Decline and Fall Guys

As Georgia licks its wounds, a morally dubious industry has sprung up to churn out books celebrating the end of American global hegemony

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A spate of well-reviewed books has come out on both sides of the Atlantic announcing – and to some degree celebrating – the end of American global hegemony. They have titles like The Post-American World. They point to the rise of China, Russia and India, and hail with relief the return to a “multipolar” world.

This wave of “declinist” literature, as it has been described in the US, recalls previous ones in the 1970s and 1980s. (In the 80s the end of American power was linked to the apparent rise to world dominance of Japan.)

All of these earlier declinist books were premature in their prognosis of American decline. It may be that this time the declinists are right; certainly the economic and even military gap between America and other powers is narrowing. However, it is far from clear that the quietly delighted tone of today’s declinists is justified. A world in which China, Russia and India set the tone for discussion of human rights, corruption, disarmament, corporate responsibility and the rule of law is hardly likely to be a gentler, nicer one than our own.

Already the people of Georgia have discovered that the exciting new world of multipolarity and American weakness may be a very dangerous one indeed.