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February 21, 2012

What The Anti-Declinists Get Wrong
Posted by Michael Cohen

Over at Foreign Policy I have a new Flag_0 up that takes on the argument that tales of American decline are a myth - by noting that relative US power on the global stage is all well and good but it doesn't mean much if its built on a shaky foundation:

U.S. global power remains unparalleled and its hegemony is uncontested . . . America today faces no great power rival, no existential threat, and an economy that -- while currently in the doldrums -- remains vibrant and adaptive.  Compared to other nations, the United States is not simply a great power, it is the greatest power. Even if its influence declines, it is likely to continue to enjoy an outsized role on the international stage, in part because there is a consensus among foreign-policy elites -- like Romney and Obama, for instance -- that the U.S. must do whatever it takes to remain, as Madeline Albright once put it,  "the world's 'indispensable nation.'"

There is, however, one serious problem with this analysis. Any discussion of American national security that focuses solely on the issue of U.S. power vis-à-vis other countries -- and ignores domestic inputs -- is decidedly incomplete.

A focus on U.S. global dominance or suasion that doesn't factor in those elements that constitute American power at home ignores substantial and worsening signs of decline. Indeed, by virtually any measure, a closer look at the state of the United States today tells a sobering tale of rapid and unchecked decay and deterioration in a host of areas. While not all of them are generally considered elements of national security, perhaps they should be.

You can read the whole thing here - and please do! But the bottom line is that any discussion of national security that ignores our worsening education system, our inefficient health care system, our lack of technological innovation and our horrible legislative dysfunction tells a very incomplete tale of what defines national power in the 21st century.

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