, Volume 87, Number 4

Adam Quinn

Predictions of 'American decline' have come and gone before, leading some to regard it as a cultural trope stemming from domestic insecurities rather than a serious prospect. There is reason to believe, however, that this time is different. Fundamental erosion of the United States' decades-long primacy may finally be at hand. Unless something very significant changes to jolt the course of events onto a different track, the relative power of the United States - measured in terms of its advantage over others in economic and military capacity - will be shrinking significantly over the decades to come.

President Obama's foreign policy's most signal feature has been prudence and circumspection regarding American power and its exercise. Major divergence between the ends pursued and the capacities available for their pursuit is one of the cardinal sins giving rise to strategic failure. It is thus fortunate for the United States that it should have a president who, even if he may not be inclined to cast it in such words himself, seems disposed not to 'rage against the dying of the light' of American primacy, but to practice the admirable art of declining politely.

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