Must America prepare to “manage” it’s decline?

October 20, 2011

so argues Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times:

Those who refuse to entertain any discussion of decline actually risk accelerating the process. A realistic acknowledgement that America’s position in the world is under threat should be a spur to determined action on everything from educational reform to the budget deficit. The endless politicking in Washington reflects a certain complacency – a belief that America’s position as number one is so impregnable that it can afford self-indulgent episodes such as the summer’s near-debt default.

I largely agree with Rachman, although I differ with him greatly on the particulars.  Rachman points to Britain’s “managed decline” from global hegemon following World War II, a position made easier by the fact that they were handing leadership over to a very similar United States.   I concur with this analogy; indeed, only last month, I mentioned that the US should prepare a “strategy of graceful decline” by forging ties with and handing leadership over to India.   My opinion is based on my theoretical foundation of Long Cycle Theory.  I believe that we are nearing the end of the current cycle and that there will be some sort of “macro decision” (which meant world war in previous cycles) in the next 25 to 30 years.  That competition probably will mainly be between the US and China (and various allies on either side).  At the end of previous cycles, the new emergent hegemon has always been a relatively open society, committed to commerce and a relatively free market, and a maritime power.  I believe that, at some point, India will meet those requirements.

However, returning to the British analogy, we must note that the British earned not one, but two terms as world leader.   And, although I think India has leadership in its future, I do not necessarily think that it will be the next leader.  Of all the contenders, the United States still best suits the role, and could very easily earn its own “second term.”  That would give India the rest of the century to develop its economy, build and strengthen its civil institutions , and put its fleets to sea.

copyright EnerGeoPolitics, 2010

In summary, I don’t think it is absolutely necessary for the US to “manage” it’s decline – that is too precipitous a step.  Rather, policy makers must recognize our relative decline and strategize accordingly.  I do believe that means forging a strong relationship with India (and all the other maritime states of the Outer Crescent – as well as those on the fringe of the Inner Crescent), and I do believe that means preparing for a time when US hegemony may be relinquished, but I also believe that there is a good chance that changing of the guard will not come until late in this – or even into the next – century.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: