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The American eagle has not crashed

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There's a little media flurry over a controversial article in Foreign Policy magazine by Yale scholar Immanuel Wallerstein suggesting that the American eagle has crash landed, and that US dominance on the world scene has peaked.

True, there is an ebb and flow of power throughout history. As the French and the Spanish and the British well know, empires rise, then fall. But America's decline is not yet, nor in the foreseeable future.

It is not nationalistic tub-thumping, but simply a statement of fact to record American strength in a number of critical areas.

Militarily the US is formidable. It commands the air and seas as does no other nation. As was proved in the Afghanistan campaign, it is advanced beyond any other country in the development of remote-controlled weaponry.

Its military strength is matched by the strength of its economy – an economy that can shrug off the dotcoms' collapse, a recession, a major terrorist attack, a scandal in some corporate boardrooms, and a sluggish recovery from that recession, while remaining stable and growing.

Formidable power sometimes spurs envy and even enmity from lesser powers, and certainly there is criticism aplenty from foes, and even friends, abroad. Yet it is to America that much of the world turns for diplomatic leadership. For instance, only the United States, it seems, can offer a glimmer of hope for resolution of the seemingly intractable confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the development of new technology, the US leads. As a beacon of democracy, it is the pole of attraction for the oppressed and disadvantaged of many nations.

As an article by two Dartmouth College professors, Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth, argues in the current Foreign Affairs magazine, what truly distinguishes the current international system is American dominance in all of these areas simultaneously.

No credible challenger – not China, nor Japan, nor Europe, and certainly not Russia – looms as an early force to topple this current primacy.

What is true is that the Bush administration faces some major decisions as to how it will use this extraordinary power in the remainder of its term, or terms. After the muddled pursuit of foreign policy in the Clinton presidency, the Bush administration is refreshing in its resolve, particularly its grim determination to war against terrorism. But it has some significant political problems at home and abroad.


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