American Decline

February 8, 2010

Zachary Fillingham

A U.S. Marine from 3rd Battalion 4th Marines, adjusts the U.S. flag on the top of his tent on base Delaram in Nimroz province


American decline has once again become a fashionable prophecy in academic and media circles. This time, BRIC countries like China and India have replaced the specter of a rising Japan, the country that was often cited by ‘declinists’ as a challenger to American hegemony during the 1980s. This backgrounder will examine both sides of the debate and provide an objective analysis of the causes and possible effects of American decline.

Decline in context

There is one important point to consider before exploring this debate, and that is the nature of America’s purported decline.  Even the most ardent declinists maintain that America will carry on as a central economic and military hub in any future international order; it will just be one of many.

American decline does not imply that America and China will be changing places, but rather that the United States will be stepping down from its’ current position of sole global superpower.  Of course, such a development would have a variety of spinoff effects: the US dollar would no longer be treated as a global reserve currency, major powers would be forced into cooperation or conflict over transnational threats, and US military power would not be so prolific around the world.  But, even in the most pessimistic projections of American decline, the United States remains a power player in international politics.


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  • readytogo

    while the state of US federal finances is definitely dark and getting darker, i doubt that it will translate into the doomsday scenario that everyone seems to be predicting

  • Corinna Kern

    While there can be no doubt the US is going to remain on the center stage of global power for the foreseeable future, I am of the opinion that one must also address the increasing decay of the social fabric when speaking of American Decline. America’s internal social problems are bound to affect its foreign policy and its global standing and influence.

    The US is increasingly busy with navel gazing, as seen with the health care debate and passing of the bill, while important international issues fade further into the background.

  • Christopher Gerstle

    The US is in decline, but I highly doubt it will be China or India who take the position of superpower. Taking into account that the US military released a prediction that world-wide oil production is set to collapse in the next decade, China’s and India’s economies won’t reach the super huge levels that everyone keeps saying they will.

    I look at Russia and the European Union to be the next global superpowers. Russia has the world’s largest untapped oil reserves which leaves me in no doubt that in a world where oil is an increasingly rare commodity, Russia will use that oil to rebuild their nation and manipulate the world. As far as Europe, few Americans are aware of the sheer scope and depth of European integration, especially due to the Lisbon Treaty. I believe that in the future, European integration will end up creating a kind of "United States of Europe" that would match or possible surpass American power.

    That’s my thought.

  • Robert

    Thank you for such an informative article. As a Canadian, the influence of the United states in the global community will always be of extreme importance to my nation and other smaller democracies around the world.


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