American Decline: Another BRIC in the Wall

I didn't find much to disagree with in Dan Drezner's Newsweek corrective reminding folks that reports of America's demise have been greatly exagerrated. Drezner concurs that in relative terms, America is certainly in decline. Part of that is the short term effects of the Bush administration's various misadventures, and part of it due to the rapid rise of what Parag Khanna calls the Second World (and what others refer to as the BRIC's: Brazil, Russia, India and China).

Drezner makes some good points about the resilience of American markets, as well as the structural realities that make them the global choice for idle capital in search of a dumping ground. He also cited China's strengthening of its regulatory procedures for export goods in response to American lobbying as an example of American influence.

What I think he neglected, though, are the emerging structural constraints to the exercise of American power, both hard and soft. One of the lessons of Iraq is that weak and failed states (whether of organic causes or the result of regime change) are resistant to America's military capabilities. One of the lessons of Iran's nuclear program is that the BRIC's can use tactical maneuvers to frustrate American strategic aims. The error in both cases, I believe, was to underestimate the extent to which our size renders certain operations impractical. The result is that we've offered the world a playbook for how to limit our effectiveness.

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