America Is in Decline!

Sound the alarm! America is falling, again.

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Egads! Is the once-great birthplace of fast food, rock n' roll, and Doublemint gum really in perilous decline? A recent smattering of doomsayers would have you think so. Of course, people have been predicting and lamenting the country's downfall since 1783, so it's natural to be a bit skeptical of the latest outburst. So why do these commentators say America is in decline today, of all days?

  • The Grass is Greener  At U.S. News & World Report, Rick Newman begins with a moderate preamble: "The sky isn't falling, exactly…Even in a state of total neglect, we could probably shamble along as a disheveled superpower for a few more decades," he writes, before proceeding to list 9 indicators that "the American population is falling behind" the rest of the world. In everything from economics to happiness, Newman finds evidence that the U.S. just isn't where it used to be, and the worst is yet to come.
  • We're Overextended  At Tom Dispatch (via the Nation), Michael T. Klare thinks that the CIA's prediction that America's decline will be first noticeable in 2025 is far too generous. According to him, the U.S. military is stretched well beyond its limits, diplomatic prowess has waned, and the world economy is detaching itself from America. All of this leads him to a grim realization: "No one seems to be saying this out loud--yet--but let's put it bluntly: less than a year into the fifteen-year span of Global Trends 2025, the days of America's unquestioned global dominance have come to an end. It may take a decade or two (or three) before historians will be able to look back and say with assurance, "That was the moment when the United States ceased to be the planet's pre-eminent power and was forced to behave like another major player in a world of many competing great powers." The indications of this great transition, however, are there for those who care to look."
  • It's Those Anti-American Liberals  At the Weekly Standard, foreign-policy expert Charles Krauthammer argues that Obama's "new liberalism," that is, an extremely left-leaning liberal internationalism descended from the Clinton presidency, is causing America's great decline and will ultimately cripple the nation if it proceeds unopposed. "For the New Liberalism, it is not just that power corrupts. It is that America itself is corrupt--in the sense of being deeply flawed, and with the history to prove it. An imperfect union, the theme of Obama's famous Philadelphia race speech, has been carried to and amplified in his every major foreign-policy address, particularly those delivered on foreign soil. (Not surprisingly, since it earns greater applause over there.)"
  • It's Those Racist Right-Wingers Still reeling from the summer's health care town-hall turmoil, Gary Younge, also writing for The Nation, is convinced that America's shifting demographics have so frightened whites that anarchy is a distinct possibility: "The country these right-wingers keep saying they 'want back' is a white one in which their exclusive entitlement to the exercise of power, locally and globally, goes unchallenged. The fact that that country isn't coming back is what makes their voices so shrill and their actions so extreme. Demographically, economically and geopolitically, white America is in decline…Never having considered solidarity with blacks and Latinos, they see them not as potential allies but as perpetual enemies. Obama's election showed that these appeals to fear can be defeated; events since then indicate that they can still be destructive."
  • It's All The Other Countries... Writing for The Christian Science Monitor, Steve Yetiv sends a message to overseas observers who are celebrating America's fall. The U.S., he argues, is the only one maintaining global order. As he puts it "Rather than jeering, the rest of the world should consider just how much the US does, and step up support for it. The security of the world is at stake." His reasoning is predicated on the idea that without the U.S., nuclear proliferation and trade wars would be commonplace.
  • Yeah, Yeah, What Else is New? At Real Clear World, Edward Lawrence argues that all the recent declinist talk is exaggerated. He takes readers back to the social malaise of the 1970s, the post-Vietnam Cold War-era, when it seemed to many that the U.S. was "finished as superpower." But according to Lawrence, the election of Regan in 1980 changed everything. He also astutely observes that declinism persists at least partially because it proves to be lucrative: "For now, however, declinism will continue to be a popular meme. It should be, as, in this time of economic calamity, it is a good career choice: many of those arguing that America is in decline now are the same ones who did so thirty years ago. They have made a livelihood out of telling America's misfortune. Let's give them a few more decades."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.