And yo, what about the chiz the declinationists are always going on about? Is Great Satan really in decline?
New York Times best-selling author and one of Great Satan"s most more bigger brainiacs and most influential strategic thinkers, paints a vivid, alarming pic of what all the world might look like if the Great Satan were to truly to let her uh, influence wane like hoochie number 7 at Last Call.
"Much of the current pessimism is misplaced, if America were indeed to commit “preemptive superpower suicide,” the world would see the return of war among rising nations as they jostle for power; the retreat of democracy around the world as Vladimir Putin’s Russia and authoritarian China acquire more clout; and the weakening of the global free-market economy, which the United States created and has supported for more than sixty years. We’ve seen this before—in the breakdown of the Roman Empire and the collapse of the European order in World War I."See -
The present world order—characterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powers—reflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions. If American power declines, this world order will decline with it. It will be replaced by some other kind of order, reflecting the desires and the qualities of other world powers.
Or perhaps it will simply collapse, as the European world order collapsed in the first half of the twentieth century. The belief, held by many, that even with diminished American power “the underlying foundations of theliberal international order will survive and thrive,” as the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has argued, is a pleasant illusion. American decline, if it is real, will mean a different world for everyone.
But how real is it? Much of the commentary on American decline these days rests on rather loose analysis, on impressions that the United States has lost its way, that it has abandoned the virtues that made it successful in the past, that it lacks the will to address the problems it faces.
The perception of decline today is certainly understandable, given the dismal economic situation since 2008 and the nation’s large fiscal deficits, which, combined with the continuing growth of the Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, Turkish, and other economies, seem to portend a significant and irreversible shift in global economic power. Some of the pessimism is also due to the belief that the United States has lost favor, and therefore influence, in much of the world, because of its various responses to the attacks of September 11. The detainment facilities at Guantánamo, the use of torture against suspected terrorists, and the widely condemned invasion of Iraq in 2003 have all tarnished the American “brand” and put a dent in America’s “soft power”—its ability to attract others to its point of view.
There have been the difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which many argue proved the limits of military power, stretched the United States beyond its capacities, and weakened the nation at its core. Some compare the United States to the British Empire at the end of the nineteenth century, with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars serving as the equivalent of Britain’s difficult and demoralizing Boer War.
With this broad perception of decline as the backdrop, every failure of the United States to get its way in the world tends to reinforce the impression. Arabs and Israelis refuse to make peace, despite American entreaties. Iran andNorth Korea defy American demands that they cease their nuclear weapons programs. China refuses to let its currency rise. Ferment in the Arab world spins out of America’s control. Every day, it seems, brings more evidence that the time has passed when the United States could lead the world and get others to do its bidding.
Some of the arguments for America’s relative decline these days would be more potent if they had not appeared only in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. Just as one swallow does not make a spring, one recession, or even a severe economic crisis, need not mean the beginning of the end of a great power. The United States suffered deep and prolonged economic crises in the 1890s, the 1930s, and the 1970s. In each case, it rebounded in the following decade and actually ended up in a stronger position relative to other powers than before the crisis. The 1910s, the 1940s, and the 1980s were all high points of American global power and influence.
Less than a decade ago, most observers spoke not of America’s decline but of its enduring primacy. In 2002, the historian Paul Kennedy, who in the late 1980s had written a much-discussed book on “the rise and fall of the greatpowers,” America included, declared that never in history had there been such a great “disparity of power” as between the United States and the rest of the world. Ikenberry agreed that “no other great power” had held “such formidableadvantages in military, economic, technological, cultural, or politicalcapabilities.... The preeminence of American power” was “unprecedented.”
In 2004, the pundit Fareed Zakaria described the United States as enjoying a“comprehensive uni-polarity” unlike anything seen since Rome. But a mere four years later Zakaria was writing about the “post-American world” and “the rise of the rest,” and Kennedy was discoursing again upon the inevitability of American decline. Did the fundamentals of America’s relative power shift so dramatically in just a few short years?
The answer is no.
In economic terms, and even despite the current years of recession and slow growth, America’s position in the world has not changed. Its share of the world’s GDP has held remarkably steady, not only over the past decade but over the past four decades. In 1969, the United States produced roughly a quarter of the world’s economic output. Today it still produces roughly a quarter, and it remains not only the largest but also the richest economy in the world.
Military capacity matters, too, as early nineteenth-century China learned and Chinese leaders know today. As Yan Xuetong recently noted, “military strength underpins hegemony.” Here the United States remains unmatched. It is far and away the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and there has been no decline in America’s relative military capacity—at least not yet. Americans currently spend less than $600 billion a year on defense, more than the rest of the other great powers combined.
America’s actual superiority in military capability means American land and air forces are equipped with the most advanced weaponry, and are the most experienced in actual combat. They would defeat any competitor in a head-to-head battle. American naval power remains predominant in every region of the world.
In sum: it may be more than good fortune that has allowed the United States in the past to come through crises and emerge stronger and healthier than other nations while its various competitors have faltered. And it may be more than just wishful thinking to believe that it may do so again.
he underlying assumption of such a course is that the present world order will more or less persist without American power, or at least with much less of it; or that others can pick up the slack; or simply that the benefits of the world order are permanent and require no special exertion by anyone. Unfortunately, the present world order—with its widespread freedoms, its general prosperity, and its absence of great power conflict—is as fragile as it is unique.
Preserving it has been a struggle in every decade, and will remain a struggle in the decades to come. Preserving the present world order requires constant American leadership and constant American commitment.
Pic - "An American world order is worth preserving, and America dare not decline."