Is America in decline or on the rise?

American foreign policy is in the toilet, with our adversaries not respecting us and our allies not trusting us.  Pundits here and abroad have been proclaiming the end of America’s global dominance.  And yet, if you factor out our government’s ineptitude, the United States has quite a bit going for it globally.  See what two think tankers have to say about this.

From Ely Ratner & Thomas Wright,  America’s not in decline — it’s on the rise – The Washington Post:

Despite gridlock in Washington, America is recovering from the financial crisis and combining enduring strengths with new sources of influence, including energy. Meanwhile, emerging powers are running into troubles of their own. Taken together, these developments are ushering in a new era of American strategic advantage.

Emerging economies were the darlings of the past decade, growing at an average of roughly 7 percent annually between 2003 and 2012. By some calculations, China was poised to surpass the United States in GDP by 2016.

Today, the picture couldn’t look more different. Brazil’s growth rate has fallen from more than 7 percent in 2010 to just under 1 percent. Likewise, Indian growth tumbled to about 3 percent in 2012, down from double digits as recently as two years earlier. Perhaps most pronounced, China’s government is revising down its official growth targets. Analysts are no longer asking whether there will be a Chinese economic slowdown but rather how hard the landing will be. . . .

The political systems in emerging powers are fraying, too. There have been huge protests in Brazil over wasteful government spending and inadequate social programs. Russia looks more authoritarian by the day. And the Chinese Communist Party is stepping up efforts to crack down on journalists, academics and bloggers in what seems to be an attempt to control the discontent that accompanies slower growth and painful economic reforms. . . .

At the same time, the United States is experiencing a turnaround of fortunes. The unemployment rate has fallen to just over 7 percent from an October 2009 peak of 10 percent. By contrast, euro-zone unemployment remains stuck at around 12 percent.

The U.S. fiscal picture is also looking up. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the annual budget deficit will drop below $650 billion in 2013, the smallest shortfall since 2008 and approximately half the size it was in 2011. Meanwhile, the dollar remains the world’s top reserve currency.

Even more transformative, the United States is experiencing an energy revolution that the McKinsey Global Institute estimates could add as much as 4 percent to annual GDP and create up to 1.7 million new jobs by 2020. America is poised to overtake Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, and there are signs that low-cost and abundant energy is driving a revival of the U.S. manufacturing industry. Although the United States will have an enduring interest in stable global energy prices, it will no longer rely on direct and uncertain access to Middle Eastern oil, in sharp contrast to energy-starved countries in Asia.

In terms of hard power, the U.S. military is at the forefront of next-generation technologies, including unmanned systems, robotics and lasers. Even more superior than its hardware is its software: the command and control systems to conduct highly advanced joint operations and major wars. . . .

More broadly, and most important, the United States is blessed with a superior combination of sound fundamentals in demography, geography, higher education and innovation. That ensures it has the people, ideas and security to thrive at home and on the world stage. There’s a reason elites around the world remain eager to send their fortunes, and often their families, to the United States.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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