Archive for July, 2012

Catching the Winds of Power

by Adam Parker

In international relations, measures of power are usually relative. Depending on the measure or definition of power, however, this relativity can be quite different. This has important implications for any discussion of American decline. One way to think about this is to attempt to measure aggregate capabilities: what can a given state do? This is a relative measure because the answer to the question depends on the powers of other states (Liechtenstein can’t successfully invade Germany, for instance). The second way to think about power would be to compare these aggregate capabilities: what can a state do that another state can’t? These two measures are distinct, but discussions about American decline often fail to adequately separate them.

Thinking about the aggregate capabilities of the United States, it can be easily argued that American power is declining. Rising powers such as China, India, and Brazil are expanding their spheres of influence, thereby shrinking the area where the United States can exert its influence with impunity. Additionally, the rising influence of non-state actors—be they corporations, NGOs, or transnational terrorist or criminal networks—is further restricting the ability of the United States to unilaterally pursue its interests. Simply put, the United States does not (and will not) have the same clout it had in the unipolar moment after the Cold War.

Now, before the declinists declare victory and quit the field, let’s examine the relative aggregate capabilities in the international community. Here, it is far less clear that the United States is in decline. The decline of the importance of the state (which many gifted individuals have already said a great deal about) is not restricted to the United States. It is a universal problem that all states are confronting. More importantly, all states are confronting a full suite of problems—both domestic and transnational—relating to demography, resource management, and economics that will tax even the most capable among them. These challenges, particularly in their domestic manifestations, mobile casino will sap the ability of states to act beyond their own borders.

In facing these challenges, the United States possesses many unique advantages. Regarding demography, the United States occupies an important middle ground. U.S. population growth has reached the replacement rate.[1] Many other developed countries in Europe have dropped below this rate, while many developing countries such as India are struggling to meet the needs of their growing populations. Also, the United States is not aging as rapidly as Japan, Europe, or even China (despite all our concern about the retiring baby boomers). Demographically, the United States is well off compared to its near-peer competitors.

The United States is similarly blessed in the area of resources. Unlike China or India, the United States does not struggle to provide its citizens with energy. In terms of shale gas, the United States possesses near-limitless reserves and could conceivably become a net exporter of energy again. The American West and Southwest face impending water problems, but these too pale in comparison to China, whose leaders have conceived of the gargantuan South-North Water Transfer Project to address this issue.

Related to these points, the American economy is relatively strong in the long term. The Eurozone union, technically the largest economy in the world, may not be long for this world. At the very least, the feasibility of a monetary union without a fiscal union is in serious doubt. As evidence of the continued relative strength of the dollar, it has remained the world’s safe haven despite the inability of Congress to responsibly tackle the debt problem. China, while currently more fiscally secure, confronts a population of impoverished people numbering some 250 million. This places significant pressure on the Chinese budget as the government struggles to maintain stability. Finally, the United States continues to lead the world in creativity, research, and technological innovation.

For these reasons, it seems probable that the United States will see its aggregate capabilities decrease over the next 18 years while those of its peers and competitors decrease even faster. As the states of the world scramble to catch the fading winds of international power, the United States has the biggest sail. This raises an important question for discussion: should the United States content itself with being the fastest in a slowing fleet of ships, or should we try to maintain our present speed? The answer to this question will be of great consequence to the future of U.S. foreign policy.

Adam Parker is a second-year Master’s candidate at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin.

[1] Roughly 2.2 children/woman on average, a rate which stabilizes the population

by Megan Reiss

The implications of US power decline are great. In the Global Trends 2030 report, three scenarios about the way the world could look in 2030 are introduced. The first is a reverse engines scenario, whereby the US becomes fairly isolationist, current conflicts erupt, the world economy slows, and even technology flatlines. In a fragmentation scenario, the lack of will to fix the current political, social, economic, and governance problems leads to a world with greater risk of conflict, but without the dire predictions of the reversed engines.  Finally, the utopian-like projections of the fusion scenario portrays an environment where political will to solve problems leads to a prosperous, cooperative world. Of these three scenarios, the report argues that the fragmentation scenario is the most likely to come to fruition, based on the current trends.

These futuristic predictions beg us to ask, will the US have the ability to manage or even shape scenarios, or will American power decline so managing outcomes is no longer feasible?  I can imagine an interplay of will and power may determine which scenario will result. The US may have power but no political will.  Though it may be tragic from an American perspective to waste the ability to lead the world community, latent power would allow the US to muster up the will in the future.  Power means that even if political will is initially absent, when a sufficient shock occurs or a window opens, the US could then muster the will to work to fix the economy, ease conflicts, solve governance problems. But if the US loses power, even with strong political will, there may be little means of affecting change.

Is the power of the US declining in the world?  This question seems like it should be fairly simple to answer by projecting trends into the future, as was done in various graphs in the Global Trends 2030 study, especially those on the Aggregate Power of Developing States. One graph measures power based on GDP, population size, military spending, and technology.  China and the US have equal power by the year 2030. By 2050, China overtakes the US in power by roughly 6 percentage points. But when the team adds health, education, and governance to the mix, suddenly China’s power is behind the US by four or five percentage points in 2030 and is only a couple percentage points ahead in power by 2050. By adding only a few additional elements, the estimated future of US power begins to look a bit rosier.

