American politics seem to be pervaded right now with a gloomy tone – Mitt Romney in particular has been playing up a rhetoric of “Restoring” America (with the implication that we are already fallen, not just that we are headed that way, which is think is his real point). Americans seem to agree with him- according to a December Gallup poll, only a slim majority of Americans (53%) say the US is the “#1 military power in the world” right now.
Go outside America, though, and most experts would disagree – America is still very much the preeminent power in the world, though it faces challenges in the next century:
Abroad, foreign policy experts are following this discussion with a mix of bemusement and concern. A dozen of them, in nine countries on five continents, shared their thoughts with The Associated Press — agreeing that the U.S. stands alone as a global superpower, yet perceiving an array of weaknesses that could undermine its stature as numerous emerging powers seek a bigger role on the world stage.
Cited most often: the partisan political gridlock in Washington — viewed as hindering efforts to tackle other long-term problems.
George Friedman (the CEO of Statfor and author of a couple books) has an interesting take on this – he essentially argues that the US seems to make such crappy decisions precisely becausewe can afford to.A tiny country beset on all sides by enemies has to be extremely conservative, paranoid and decisive, lest a mistake result in their wholesale destruction. The US can bungle things massively for decades (as some would no doubt argue we have) and still be a massive, wealthy country with easily defendable borders and huge stores of natural and human capital.
*: I really wish Gallup had followed up the question with “If the US isn’t #1, then who the hell is?”