Monday, August 12, 2019

America’s Superpower Panic — Brad DeLong

History suggests that a global superpower in relative decline should aim for a soft landing, so that it still has a comfortable place in the world once its dominance fades. By contrast, US President Donald Trump's incoherent, confrontational approach toward China could seriously damage America’s long-term interests....
In my view, there are two major or core factors not usually mentioned that need to be considered along with the many others, central and peripheral.

The first is that the US came out of WWII the victor economically, in that the rest of the major economies were destroyed. This results in a sense of entitlement based on American exceptionalism. This further led the US to adopt a policy of permanent US global hegemony as "the leader of the free world" and guarantor of the post-war liberal world order. Wilsonianism, with its foreign policy idealism and liberal interventionism followed. As a consequence, the US became an empire, which result in "internal contradictions," and the political rise of the military-industrial complex (MIC) and a "deep state."

The trend is in conflict with the second factor, which has two major factors. 

The first of these is the inevitable catching-up that took place as the destroyed countries rebuilt and undeveloped countries began to develop into emerging countries. As a result the US began losing its edge, which was inevitable, of course. But the US has yet to accept this, especially the elite that rule the world, or think they do.

The second is the concomitant de-colonization that occurred with the formerly great empires were pretty much forced to abandon their colonies owing to the workings of the historical dialectic. This process of de-colonization is in full swing now as emerging nations seek to determine their own futures based on their perceived interests, their traditions, and their aspirations. This often puts them in conflict with the liberal world order and US "leadership," which is turning more into dictat. The result is incipient resentment of and conflict with a Western-based alliance whose policy is based on neoliberalism, the concomitants of which are neo-imperialism and neocolonialism.

Project Syndicate
America’s Superpower Panic
Brad DeLong | Professor of Economics, UCAL Berkeley

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