We could break the elements of these projections down even more to try get to the roots of actual power.  Data on the average age of the population, the social programs the population are guaranteed, the congruence of domestic opinion, the harmony of regional and distant State relationships, the epicenters of industrial booms, the salience of international organizations, and even the influence of nuclear weapons would mean the neat and tidy graphs would only get more complicated. Yet intuitively, each of these should factor in to power justin bieber new cd u smile lyrics where is justin bieber new cd from crashed trying to escape from the vehicle paparazzi chasing after his SUV. projections. Try to then picture accurately predicting the likelihood of innovation in fields we have yet to stumble upon and the power projections on a graph seem incomplete.

Predictions of power decline repeat across history. In the 50’s, the US prepared for nuclear war and predicted that the Soviets would threaten US power to such a great extent that the dominos would fall and many of our allies could succumb to communism.  The 60’s saw the US at the brink of a nuclear conflict and saw a massive escalation of manpower in conflicts over communism in developing countries. Domestic turmoil and a renewed arms race defined the 70’s.  The 80’s brought a series of conflicts in developing countries and another terrifying arms race to assure American power. The USSR (and its power) collapsed unexpectedly. Each decade sees projections of American decline, and this decade is no different.  With hindsight, we can point to the various reasons decline didn’t happen to explain why the predictions were inaccurate. However, we have to keep in mind that some of those making predictions about the power of the USSR and the likelihood of American decline were those people studying these environments. Traditionally, we simply have not been very good at predicting online casino American decline.

We need to know what confers power. While power is traditionally viewed through the size and skill of the military, in an era that is void of two or more States meeting face-to-face on a battlefield, the number of tanks a State possesses no longer seems like an accurate measure of power.  The US still has the strongest military, and yet we discuss possible decline.  There’s more to power than military, or even economics or population size.  If these were the only elements, we would be much better at predicting the future of American decline.

An idea associated with Milton Friedman is that it is not really important whether all the elements in a model accurately reflect the world, as long as the model ‘works’ by reflecting reality. We are traditionally quite bad at predicting American decline, as predictions about an American decline which never happened are repeated with frequency across decades. Various models attempting to assess power are changing for the very reason that the models are not working, they are not properly assessing power.

I can not say for certain whether America is in decline or not. Intuitively I do not believe it is because I do not see America losing the ability to influence or affect change.  While it’s nearly impossible to predict success and innovation in new arenas, the US is repeatedly at the forefront of innovation and there’s no obvious reason to believe this trend will stop.  Although we have growing competitors and a disagreeable domestic situation, we have the luxury of the dollar as the world’s main currency, the top universities, a strong military, nuclear weapons, and a huge GDP.  I can say with certainty that Americans need to muster up the political will to use our power to shape the world into the best possible scenario, but we won’t be able to start until we follow the repeated examples of American history in times of domestic discord and create some semblance of political unity at home. Finally, while we’re trying to ease tension at home, we can keep trying to pinpoint those historically elusive elements that do predict power decline.

Megan Reiss is a doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin.

A Demographic Morning in America

by Gustavo O. Fernandez

When considering the question of American decline, one could point to yawning budget deficits, unaffordable entitlement programs, a creaking infrastructure, or the coming ‘fiscal cliff,’ comprised of tax hikes and budget cuts, as domestic factors contributing to an American power in retreat. Internationally, one could cite China’s rise as a potential threat, and another indicator of possible American decline. Yet, when one looks at the country’s demographic projections through 2050 the United States has a strong, positive outlook that will make solving these challenges manageable.

The United States has always been a country welcoming to immigrants, who have been enticed by the power of democracy, opportunity, and the promise of a brighter future for their children. This promise continues to manifest itself with strong population growth. For example, over 90 percent of U.S. population growth since 2000 has come from immigrants or the children of immigrants. Because of this trend the population of the United States is predicted to increase by an additional 30 percent between now and 2050.

A growing population means that the base of citizens that can be taxed will increase, making it relatively easier to fix our deficit, and with less pain, since it will be spread across more people. It also means that we will have the resources to continue to staff our military, and that we will have a robust working population that will support our retiring baby boomers. Most importantly, as the United States grows and becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, it will lead to more innovation, and more entrepreneurship. For example, between 1995 and 2005, 52 percent of American start-up companies were founded either casino pa natet by immigrants or their children. This is the kind of innovation that we need in order to meet the challenges that we face today.

Strong population growth will also help the U.S. internationally. China is often cited as one of the central potential threats to American power. Yet when we compare fertility rates we get a different picture. China’s fertility rate, at 1.56, is below replacement. This means that China’s population is, in fact, shrinking. In contrast, the U.S.’s fertility rate, at 2.08, shows a population that is growing. This will be a challenge for China, and one that will limit its ability to project power internationally over the medium and long-term.

