This all started after 9/11
The American effort to expand the liberal international order, which structured post-World War II relations in the West, to the entire world after the end of the Cold War has ended in failure. That order, based on liberal principles and ostensibly on the rule of law, was ultimately dependent on American power, that is, America’s willingness to use force, and ability to use it effectively, to enforce the rules anywhere on the planet. There may have been a brief period, the so-called unipolar moment in the 1990s and early 2000s, when the United States came close to making that order truly universal, but that moment faded away as China rose and Russia reasserted itself on the global stage. The pandemic has only underscored America’s retreat from global leadership and lack of sufficient power to enforce the liberal rule of law. That order might continue to operate regionally, within the Transatlantic community, for example, although Trump’s disdain for America’s European allies has eroded even that. Worldwide, however, there is no one dominant, universal world order. American, Chinese, and Russian concepts compete for adherents. In many places, there is only growing disorder.
I would go further. The peak of liberal internationalism was just before 9/11. Historians often look at the portents and omens people used to see in the sky as narrative starting points. That was ours.
Nothing undermined the West's faith in The Way Things Are like those two planes.
America has not rolled back the expansion of State power that was brought in after 9/11 and I don't see any chance of them doing so now. Since then the world has become less global, less dynamic and more divided.
My speculation is that the rise of Russian and China is at least in part a response to the way the US handled itself. The hegemon started an unpopular war that it couldn't win. Typically when empires do that they start to struggle.
I also suspect that the politics of Trump et al have roots back in 9/11 too. It becomes more and more attractive to people to believe globalisation is the the problem when the hegemon starts to miss step and new powers fragment the world stage.
Since then the forces of 2008 and declining productivity have been stronger than innovation. Tech has not yet been enough.
Obama's internationalism didn't work, with the pivot to Asia largely unaccomplished. And Trump is, at least in part, the legacy of a political class that saw the post-2008 world as a time to double down on their policies, ignore the rising mass of people left behind, increase the overall tax burden, increase regulation, expand immigration, conjure money out of no where, and generally act in a way that is *politically* superior and naive, irrespective of whether you agree with their policy choices. These are the same people who brought you the war on terror folks.
Under these conditions I am optimistic for some positive changes but not a return to normal. The conditions for the globalisation we used to enjoy have been ebbing away and it seems likely they will not come back rapidly after this.
I hope I am wrong.