By Susan Glasser
The opinions expressed are her own.
Conservative agitator Pat Buchanan’s new book says America might not survive until 2025; it’s called “The Suicide of a Superpower.” Even less alarmist observers are suddenly sounding a lot like Buchanan, as economists now predict that China may surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy a lot sooner than we thought, and important conferences are convened to deal with what Fareed Zakaria memorably dubbed “the post-American world.”
Over at Foreign Policy, my colleague Joshua Keating (coiner of the “Amerislump” phrase) has taken to tracking all the gloom-and-doom punditry under the heading “Decline Watch” on our website—and not a day goes by without a classic example, from the poverty-stricken new muppet on Sesame Street who doesn’t have enough to eat, to the supposed cocaine slump on Wall Street and the new government initiative to attract Chinese shoppers here — so they can buy Made in China goods, but at the cheap prices caused by our undervalued dollar.
The zeitgeist about America is so bleak that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even begins her speeches these days being forced to remind audiences that the U.S. economy is still the world’s largest and its workers by far the most productive. Clinton, no declinist, invariably does her best to convince us that America is not retreating from the world at a time of national angst. Or at least that it should not.
“Beyond our borders,” she wrote in a recent piece for Foreign Policy that argued that the United States should make a strategic pivot away from the wars of the Middle East and toward the economic opportunities of Asia, many now question “America’s intentions — our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make — and keep credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action.”
Clinton’s answer is a resounding yes, but the questions themselves are revealing — even extraordinary — coming from a sitting Secretary of State, and the context is pretty clear: These are angst-ridden times to be an unabashed advocate of America’s role in the world, when everyone from Tea Partiers at home to financial markets abroad wonders about the staying power of this humbled superpower.