Twilight Of Empire

The coming decade will mark the inflexion point and how the U.S. navigates the transition ought to be its central focus


In his latest book, The Post-American World, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, lays out the contours of the ascending new global order in which the United States will lose its unchallenged supremacy.

Zakaria makes the case that the “rise of the rest,” notably China, India Brazil, Russia, as well as others, is the “great story of our time,” one that will reshape the world as we know it.

It so happens that this challenge to U.S. global hegemony comes at a time when the country is already struggling on both the military and economic fronts. The Bush administration’s Iraq misadventure (as well as growing belligerence on Iran), combined with its gross mismanagement of the U.S. economy, serve only to hasten the American decline and box in its options in the emerging new world. 
The coming decade will mark the inflexion point and how the United States navigates the transition, not so much Iraq, Iran and the Middle East, or even the U.S. oil and mortgage crises, will be the central focus of the next president.


The speed with which that other superpower, the Soviet Union, was devoured in 1991, ought to be a cautionary tale for Americans. The Republican presidential candidate John McCain clearly does not grasp these sea changes and under his watch, the Iraq war may well prove to be the swan song of “shock and awe” of American military prowess.

It is not the instruments of destruction, but illusion and fear that are the strongest arrow in the quiver of power. It is ironic that just as its failure in Afghanistan lifted the iron curtain and exposed the brittleness of the mighty Soviet Union, Bush’s, and now McCain’s war mongering bluster and hubris over Iraq and Iran, are laying bare the chinks in America’s armor.

The vision of American Empire, albeit with a generous and benevolent face, which Bush articulated and sought to shape with this country’s military might has already evaporated. The current wars may well prove to be the last preemptive interventions of any superpower in world affairs.

While terror and violence will not go away any time soon, a new world order with diverse power structures is an optimistic development, which will hopefully prod countries to direct their energies on social and economic development instead of pursuing instruments of violence.

Barack Obama seems both intellectually and temperamentally better suited to steer America through the thicket of these rapid transformations, even though the forces of history, rather than individuals, will shape the final outcome. It remains an open question whether Americans, beset with economic anxieties and spooked by Bush about terrorism, will embrace history or resist it.

The presidential campaign ought to be about substantial issues of survival and mutual coexistence, instead of about middle names, preachers, inconsequential flaps and other hype. We can indulge in these old sports, but when we emerge from the spectacle, we will have been transported to a new dawn.

Zakaria opens his book with the declaration: “This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.”

Unless Americans pay heed, that may not be how we close the next decade.  

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