A New World Is Dawning, and the US Will No Longer Lead It
Even before Trump’s belligerent foreign policies, America had been losing its dominant role in world affairs.
A power shift among the nations of the world began at the end of the Cold War and has been accelerating this century.
It is not as simple as saying “America is in decline”, since America remains a powerful country. But American global power has been eroding for some time, in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2018” volume. The power of other countries has grown, giving them both the ability and the desire to effect global affairs independently of US desires.
I am a who has studied US foreign policy through many administrations. I believe this global trend spells the end of the “” Americans imagined they were since the nation was founded and the end of the American era of global domination that began 70 years ago. We are no longer the “indispensable” nation by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the end of the last century.
Pax Americana No More
Those days are gone.
Neither American political party has come to grips with this sea change. Until they do, US global actions are likely to be less effective, even counterproductive.
Who’s on Top?
The US helped unleash these trends with the in 2003 – fatal, because it permanently removed a regional leader who balanced the power of Iran. The failure to create a stable Iraq stimulated regional religious and political conflicts and subsequent US efforts to influence current trends in the region, as the continually ineffective policies in Syria show.
The US cannot slow Chinese economic growth nor contain its power. China is changing the rules, whether the US likes it or not.
North Korea behaves more and more like , winning a with the US president while making only a general commitment to denuclearise. The prospect of a unified Korea would bring into being another major regional power center in the Northern Pacific.
Military power, the American global trump card, is not as useful a tool as it once was.
While the US continues to have the world’s only , able to deploy anywhere, it is no longer evident that this capability effectively sustains US leadership. Clear military victories are few – the being an exception. The endless US carries the whiff of Vietnam in its inability to resolve that country’s civil war.
Abroad at Home
The transition to this new era is proving difficult for American policy-makers.
The Trump “” foreign policy is based on the view that the US needs to defend its interests by acting alone, eschewing or withdrawing from multilateral arrangements for trade, economics, diplomacy or security.
Liberals and many Democrats Trump for alienating traditional allies like Canada, France and Germany while befriending dictators. Policy-makers once critical of confrontational policies now for failing to confront Russia and China.
A different president in Washington, DC will not restore the “rules-based” international order. The underlying changes in global power relations have already undermined that order.
A neo-conservative foreign policy, featuring unilateral American military intervention, as , will only accelerate the global shift. like Hillary Clinton would fail as well, because the rest of the world rejects the assumption that the US is “indispensable” and “exceptional.” Barack Obama appeared to recognize the changing reality, but continued to argue that could lead the international system.
America will need to learn new rules and play differently in the new balance-of-power world, where others have assets and policies the US does not and cannot control.
(Gordon Adams is Professor Emeritus at the American University School of International Service.)
(This was first published on The Conversation and has been republished with permission.)
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