Some readers may greet with skepticism the news that China’s shrinking population is a problem. After all, China is a huge country of over one billion people. It is true that a shrinking population is not necessarily bad. The challenge that China faces is that its population is both shrinking and aging very quickly. China’s population will begin to shrink after 2026, and by 2050 the size of the working The California health free health insurance quotes marketplace open October 1st, 2013. population will be 50 percent smaller than today. This means that the country will have fewer working-age people taking care of their abundant older relatives, and with no comprehensive, functional pension system in place, China will struggle to meet the needs of its quickly greying population. This will be a significant strain for China, and will demand the attention of the country’s leadership. And while China turns inward to deal with its “senior tsunami,” the United States will continue to enjoy the benefits of strong population growth.

Population growth will continue to shift the ethnic makeup of the United States. The ethnic makeup may be evolving, but the idea of America, what makes our country exceptional, is alive and well. And that’s good news. The positive demographic numbers mean that we will have the people, ideas, time and energy to find innovative solutions to the problems that worry our country today.

Simply having a positive demographic outlook won’t solve all of our problems, but it is a very good start. Demography may not be destiny, but it does put us in a strong and advantageous position moving forward. It is now up to our political leaders and policymakers to craft and implement the correct forward looking policies to effectively harness the demographic advantage that the United States is set to enjoy for the next 40 years or more. Hopefully our leadership is up to the task.

Gustavo O. Fernandez is a graduate student in the Master of Global Policy Studies program at theLyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas-Austin.

Looking Backward, Planning Forward

by Robert Hutchings

In 1994, during a brief stint in the National Intelligence Council as director of its Analytic Group, I was involved in the first of the “Global Trends” exercises, organized by the then-chairman of the NIC, Joe Nye.  (The “Global Trends 2010” report was published in early 1997 under the chairmanship of Dick Cooper.)  In an essay that I wrote for the project (and later published in a book of mine called At the End of the American Century), I described a world that would remain militarily unipolar, with no power or group of powers capable of matching the global reach of the United States, but with a tripolar distribution of economic power among North America, Europe, and East Asia.  Beneath the level of these familiar yardsticks of national power, moreover, I saw not the concentration of power but its diffusion among supranational, subnational, and transnational actors beyond the control of any government.

I looked back on that essay a decade later in a speech I gave in April 2003, shortly after I became NIC Chairman and three weeks after the invasion of Iraq.  In the speech, I acknowledged that some of my earlier judgments had been overtaken by events; others were just plain wrong.  But the core argument, I contended, was still valid: “At a time when the spectacular performance of our armed forces in Iraq may tempt us to see power in predominantly military terms, it is worth recalling that our preponderance is not so great in other areas and that we continue to live in an interdependent world.  We can’t wage the war on terrorism by ourselves, and we can’t bomb the global economy into submission.  Our smart bombs aren’t that smart.”

The subtext of both the essay and the speech was that the “unipolar moment” was a dangerous illusion that would tempt us to vastly overestimate our real power and our ability to bend world events to our liking.  In a couple of other speeches I gave that year as NIC Chairman, I spoke – a bit more recklessly – about “the problem of American power,” which “may tempt us to take on more than we can handle, simply because there is nothing to stop us from doing so.”

Now, with the passage of another decade and chastened by our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, we seem to have lurched in the other direction and are now underestimating our power in a kind of declinist funk.  There are worrying indicators, to be sure, of declining education levels, a deteriorating American workforce, rising inequality, degraded infrastructure, and many others that augur poorly for our longer-term competitiveness and vitality.  Other contributors to the GT 2030 blog can comment more ably than I on those.  My focus here is how those with policy responsibility think about America’s power position and how they act upon their assumptions.

It is worth pointing out that the Global Trends projects – GT 2030 is the fifth of them – were not intended to be mere intellectual exercises in thinking about the future but rather were meant as guides to action.  By thinking systematically about future trends and their implications, we wanted to help policy makers at the most senior levels casino online decide what to do right now.

Looking out to 2030 and the kinds of challenges the United States is likely to face, amassing ever more potent military power seems among the least relevant activities we might undertake.  Our larger problem is that we quite literally have more power than we know what to do with.

Instead, we need to accentuate and develop the advanced skills needed to deal with constantly shifting coalitions of partners, diffuse threats to American interests coming from almost anywhere, and complex problems that are not often susceptible to “kinetic” solutions.  There are encouraging signs: the Obama administration has shown itself adept at applying force strategically and selectively, and it has been wise enough to see that not every challenge merits an unconditional and unlimited American commitment.

But we as a society need to do much better at understanding other cultures, mastering the techniques of statecraft, better combining the military and non-military dimensions of our power, and better coordinating the public, private, and non-profit sectors in our complex interactions around the world.

We need better diplomats, too.  For all the complex relationships we have around the world, it is striking that few American diplomats have ever taken or ever will take a course on diplomacy, strategy, or statecraft.  This is why (shameless self-promotion coming here) the LBJ School of Public Affairs has embarked on a major global initiative toward “Reinventing Diplomacy,” working with scholars and practitioners around the world to make the study of diplomacy better grounded in history, more comprehensive in scope, and more global in outlook.

