December 21, 2008

American Might is not going anywhere ...

... U.S Declinism theories are nothing new. In 1970, Andrew Hacker a political scientist published a book entitled, The end of the American Era where he confidently predicted American decline citing poor fiscal policies, excessive individualism, and imperial overstretch. Sound familiar?

One of our favorite writers on matters geopolitics makes the point that the U.S. is far from a bygone nation in military terms. Robert Kaplan addresses the ongoing debate about America’s hypothetical international decline with a first-rate analysis.

Declinism is in the air. The latest conventional wisdom is that the combination of the disastrous Iraq war, the military and economic rise of Asia, and the steep recession in the West has chastened America, ending its period of dominance in world affairs. It is time for us to be humble.

There is a lot of truth to this, but it goes too far. For decline itself -- as a concept -- is overrated. Britain's Royal Navy went into relative decline beginning in the 1890s, even as Great Britain remained powerful enough to help save the West in two world wars over the next half-century.

The proper analogy may be the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and 1858, after the orientalists and other pragmatists in the British power structure, who wanted to leave traditional India as it was, lost sway to Evangelical and Utilitarian reformers who wanted to more forcefully Christianize India -- to make it in a values sense more like England. The reformers were good people: They helped abolish the slave trade and tried to do the same with the hideous practice of widow-burning. But their attempts to bring the fruits of Western civilization, virtuous as they were, to a far-off corner of the world played a role in a violent revolt against imperial authority.

Yet the debacle did not signal the end of the British Empire, which expanded for nearly another century. Rather, it signaled a transition away from an ad hoc imperium fired occasionally by an ill-disciplined lust to impose its values abroad -- and to a calmer, more pragmatic and soldiering empire built on trade, education and technology.

That is akin to where we are now, post-Iraq: calmer, more pragmatic and with a military -- especially a Navy -- that, while in relative decline, is still far superior to any other on Earth. Near the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy had almost 600 ships; it is down to 280. But in aggregate tonnage that is still more than the next 17 navies combined. Our military secures the global commons to the benefit of all nations. Without the U.S. Navy, the seas would be unsafe for merchant shipping, which, in an era of globalization, accounts for 90 percent of world trade. We may not be able to control events on land in the Middle East, but our Navy and Air Force control all entry and exit points to the region. The multinational anti-piracy patrols that have taken shape in the Strait of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden have done so under the aegis of the U.S. Navy. Sure the economic crisis will affect shipbuilding, meaning the decline in the number of our ships will continue, and there will come a point where quantity affects quality. But this will be an exceedingly gradual transition, which we will assuage by leveraging naval allies such as India and Japan …

In sum, we may no longer be at Charles Krauthammer's "Unipolar Moment," but neither have we become Sweden.

Kaplan concludes

Yet American hegemony post-Iraq will be as changed as Britain's was after the Indian Mutiny. It will be a more benign and temperate version of what transpired in recent years. Henceforth, we will shape coalitions rather than act on our own. For that, after all, is theessence of a long and elegant decline: to pass responsibility on to like-minded others as their own capacities rise.

Robert D. Kaplan is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Read the whole piece here

As I have said many times over, American hegemony may be in a period of recalibration but it is far from over. This is especially so in a military gist. Moreover, even if something truly extraordinary came long to challenge it, like times past, America will rise to the challenge and for this, we should be pleased. No, U.S Declinism theories are nothing new. In 1970, Andrew Hacker a political scientist published a book entitled, “The end of the American Era where he confidently predicted American decline citing poor fiscal policies, excessive individualism, and imperial overstretch. Sound familiar?

See also

U.S Declinism Theories – nothing new

America will remain Strong

5 comments:

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

This has been a regular prediction since the Soviet Era and as usual it has not and will not come to pass. In fact the doomsday predictions of the end of the US really started soon after the beginning of the last century. They have only been a constant since the 50's.

I like your usage of the word, "recalibration." The US has gone through a recalibration before and each time we have come out stronger as a result of it.

I amazes me also that those who alwasy predict the demise of The United States and countries who wish for that demise never consider the consequences if their prediction were to come to pass.

Nor do they understand or accept what this world would be like without the strength and freedom of this country.

Good post my friend. In case I don't get a chance over the next couple of days to get back here, Merry Christmas to you and yours and a very happy and prosperous New year!

Richard Phillip Nere said...

As the principal consequence to your conclusion, I agreed, that is, with the idea of an enduring Pax Americana.

AI said...

The Lib Lie the Conservative Truth:

"...do they understand or accept what this world would be like without the strength and freedom of this country..."

In part, the reason for this blog Ken. Thanks for weighing in and have a Merry Christmas.

Richard Phillip Nere: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and welcome to American Interests. Do you blog?

Tapline said...

AI, Great Post...as usual....Seems you have spoken to this issue before....Thank God for someone who can see what so many can't. Namely that we will still come out on top....I just hope and pray we will come out stronger. I detest nationalism of private industry. That is not the American way...stay well...

Richard Phillip Nere said...

To be clear, I'm new to blogging, however, I will start my own blog.