Indispensable No More
THE SOURCE: “The End of the American Era” by Stephen M. Walt, in The National Interest, Nov.–Dec. 2011.
The country's chattering class seems fixated on the question of whether the United States is on the verge of a fatal decline. Stephen M. Walt says the alarm is exaggerated. “Whether the future world is unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar, Washington is going to be one of those poles—and almost certainly the strongest of them,” he writes. Walt, a Harvard professor of international affairs, argues, however, that the “American era”—in which the country was the “sole superpower in a unipower world”—is over. In light of its diminished influence, the United States must be careful about where and how it deploys its power.
The 1990s marked the height of the American era as well as its end, Walt observes. Eastern Europe shook off the shackles of communism and China’s economy soared. Within the past decade, India, Turkey, and Brazil have experienced economic surges that brought them to the forefront of international affairs. The United States has made mistakes that hastened the diminishment of its authority, namely the “expensive defeats” in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial crisis. The country’s inability to broker a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine has also weakened its hand, Walt says.
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