Robert Hutchings is the Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin.  He has previously served as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

by Larry O’Bryon

No patriotic American would like to admit that our country is in decline, but how does the evidence stack up? Time for a quick look in the mirror America, to assess what we see.

Economically, we are a society conditioned on too much debt and financial leverage. This conditioning, or addiction even, exists in Americans’ exposure to real estate and credit card debt, Wall Street’s excesses, and now an increasingly untenable fiscal situation with our federal government.

Socially, we are concerned with the American middle class struggling with stagnant real wage growth during the past decade. Poverty levels of the population are approaching levels last seen in the 1960s. Images of the suffering in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still reside in our collective memory, proof that our safety net isn’t what it should be. In education, the U.S. struggles to break the top 20 nations in high school math and science scores.

Our military is the world’s finest fighting force, and our defense budget dwarfs those of other nations. However, we have been working through an intractable conflict in Afghanistan with our NATO allies, with ambiguous prospects for the longer-term results of our nation-building efforts. We look tentative in our steps to support resolution of conflict in Syria and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In the political realm, we are demonstrating the limitations of democracy, as our two-party system grinds to a halt under divided and partisan leadership focused on campaigning, rather than governing and results-oriented action. Through contentious and inconsistent foreign and domestic policies, recent administrations have impaired our respectability abroad, and weakened our unity and strength at home.

Indeed, at first glance, American exceptionalism and global influence seem to be on the wane.

However, further reflection is necessary. The U.S. has significant geographic advantages, including a bounty of natural resources. Our country continues to have the highest per capita GDP mobile casino on a PPP basis of the world’s major economies. In addition, many of our challenges are within our own ability to control. For example, the Annual SOC 2 Type II Audit Reports verify our qualification to handle enterprise-class recoveries and support those customers who must maintain compliance with free file recovery software privacy and free file recovery software security regulations such as:Its simple. year-end 2012 fiscal cliff, driving concerns of renewed recession, is avoidable through politicians’ taking responsible actions to reform our tax code and address our twin deficit and debt challenges. The U.S. remains the destination that millions of productive immigrants aspire to emigrate to enjoy our meritocratic, freedom-loving society, a continuing source of strength for our nation. Our universities and higher education opportunities remain the model for the rest of the world.  From a global perspective, the EU, China and the other BRICs have economic, political and societal challenges that exceed our own.

The risk of America’s decline is real, but with these strengths and our comparative advantages, it is by no means inevitable. Left unchecked, however, the above noted issues will contribute to a diminishing of the United States’ power and influence in the evolving world order. Mitigating this risk requires the nation to come together under united leadership to achieve goals and objectives consistent with our national interests, domestic needs, and international responsibilities. Our leaders need to look beyond elections to confront these challenges, and embrace opportunities available to us to renew America’s strength and character. We have some work to do, and we better get to it.

Larry O’Bryon is a Graduate Fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin, and previously worked for two decades in international engineering & construction and investment banking in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The Decline of American Education

by Miha Vindis

The world has changed in many ways since the Cold War ended. The internet and mobile communication have opened up new possibilities across the world. As high-tech, high-value generating industries are no longer bound by national borders or access to restricted resources, a new world order has began to emerge. In this new world education has become even more important. The United States – and the West as a whole – has seen its advantage in economic, technological and defense arenas erode, because we are beginning to fall behind the rest of the world. While the political establishment debates, increasingly on ideological grounds, the future of America is at risk.

The problem begins very early in the national academic system.Beginning in elementary school many students are already behind the nationally accepted standards.  For example, one study found that only 31 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and by eighth grade this number is virtually the same (33 percent). If the average student is not an efficient reader, how can we expect them to excel? One can find similarly alarming statistics for math and the problems compound by the time students are in high-school. In fact, according the Heritage Foundation about one in three American students fail to graduate from highschool. What is most worrying is that the numbers are getting worse in relative and absolute terms. In 2008, the United States was the only developed country with a higher percent of 55- to 64-year-olds with high school degrees than 25- to 34-year-olds.

The data for college level education is also not positive. Just over 40 percent of American’s earn a college a degree – a number which has not changed in decades – while other nations have been catching up. Consider this fact: when the baby boomer generation was completing college in the 70s, more than 30 percent of all college graduates in the online casino world were Americans, but today, that number is only 20 Percent. While part of this can be explained by rapid population growth rates mobile casino When I pay the cashier with money, we have extinguished our /debt relationship. in some countries (for example, China’s proportion of college graduates tripled in the last two decades) data clearly shows that the United States is beginning to lag in higher education. According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) significant progress has been made in China, Korea, Mexico and Brazil… countries often seen as up and coming geopolitical competitors.

