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Is America becoming a “has been” on the international stage?


“The country [America] needs a strategy to deal with its diminishing global influence.”

It has come to that, according to Christopher A. Preble of the Cato Institute  Adapting to American Decline .

There’s a lot to unpack here, pro and con.

First, Preble making his case:

“… so long as American productivity and workers’ wages were rising, it seemed that Uncle Sam could ensure a decent standard of living at home and security around the world … Yet Americans may be the last people to recognize the changing shape of world power…

“… America should seek a new arrangement that asks the beneficiaries of today’s relatively peaceful and prosperous world to make a meaningful contributions to it …

“But admitting that the United States is incapable of effectively adjudicating every territorial dispute or of thwarting every security threat in every part of the world is hardly tantamount to surrender. It, is rather, a wise admission of the limits of American power …”

Fair enough. The United States, and the world, have, of course, changed significantly since America inherited and assumed international economic and security leadership in the aftermath of twentieth-century regional conflagrations. Prudent American administrations — admittedly, with exceptions — have been central to the creation and operation of multilateral institutions that have ameliorated conflict and contributed to harmony.

 The U.S. 2016 election represents a U-turn in this historic geopolitical momentum.

 Xenophobic “Make America Great Again” policies and rhetoric have made many Americans wonder, uncomfortably, how this new, uncertain quasi-isolationism will further affect our reputation abroad and zeitgeist at home. Is this a temporary anomaly or the beginning of a era?

 U.S. business leaders are especially challenged with the uncertainties of frequent Trump “flip flops” on bilateral and multi-lateral tariffs and treaties (think NAFTA, Trans-Pacific Partnership) and existential global-issue agreements (Paris environment, Iran nuclear pacts). The result: a needed near-atomization of policies and performance by businesses in ad hoc coalitions with states, cities, NGOs and civic society.

So, what is the grand strategy that Christopher Preble seeks? We may well  have to wait until looming macro events —  the Mueller investigation, the November U.S election, or “black swans” (outlier events, extreme impact, explainable in retrospect)  — come to pass.