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Beyond Trilateralism: A Fresh Start for American Power

It was a busy weekend at the stately Mead manor in glamorous Queens. Besides essays on President Obama’s campaign platform and the Iran essay that went up this morning, I was preparing an article for the Wall Street Journal that is running today. When I last checked, there was no paywall protection through this link on RCW. Here’s how it starts:

The world balance of power is changing. Countries like China, India, Turkey and Brazil are heard from more frequently and on a wider range of subjects. The European Union’s most ambitious global project—creating a universal treaty to reduce carbon emissions—has collapsed, and EU expansion has slowed to a crawl as Europe turns inward to deal with its debt crisis. Japan has ceded its place as the largest economy in Asia to China and appears increasingly on the defensive in the region as China’s hard and soft power grow.

The international chattering class has a label for these changes: American decline. The dots look so connectable: The financial crisis, say the pundits, comprehensively demonstrated the failure of “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sapped American strength and, allegedly, destroyed America’s ability to act in the Middle East. China-style “state capitalism” is all the rage. Throw in the assertive new powers and there you have it—the portrait of America in decline.

Actually, what’s been happening is just as fateful but much more complex. The United States isn’t in decline, but it is in the midst of a major rebalancing. The alliances and coalitions America built in the Cold War no longer suffice for the tasks ahead. As a result, under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, American foreign policy has been moving toward the creation of new, sometimes difficult partnerships as it retools for the tasks ahead.


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  • Anthony

    Changing/interconnecting world dynamics (Demography, IT, Development, etc.) induces 21st century recasting… “American Foreign Policy has been moving towards the creation of new, sometimes difficult partnerships as it retools for the tasks ahead” – septagonal arrangements (not a fresh start but an adjustment to changing realities).

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The US has basically maintained its dominating #1 share of world GDP over the last 30 years (22%), while Japan and the EU have been loosing theirs to the developing countries. This looks to continue with both Japan and the EU suffering from demographic problems, failure to energetically address the inefficient blue model, and the Euro’s collapse.
    I wish to point out that while China has been growing very fast, this is unlikely to continue, as China suffers from Demographic problems, inefficient State ownership of a large portion of the economy, lack of Democracy, the Rule of Law, and an arrogant belligerence which has alienated nearly all of its neighbors. It continues with saber rattling towards its biggest trading partner the US, which will lead to large losses in trade in the near future, as friendlier low labor cost countries take away China’s market share. China’s large foreign currency reserves, which they overpaid for while manipulating their currency to gain a price advantage, will end up being sold at a steep discount when they are forced to sell them to pay for the importation of basic commodities.

  • Luke Lea

    “Washington is hardly unique in wanting a liberal world system of open trade, freedom of the seas, enforceable rules of contract and protection for foreign investment.”

    I’m for those things. But I also realize they will destroy the fabric of our democracy if we don’t take steps to re-balance the distribution of income (and leisure) between labor and capital.

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