The problem is not necessarily one of quality in higher education. Many foreigners (this author included) still choose to come to the United States because the value offered by American universities is very high, despite very high costs (international students have limited options in terms of funding or student employment). As a Slovenian living in the United States, I constantly contrast America with Europe. And while I am willing to pay the extra cost for an American higher education, I see no such incentive for primary or secondary education. Simply put, American college education may be the most expensive in the world, but it also offers some of the best employment and earnings opportunities. The problem, therefore, is not quality or potential, but rather the small number of Americans earning degrees in critical areas and the even smaller number who are prepared for rigorous study in those fields.

The most serious problem is in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), where there are almost 3 million unfilled jobs, but only about 300,000 graduates annually. This shortage of U.S.-born STEM workers gives companies two choices: import costly foreign labor, or move operations abroad. In fact, according to the OECD the United States has less PhD STEM graduates (per million population) than many other developed countries. The picture is even bleaker when one considers that many of those advanced degrees are awarded to foreigners. For example, about half of all engineering doctoral degrees are awarded to non-U.S. nationals. The implications of this shortfall are not only economic, but also a national security concern as it will become increasingly difficult to fill sensitive security-related jobs.

Most policy-makers would not dispute these facts: education in the United States is falling behind. Identifying the problem and recommending a solution, however, is becoming increasingly ideological. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are all too eager to turn critical issues into an ideological battle rathen seek a realistic compromise.  The United States desperately needs an overhaul of the education system, but given today’s political reality it is not clear when that will happen.

It would be foolish to pinpoint any one issue as the sole problem with education. The education system doesn’t need tweaks and fixes, it needs a serious overhaul. The system needs to be adjusted to attract qualified, motivated teachers through fair compensation; national and state curriculums need to be updated to reflect the realities of the post-Cold War era; school testing norms need to be redesigned; and effective means of motivating students have to be implemented. What is at stake if far more than just increasing reading or math test scores; without a well educated population the American advantage in just about every field will continue to erode. The world may be in the hands of the current power elite, but the future is in the hands of the next generation. No country serious about its future can afford to forget that and no patriotic policy maker should ignore that.

Miha Vindis is a Slovenian doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and previously spent a decade in the international oil industry.

The First Five Centuries

Any discussion about decline in the US should look to Britain for historical guidance.

Like the US, Britain started from a position of technological leadership and absolute economic preeminence.  As the technologies diffused, it was doomed by its small population to relative decline. Even if it had maintained its leadership in terms of income per capita, its total GDP would inevitably be eclipsed by GDP in US, just at GDP in the US will surely be surpassed by GDP in China.

Britain has, nevertheless, remained a world leader. It has an asset that GDP can’t buy.

Gordon Brown once observed that in establishing the rule of law, the first five centuries are always the hardest. Does this mean that each country follow this same slow path?

Of course not. The Privy Council now acts as the court of appeal for many nations in Ready to take the next step? Get free insurance health insurance quotes or find an agent near you. the Commonwealth. They retain local executive dgfev online casino and legislative capacities, even their existing legal traditions. But through this arrangement, younger nations get instant access to a credible form of judicial independence. The new debate in Britain asks whether this arrangement could voluntarily be extended beyond the Commonwealth. See, for example, the discussion about Honduras’ preparation to send appeals to the Privy Council.

This debate has opened up because of efforts in Honduras to develop a new city-scale reform zone. (For more on this strategy, as highlighted in Brandon Fuller’s recent post.) The conjecture is that Britain could encourage in other places the kind of development that it spurred in Asia by fostering an outpost of British law in Hong Kong.

If, indeed, the rule of law is among the most important human inventions, the UK could continue to exert for decades — perhaps forever — an outsized influence on world affairs. All it needs to do is keep encouraging the spread of its most important invention.

Paul Romer is Professor of Economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business and Director of its Urbanization Project. The Urbanization Project addresses a truly historic challenge and opportunity: welcoming an additional 3 – 5 billion people to urban life in less than a century.

Will America Thrive?

by Kristin M. Lord

Ten years into the 21st century, America confronts upheaval abroad and two crises at home, one economic and one a crisis of vitality.  All carry risks for the United States, even dangers.  They are also entwined, in cause and effect, and in the responses required.

Together, these challenges threaten to undermine American power, stature, and confidence.  But, regrettably, the political difficulty of confronting them will tempt American leaders to do precisely the opposite of what is required.  This would be tragic since, in the era we are entering, the United States should be poised to thrive.

The World America Faces

Upheaval abroad encompasses the violent and unpredictable turmoil engulfing the Middle East; cataclysmic natural disasters; the prospect of persistent conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq; China’s evolving ambitions in its neighboring seas and territories; the spread of powerful capabilities to groups and individuals who lack a stake in the international system; and other political, economic or natural eruptions  not yet apparent.

These upheavals are merely symptoms of a broader global power transition now underway — driven by technology, demographic change, and markets, and by powerful new coalitions between people, industries, and states. This transition features the oft-noted rise of new powers such as China, India, and Brazil but also the less-remarked on rise of new powers within states: massive middle classes that will lift vast numbers out of poverty and initiate a period of economic and social dynamism even as they create intense new stresses on resources and the natural environment.  This transition will also create intense new political stresses on governments, which are likely to become more pluralistic even if they do not become more democratic, and pressure to deliver economic growth to nations and jobs to ever growing numbers of individuals even as technology makes some jobs unnecessary.

