Is This The End of the American Century?

This site features updates, analysis, discussion and comments related to the theme of my book published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008 (hardbound) and 2009 (paperbound).

The Book

The End of the American Century documents the interrelated dimensions of American social, economic, political and international decline, marking the end of a period of economic affluence and world dominance that began with World War II. The war on terror and the Iraq War exacerbated American domestic weakness and malaise, and its image and stature in the world community. Dynamic economic and political powers like China and the European Union are steadily challenging and eroding US global influence. This global shift will require substantial adjustments for U.S. citizens and leaders alike.

Friday, November 21, 2008

U.S. Intelligence Report Predicts Declining U.S. Influence

The National Intelligence Council has released its report Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World which forecasts that the relative strength of the U.S. "even in the military realm--will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained."

I posted a blog here in September about the preview of this report delivered in a speech by C. Thomas Fingar, the Chairman of the N.I.C. The full 120-page report, like Fingar's earlier remarks, sees the U.S. remaining the single most powerful global actor, but with reduced influence and leverage in the face of the growing clout of China, India, Russia and other countries.

The current report, however, seems less sweeping in its assessment of U.S. decline than Fingar made earlier. In September, he spoke of U.S. leadership eroding "at an accelerating pace" in "political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas." The Global Trends report does not have such language, and focuses more on the rise of other countries than on the decline of the U.S.

The report does, however, call attention to the importance of leadership in managing this transition to a transformed world. "Leadership matters," the first-page summary says. "No trends are immutable," and "timely and well-informed intervention can decrease the likelihood and severity of negative developments and increase the likelihood of positive ones."

Wise leadership, in Washington and elsewhere, is crucial because the scale of global changes are immense. "The international system...will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, and historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors." Indeed, this transfer of global wealth and economic power from West to East "is without precedent in modern history."

The report forecasts a more diffuse distribution of global power, the transformation of current international organizations (like the U.N.), the growing influence of nonstate actors (especially NGOs--non governmental organizations), and "a more complex international system."

In this system, the U.S. will be a "less dominant power" with "less room for the US to call the shots without the support of strong partnerships." Even in the military realm, changes in science and technology and the rise of non-state actors "will construct US freedom of action."

These arguments are similar to those I raise in the last chapter of The End of the American Century, entitled "America and the World After the American Century." A key difference between my book and Global Trends is that most of my book is about trends that have already occurred. Only my last chapter projects into the future, as the NIC report does. In my view, the decline of the U.S. is a fait accompli. As I write on page 1 of my book:

"In the past decade, and particularly since September 11, every aspect of this American predominance has begun to wane. The U.S. economy is riddled with debt [this was written well before the current financial collapse] and unsustainable obligations--by both governments and households--presaging at least long-term economic decline if not general collapse. The educational system, once considered the world's best, now ranks near the bottom among developed countries, and a sizable portion of U.S. citizens is now functionally illiterate. American corporations, once models of dynamism, innovation and efficiency, are hampered by bureaucracy, corruption, and bloated executive payrolls, and few are generating either innovation or growth. Even science is marginalized and beleaguered under the gun of politics qnd religion. While American consumer goods and popular culture remain fashionable in much of the world, there is at the same time increasing resistance in many countries to the erosion of national culture and traditions in the face of U.S.-led globalization."

So a good deal of the decline of U.S. global influence is due to changes within the U.S.--changes that have been accelerating for the last two decades. These internal developments are as much responsible for "global trends" as are the dynamic changes elsewhere in the world.

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