The Decline of US Power in World Affairs

  By Kevin Brown, March 30th 2008; Revised March 30th 2008
  Category: 21st Century


            The United States entering the 21st Century is losing it’s hegemony in World Affairs. This has been due to a wide range of factors including costly military interventions overseas, in addition to serious economic issues at home. Also US power on the world stage as a whole has been challenged due to the rise of other powers namely China and India. This is all occurring while the United State seems to taking very little action to stop the decline in its power 


            One of the first and foremost reasons US power is declining is due to costly foreign entanglements. This includes Iraq being the most name worthy one of all which has what can be argued as a staunchly negative effect on US geopolitical prestige abroad and has cost the United States much in terms of both blood and money. Iraq has also marked what many argue a change in US foreign policy in which the United States often embarks on a course of pre-emptive war which has complicated America’s standing with many of it’s allies as well as the political situations of the regions of the area’s it intervenes in for example such as in Iraq and Afghanistan which unlike Iraq is viewed by most to be a necessary war. However such entanglements whether necessary or not have begun to take their toll on the United States of America both militarily and economically. Further more during the prolong course of these conflicts US corporate interests sometimes with rumored political support often used these conflicts to gain profit through providing services or partaking in profiting of natural resources in the nation where the intervention was taking place. The controversy that arised from this again brought more controversy and scrutiny to American interventions and served even more to shake confidence in US foreign policy both at home and abroad. All of this has combined to create difficult dilemmas in terms of foreign policy for the United States as well as being harbinger of decline.


            The United States of America while occupied in conflicts overseas faces many difficult economic challenges at home. These challenges are in part connected with the difficulties over the past 5 years in US foreign policy which due to such issues such as increased defense spending in order to meet the rising cost of fighting conflicts in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and in addition to increased aid and spending on these nations which has further added to the cost which for Iraq alone by some estimates will reach 3 trillion dollars total. While for the conflict in Afghanistan, will most likely be in the hundreds of billions of dollars despite the fact that the United States has other nations joining it in dealing with the financial burden of the ongoing conflict. However domestically in the United States the incumbent Republican President and the Republican Congress as well including the recently elected Democratic led Congress (to some extent) have been reluctant to raise taxes to pay for these overseas ventures. This has contributed along with overspending in recent years to accumulate a massive deficit in which the United States can’t seem to successfully get rid of or even reduce to some extent. In addition to make matters worse regarding this deficit the US in order to pay its essential debts especially with the overseas police actions has resorted to borrowing large amounts of financial resources to keep the increasingly troubled US economy afloat which has continued the economically dangerous cycle in regards to it’s deficit. These two issues of deficits and borrowing in attempts to pay them off and keep the economy going have failed as the US economy starting in late 2005 started to slow when the United States Federal Reserve attempts to gain more foreign financial attention in the US economy by raising interest rates fell short leaving the housing boom in the US up until that time to bare the consequences this has in turn led to a larger crisis with the US economy as a whole especially in regards to credit which has led to a record amount of foreclosures with the US. In addition with this crisis effecting the larger American economy as a whole the US economy is predicted to actually contract by over 1% in the coming month instead of just slower growth. This is a serious sign for US economic power as a whole and also shows signs of a long term economic decline.


            Another reason that could be argued that the US is declining in terms of influence in world affairs is the challenge posed by nations coming to prominence on the world stage, China and India, along with a possibly resurgent Russia along with the possibility of a more unified European Union. However this challenge to the US as the sole superpower in the world is coming most namely from China politically, militarily and economically, and from India in a more economic and perhaps cultural form. However it isn’t so much the raise of these nations on the world stage that threatens the US in crucial factors as the United States has existed in a multi polar world before but more of a lack to adjust to changing geopolitical circumstances and the decline in the ability to meet new challenges. Take for example the US education system which could be argued is going around in circles due to strong misunderstanding among policy makers in how to deal with new conditions while the younger generations in nations like China and India are graduating more skilled workers and in much larger numbers then their American counterparts. In addition despite the fact that their economies are flawed in many ways these two nations are surging ahead economically while the United States is buried by deficits and a general economic decline in most recent times. This two nations especially China are heavily competing to gain geopolitical influence in regions of the world where US influence is retreating or ignorant namely Africa and Latin America. These nations are in part driven to reach out to previously ignored regions due to their resource hungry economies like the United States. However in their quest make new allies and gain new markets they are facing no competition from the United States. These are just some of the reasons why the United States is losing out to nations that pose a greater challenge to its power on the world stage with only a lackluster or no response to these new challenges.


   In terms of overall US foreign and economic policy, the United States of America has failed to meet and stand up to the new conditions that have occurred in geopolitics. This trend towards this conclusion has been evident since the end of the Cold War with the Fall of the Berlin Wall with the United States having what could be argued a sort of geopolitical malaise and listlessness as the world’s only superpower and in addition it could be stated that the United States has been in a geopolitical retreat ever since the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 with the United States becoming less involved in other issues in world affairs. In addition in regards to Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, the United States seems to continue to be fixated on this region while being unable to meet new threats and challenges. This is in addition to being unable to meet new economic challenges as well, In matter of fact the US shows it’s self to be most vulnerable to weakness in this area. Combined with lackluster political leadership across the spectrum of American politics the United States of America it can be argued by some can’t meet and reverse it’s decline both abroad and at home. 


In conclusion it could be assumed that the United States of America is a declining power on the world stage due in part to the factors discussed. In addition looking at the facts that lay below the surface as a whole the US and the policymakers that govern it need to address these pressing issues if the United States of America wants to remain a superpower continuing into the 21st Century. However looking at the issues now in perspective the Unites States is certainly well within the stages of a full fledged decline.                   





Secondary Sources


Ralph, Peters. Wars of Blood and Faith. Mechanicsburg PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.


Kennedy, Paul. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Lexington MA: Lexington Books, 1987.


Roberts, JM. The New Penguin History of the World. London UK: Penguin Group, 2007.