Within countries, these pressures will spur new competition for influence as new centers of power and populations grow.  (The population of Pakistan, to give just one prominent example, is projected to grow from 169 to 295 million by 2050.)  These political and economic competitions will create new winners and losers, and will spawn anger in some.  While nothing new, those with grievances now have within their reach a historic potential both to connect with others who share their distress and to inflict harm, extensively and far from their native homes.

Globally, as countries compete for jobs and markets, resources and influence, their competition is likely to be cloaked in nationalism as peoples and their political leaders grasp for what unites them as so much pulls them apart.  This competition may usher in more frequent military confrontations, often on the seas or in cyberspace, and always with the risk of escalation.  Yet, given the diffusion of military capabilities and the damage they can wreak, more conflict may not beget more war, at least not between states.  Competition, in many forms, will dominate.  And the United States must be prepared for this world.

America’s Path

Because the world will grow more complex, with more nodes of influence and more vectors of conflict, it may appear to require a vastly higher investment in America’s military, diplomacy, and foreign assistance.   It may seem to require a grand strategy that will align resources and contingency planning for every eventuality.   It may seem to call for an even more robust commitment of American forces abroad to protect wide-ranging interests from wide-ranging threats and to reassure American allies who will be ever more anxious of threats and wary of abandonment.

Yet the scope and scale required of effort required for this approach would be unaffordable.  It would also be counterproductive, and it would drain the lifeblood of American security.  It undervalues key modes of influence and inflates the ability of U.S. government agencies and armed services to control global events.  A different path is necessary.

At its very foundation, American security derives from its strength, which in turn derives from an economy that is robust and adaptive, a society in which mobility is possible and innovation is rewarded, and a shared commitment to justice that extends to all and unites the many in a common venture.  It derives from a sense of vitality and possibility that attracts both dollars and talent, and rewards exertion and ingenuity.  And it is nourished by a thirst for innovation that betters the lives of Americans but also serves the world.  Economic strength generates not only the resources but also the global connections and creative power that will enable the United States to confront the range of unexpected challenges it is likely to face in the future.  Many of these challenges are unpredictable, so the greatest protection against them is 1) strength 2) a dynamism that enables a people to believe that solutions are possible and 3) the agility and wisdom to use those assets well.

This strength and dynamism is in jeopardy.  America’s debt is crippling and, if not addressed, will constrain American options in the years ahead.  Military spending sustained at post-9/11 levels would divert minds and dollars from investments with greater potential to generate sustained economic power; meanwhile, the military acquisitions process is ossified and slow, forcing Americans to overpay for military capabilities, some of which quickly become outdated. Some entrepreneurs and scientists no longer consider America mobile casino the land of greatest opportunity, and are lured abroad by better-funded laboratories and faster growing markets.  Social mobility in America is declining, and with it the meritocracy that challenges the system and undergirds the social contract in which achievement is rewarded handsomely but ultimately open to all.

Alternatively, a turning inward may seem fitting.  America is overstretched and, in countries around the world, the political grandstanding that accompanies globally diffused power may lead to an America berated, not venerated, even as Americans die protecting others who then curse us and even as America depletes its coffers to help those who then either spurn us or thrive without us. Such isolationism would be erroneous, however, even if it were possible (which is unlikely), and even if retrenchment and rethinking are in fact in order (which they are).  In the world we are part of, global engagement is necessary to both security and prosperity.  Strength will come from connection and leverage not retreat.

To protect America’s national security in the years ahead, then, six things are necessary.

1)      A robust but reshaped military presence in the world, retaining the strength necessary to defend against a range of often unpredictable threats but emphasizing flexibility and limiting America’s visible military footprint, which generates opposition in a world where power is diffusing and nationalism is increasing.

2)      A renewed economic foundation, built on fiscal sanity but also an economy and society that rewards innovation, empowers the many, and allows potential to flourish.  The time of vilifying business must conclude and a more nuanced treatment of business should follow.  The business community is essential to creating the global connections, national wealth and individual opportunities America will need to thrive.

3)      A new appreciation of politics within foreign countries and the dedication to reduce political leverage over the United States by those we do not wish to empower.  This will require new dexterity in American diplomacy, not just by diplomats but also by military leaders and all those who represent American interests on the world stage, with increased sensitivity to the complex political environments of foreign nations , and with greater focus on cultivating relationships with multiple centers of power.

4)      An embrace of both competition and connection, a national mindset that will enable strength, project vitality, and engender resiliency.  America is served well by a vibrant global economy, but must be prepared to compete within in it.  We will not always come out on top.  But we will benefit more than we are hurt; a reaction to limited losses should not torpedo far vaster gains.  Competition strengthens, even as it challenges, and that strength is America’s fiercest weapon.

5)      A recognition that the world will evolve faster than we can predict and in ways beyond our ability to control.  Preparedness will therefore require flexible capabilities, adroitly applied.  Intervention abroad should be undertaken with a fundamental humility about how what we can accomplish.

