10 reasons to doubt the United States of America is in political decline

Amid a global pandemic, economic struggle and election chaos, can the United States of America maintain its status as a political superpower on the world stage? Associate Dean (International) for the Faculty of Arts and Associate Professor in American Politics Tim Lynch gives us 10 reasons why this isn’t the end for the star-spangled banner.

  1. Nationalism. One of the USA’s greatest assets is its ability to assert its nationhood, rather than pool its sovereignty. It is this ideology that creates a shared community and represents a legal contract that all Americans, particularly immigrants, sign up to.
  2. It’s an experiment. The USA is a political science experiment. Constructed by framers more than twenty decades ago, it sought to prove a certain constitution and government structure could serve to protect unalienable rights. In the past 250 years, the nation has grown from insignificance to become the most powerful nation in the history of the world, as measured by any number of different metrics.
  3. Geography matters. The USA enjoys the benefits of a benign neighbourhood with friendly neighbours north and south. This is a privilege its political counterparts don’t enjoy (think Russia and China).
  4. British colonisation. An unpopular argument, but British colonisation affords the USA distinct advantages includinguse of the English language (the language of trade), an understanding of property rights and religious freedom.
  5. Religious freedom. The USA is the most religiously free nation in the history of the world. There are more freely practised religions in Los Angeles then there are in any other city or nation in the world. Religious freedom gives Americans a distinct advantage by creating a nation based on community, empathy and shared values. Religious war is not part of the USA’s history.
  6. Immigration. The USA is remade by immigrants who choose to build their lives there. People see themselves in America. There is an attraction that draws people in – an attraction that will endures whether it is on the rise or in decline.
  7. Declinism isn’t new. Declinism is as old as the nation itself. Throughout the past 250 years, peope have predicted America’s decline – predictions that have yet to be proven correct.
  8. Military power. The USA’s military power remains preeminent, and its capacity to project its power through military means is unmatched. The USA spends a lot on research and development to maintain this edge.
  9. Opposition. In global politics, there is no balancing coalition against American power. Realists predict that all great power creates balancing power, but the states whose politics are defined by their anti-Americanism (eg. Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea) are not comparable.
  10. Replacing the USA. There is no other country or trinational entity poised to replace America on the world stage. As a global pacifier, it’s still the indispensable nation that other nations have need of.

Tim Lynch is the author of several books about American politics, including In the Shadow of the Cold War: American Foreign Policy from George Bush Sr. to Donald Trump (Cambridge, 2020)Turf War: the Clinton Administration and Northern Ireland (Ashgate, 2004) and US Foreign Policy and Democracy Promotion (Routledge, 2013).


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