British infantry in a World War II battle, El Alamein, Egypt, October 1942
Wikimedia Commons

THE power of England was so long regarded as a great and fixed quantity that the spectacle of its undeniable decline is as confusing as it is disturbing. The star which shone so brightly is now revealed as a nova in descent, but we are at a loss to know what magnitude to ascribe to it. In referring to the world power constellation we still speak of the "Big Three," but also of the "Big Two." Similarly, we like the term "bi-polar" because it is arresting, and we eschew "tri-polar" because it would be a barbarism. But the preference does

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