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Daniel Drezner on American Power

Daniel Drezner of the Fletcher School  has an interesting and optimistic essay in the UK-based Spectator.  He notes that predicting the decline of U.S. power has been in vogue for decades and argues that once again the nay-sayers have been wrong:

For those in Britain who are constantly told that the crisis ‘started in America’, this must all look rather strange. If the crash was an American disease, then shouldn’t Uncle Sam be worst affected? How come the US is now free of bailed-out banks, having sold them at a tidy $25 billion profit, when Britain looks like it will be saddled with zombie banks for another decade? And given that the Obama administration has spent the last few years deadlocked with a bickering Congress, how have the obstacles to growth been removed so quickly?

Well, for one thing, there are some constants to American power. Its healthy demographics fuelled by immigration, geographic security, a syncretic, dynamic popular culture, and excellence in higher education and innovation are unchanged. As in previous slumps, private sector and public sector adjustments have triggered a revival in American capabilities. And this can be traced to the fact that it responded to the shock of the 2008 financial crisis more adroitly than its rivals.

.  .  .

There is no denying that the relative power of the United States is less now than it was a decade ago. And yet, five years after the start of the Great Recession, US power does not appear to be on the wane. If anything, the trendlines suggest the opposite. Even Arvind Subramanian, the author of Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance, has changed his tune a bit. In a recent paper he paraphrased Mark Twain, concluding: ‘Reports of the decline in American economic power appeared to have been exaggerated.’

Plenty of dangers lie ahead. The United States could get trapped into another draining war in the Middle East. Partisan bickering in Washington could block any structural budget reforms and cripple America’s long-term finances. A premature end to quantitative easing, or another eurozone crisis, could induce another setback. But the United States has a remarkable ability to right its own ship. That ability, in and of itself, is one of the sources of its enduring power.

Read it all here.  Drezner offers a great deal of detail on his argument about the recent success of the United States.  What do you think.

Charles A. Blanchard
General Counsel
United States Air Force