所有的国内争论中,扩大我们已经存在的意识形态分歧,鼓励分裂和迫在眉睫的内战。

Which is why you can think, as I do, that it’s a good thing that we finally ended our futile engagement in Afghanistan and still fear some of the possible consequences of the weakness and incompetence exposed in that retreat.

这就是为什么你可以像我这样想,我们最终结束了在阿富汗的行动并无功而返是一件好事,但仍会担心撤退中暴露的弱点和无能可能带来的一些后果。

And applied to the American empire as a whole, this fear points to a hard truth: You might think that our country would be better off without an imperium entirely, but there are very few paths back from empire, back to just being an ordinary nation, that don’t involve a truly wrenching fall.

应用于整个美利坚帝国,这种恐惧指向了一个残酷的事实:你可能认为我们还不如干脆不要什么帝国,但要从帝国变回一个普通国家,很难不经历一次痛苦的坠落。

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