6)      An acceptance that many of the best, fastest and most responsive solutions to the many stresses described above may not come from government.  However, government can invest in and establish a conducive environment for the more agile private and not-for-profit enterprises that develop these solutions.

Together, these principles would promote economic growth, spur a new national confidence that encourages bold solutions to difficult challenges while improving the lives of individual Americans, and enhancing American power on the global stage.  They could herald a new American exceptionalism, born not of arrogance, but of a renewed potential for greatness.

The world will be increasingly contentious and America will be challenged.  We should face that competition squarely, without fear or resentment.  In the years ahead, security may need to come less from the sword and less still from the shield, and more from leverage, agility and reinvention.  These traits encapsulate America’s history but also its best path forward.  If they are embraced, no country is more poised to thrive in the turbulence that will define the 21st century.

Kristin Lord is Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for a New American Security.

Discretionary Decline

by Celeste Ward Gventer

 The United States has outlasted at least five previous episodes of declinism and in the last hundred years has navigated the dangerous waters of international politics with surprising adroitness.  It has bested great power rivals, helped stamp out noxious ideologies, and built enduring global institutions. It has done this without sacrificing the legitimacy of its domestic system or crippling its economy by creating a garrison state.  While the country suffers from a variety of pathologies today – fiscal prodigality, declining educational standards and attainment, sclerotic politics, et al – the U.S. also possesses long term advantages compared to its challengers that may end up mattering most for national power in coming decades, as Francis Gavin has pointed out in this forum. If results are what count, America must be doing something right.

But extending America’s time on the broad, sunlit uplands requires not only that global forces outside of U.S. control break our way, but that the U.S. skillfully manages its power in the next few decades. Decline will come, but its timing may depend on choices that will either enhance or weaken the U.S. position.  If ever a time came for the U.S. to husband its power, this is it.

Unfortunately, there is a fiendishly – if curiously – persistent tendency in American foreign policy that risks the opposite: promiscuous military adventures in the name of nation building.  Exorbitantly expensive, improvident in the expenditure of American lives, strategically fraught with peril, and frequently attended by abject failure, incompetence, and waste, the U.S. has nonetheless sought to transform cultures and societies from the Philippines to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, and beyond.  The U.S. can little afford such missions in the coming decades.

This is not a call for isolationism or even offshore balancing.  The U.S. has succeeded when it has engaged with the world, and there are times when it has had strategically defensible reasons to intervene with force (though even these are not without controversy).  The benefits of fighting the Nazis or imperial Japan and even some counter-proliferation and humanitarian interventions, while controversial, have often justified the costs. The difference is that the objective in these engagements was not to transform societies but rather to address core American interests.  What about Germany and Japan, you ask?  Both countries had enormous head starts in terms of wealth, a highly educated workforce and relatively homogeneous societies.  More importantly, these successes were driven less by the desire to refashion societies than the larger, long-term effort to contain communism and Soviet expansion.

Yet America’s penchant for nation building reappears with determined frequency, the proverbial triumph of hope over experience. Iraq was an eight-year, trillion-dollar-plus project resulting in a still troubled, violent nation and ambivalent “ally.”  The United States remains mired in Afghanistan for an eleventh year and counting, and the future there looks grim under even generous assumptions. While arguably neither of these conflicts began with nation building as a core purpose, both soon devolved into such projects, with the attendant results.

Given the poor outcomes, risks, and expense, why is this (seemingly peculiarly American) tendency so tenacious? It is a puzzle, but one can venture a few possible answers.  At least in the last few decades, we intervene because we can. The U.S. military remains the most capable and powerful on earth and, crushing national debt notwithstanding, the country can continue to finance military action on credit.  Since the creation of an all-volunteer force in the 1970s, Managing unstructured best data recovery is covered in Chapter 13. very few Americans experience any dgfev online casino pain when the military is committed or are seemingly aware of what those forces are doing. Less than one percent of the nation serves, and the agony of repeated deployments and the horror of possible (or real) loss of a loved one are restricted to a tiny minority of families and friends. There are other possible reasons, such as a steadily expanding definition of American “interests” in the last twenty years, a growing consensus across the political spectrum for greater activism after September 11th, 2001, and a foreign policy cadre educated in similar institutions, using many of the same texts, and raised in a post Cold-War foreign policy era when the U.S. was at the height of its power.

But these possible explanations are of recent vintage; America’s recurring bouts of enthusiasm for nation building go back much farther.  Perhaps the American can-do spirit is a factor, as well as American hubris.

Whatever the reasons for the U.S.’s historical proclivity for nation building, the coming decades can and should be different.  After over a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, American policymakers should take this moment to reflect on the causes of this recurring folly, and seek ways to avoid, as a Russian expression would have it, stepping on the same rake.

Nation building risks draining the Treasury, distracting policymakers and analysts from long term global trends, expending lives on problems that are not central to maintaining U.S. power, and exposing the country to needless strategic risk.  The countries that are growing in significance and have seen the greatest advancements in their citizens’ quality of life – from Brazil to India and China – are often those who resisted American intrusions, built their own nations, and focused on growing their power while the U.S. fought its “Long War” in the Middle East and South Asia.  Decline may not be a choice, but the time of its arrival might; U.S. wisdom and prudence in its foreign policy may go a long way towards extending the nation’s predominance.

