Under the Influence: Looking Long-Term

Under the Influence: Looking Long-Term

Measuring American influence from week to week seems enough of a challenge, as a glance at recent global developments illustrates. The electoral upheaval in Iran, for instance, will almost certainly give the U.S. the upper hand in any upcoming nuclear negotiations. Unless, of course, it doesn't. Likewise, China's distancing itself from North Korea will strengthen the U.S.'s position at the U.N. Security Council. Or it might not. The difficulty in knowing for sure arises from the fact that gauging even the nearest term outcomes means making sense of many moving parts.

What about the long term? Two recent studies from some of the smartest minds on the planet present portraits of both consensus and confusion. To simply state that the U.S. is in decline, as many do today, only catches a fraction of the reality. But a close look at future scenarios envisioned by the U.S. intelligence community and by the world's largest corporation, Shell International, makes one thing immediately clear: In coming decades, the U.S. will face an increasingly treacherous global order, engulfed by a concomitant energy and climate crisis.

What's most apparent about looking far into the future of U.S. influence is that, though many signs point to the very real possibility of decline, America also has all the potential to remain a guiding force. But doing so will demand a fundamental re-engineering of how the U.S. engages with the rest of the world.

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