THE ECONOMIST – OCTOBER 24TH 2021 – Kenneth Cukier – By-invitation editor
|Worrying about American decline is the Halley’s comet of political commentary, always orbiting and returning. Yet concerns over America’s standing compared to the Soviet Union or the Japanese economy have evolved into more amorphous challenges: China, climate change, imperial overstretch and domestic polarisation.|
The Economist aimed to explore these issues with a By-invitation series on the future of American power, which ran from August to October. We sought a wide spectrum of thinkers who rarely appear in the same company, from Henry Kissinger on the right to Noam Chomsky on the left; from the Indian novelist Arundhati Roy to the political philosopher Francis Fukuyama.
Strikingly, few contributors embraced outright declinism—the views were nuanced. Though America faces domestic divisions and is no longer the unchallenged hegemon it was 25 years ago, most contributors believe it remains strong enough to project power globally. But that will change if America fails to overcome its internal problems. We invite you to read, consider their views and share your own on social media.
|Henry Kissinger on why America failed in AfghanistanIt was not possible to turn the country into a modern democracy, but creative diplomacy and force might have overcome terrorism, says the American statesman|
|Francis Fukuyama on the end of American hegemonyAfghanistan does not mark the end of the American era; the challenge to its global standing is political polarisation at home, says a foreign-policy expert|
|Arundhati Roy on America’s fiery, brutal impotenceThe US leaves Afghanistan humiliated, but now faces bigger worries, from social polarisation to environmental collapse, says a novelist and essayist|
|Noam Chomsky on the cruelty of American imperialismThe United States remains unrivalled in military and economic strength, with terrible consequences for the world, says an American foreign-policy critic|
|Minxin Pei on why China will not surpass the United StatesChina will continue its rapid growth for a time, but it faces big obstacles—not least its ageing population and the stifling rule of the current regime|
|Anne-Marie Slaughter on why America’s diversity is its strengthAmerica must go from global policeman to problem-solver while overcoming political dysfunction at home|
|John Bolton on how a new era of American alliances is under wayThe AUKUS accord heralds a wise and necessary shift in how America forges ties and counters China, says a former American national security adviser|
|Nirupama Rao on America’s need for wisdom and allies in AsiaDespite policy failures, the United States is required to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, says a former Indian diplomat|
|Niall Ferguson on why the end of America’s empire won’t be peacefulAs it leaves Afghanistan in chaos, America’s decline mirrors Britain’s a century ago. It may also invite wider conflict, warns a historian|