Celeste Ward Gventer is Associate Director at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas-Austin.  She previously served as  Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations Capabilities.

by Francis J. Gavin

Assessing whether the United States is in decline requires a better sense of what it is that is declining and compared to who or what.  This revolves around the question of state power – what is it, how can it be measured, and how is it different from the past?  From about the middle of the seventeenth century until the end of the last, we had a rough sense of how these things worked.  Core state power was some combination of wealth, geography, and population that could be translated into military power, which is what really mattered in world politics.  This military power was used either to conquer other states, so that the territory and population could be added to the invader’s aggregate power, or to defend or deter such an attack.  There were rough measurements of these kinds of things: the soldiers, tanks, ships, sea port access, land mass, rivers, mountains, population, and natural resources, etc. within a state could be counted and compared to others, and one could get a sense for which of the powers was rising and which was declining.  The United States was obviously endowed with great assets in this system, and was the greatest world power throughout the 20th century.

But how we think about power – its sources, its uses, its measurements – has changed dramatically in the past few decades.  The most important reason is that both the sources and purposes of state power have changed.  Wealth still matters, though how it is created and distributed have changed significantly.  But it is not clear that land and population figure into the formula in the same way it did historically.

Take geography: there are a number of reasons it is less important than it was in the past.  First, the agricultural revolution of the 20th century and globalization’s ability to create an efficient global market for food, commodities, and finished goods means that a state needs far less land to thrive than it did in the past.  Combined with a dramatic drop in birth and death rates, the wealthier countries of the world don’t face the kinds of scarcity that drove fear and conquest in earlier centuries; if anything, their problems are ones of plenty.  Second, conquest is far more difficult than it was in the past.  Nuclear deterrence makes great power war absurd.  But even in non-nuclear countries, invasion and occupation – as we found in Iraq and Afghanistan — is are costly and counterproductive.  Conquest and empires don’t pay like they used to.   In the 21st century, it may be better to be Singapore than Russia.

Nor is it clear that population works like it once did.  Will China and India’s one billion plus people add to their state power?  Part of the answer depends upon the demographic composition of the citizenry and how prepared it is to contribute to the economy.  Will they be an older population, more likely to pressure expensive social welfare and health systems than to innovate, as could be the case in China, Europe and Japan in decades to come?  And in states where the population is younger, will they be healthy and educated in a manner that allows them to add to a nation’s wealth, as opposed to being a source of instability?  Whether fast growing states in South Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America can create the infrastructure necessarily to prepare the majority of their younger populations (and not just an elite minority) to compete in and benefit from a globalized world is an open question.   Even in the realm of military power, the sheer mass of high-population states matters less than having an integrated, educated, well-trained force armed with the latest technologies (outside of the United States, how many militaries around the world could prevail in a contest with the tiny but highly effective Israeli Defense Force?).

For those that are skeptical that the sources and casino online nature of power have changed dramatically, consider the following thought experiment.  Which would be more likely to harm U.S. power: reducing the U.S. military budget to zero (yes, zero) for a year, closing Wall Street for twelve months, shutting down Silicon Valley until next summer, shuttering the Ivy League plus Stanford and MIT, or putting Hollywood on hold for the same length of time?  While in some ways an absurd exercise, just thinking it through reveals how much the source and uses of power have changed in recent times.  A zero military budget would be unlikely to lead to an invasion of the United States by China or Russia.

This exercise also highlights the importance of a particular kind of wealth.  In the past, harvesting wheat, mining coal, and producing steel formed the basis of state power.  Today, the ability to finance, insure, and fund much of the word’s economic activity, to create and distribute cutting edge technologies, to educate and retain the globe’s best minds, and to influence the world’s culture – these matter more now than arming a levee en masse to conquer an undefended Canada.

Despite enormous problems, the United States is actually well placed to thrive in this new world against its competitors.  While it can create countless low-level engineers, it is not clear that China can produce the sustained culture of innovation, transparency, and accountability that creates high-end wealth.  Europe and Japan face fiscal crises worse than ours, with a less favorable demographic pattern to boot.  Other potential competitors – India, Brazil, Turkey – have their merits but are still far from being consequential actors on the world stage.  And should military power once again become the thing that matters most in international affairs, the United States is in a far better position than anyone.

We should not rest on our laurels, of course.  Under these new metrics of power, having a highly-educated, healthy, adaptable, and tolerant population with faith in the institutions that produce stability and encourage robust wealth-production and its fair distribution (such as local, state, and national government, schools, universities, banks, investment firms, media, major corporations, etc) is paramount.  There is much work to do to achieve these goals, but fortunately, the United States has both a head start and built-in advantages that provide a large and potentially growing lead over any potential rival.

Francis J. Gavin is the Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs at the LBJ School of Public Affairsand the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas-Austin.