The American Order’s Breakdown?

In 2001 French political scientist Emmanuel Todd released a book called “After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order” in which he states, that the USA is about to lose their state as a great power. Because his prediction from 1976 that the Soviet Union will collapse actually became true this has led to a discussion whether he is right again and the USA have already lost their world political influence. I therefore want to try to weigh some arguments up against each other to explain my own position.

To my mind the United States of America are still a world power and by far one of the most important ones. This belief is based on the following arguments:

An argument against the USA still being a great power is that they have got a weak military. This statement is based on the fact that the United States haven’t threatened to fight or fought a war against another big nation since the end of the cold war. All nations that they attacked were small countries with bad militaries like Cuba or the Iran. I strongly disagree with that argument because of these two facts: Firstly I don’t think you can say America has got a small Army, and additionally their soldiers are trained well (And they’ve got lots of nukes!). Secondly there are actual statistics that state that the willingness to fight a war is the lowest within the population of all the countries that are currently referred to as global powers¹. And they all have one other thing in common: very little amount of the population is currently in army service². I don’t think that the willingness to fight a war (against each other) can be part of the definition of a great power. The ability to fight one might be part of it, but as previously stated I don’t doubt the ability of the United State’s army.

Critics may be right claiming that the USA have lost their independence over the course of the last decades, that they are not completely self-sustaining anymore and are therefore reliant on other countries, even if they don’t agree with their politics. The most common example of this is of course the People’s Republic of China. The question that many people ask is how can a state that needs his opponents to survive be called a great, if not super power? But on the other hand, despite the fact that it’s questionable that the USA was ever autarkic, I don’t think this is an argument that works nowadays. In the times of globalization it is impossible for any big country not to rely on other countries, especially rising industry nations like China. Nearly all western countries need their products these days and so does the USA – but that’s nothing special and therefore this is not a powerful argument. Contrariwise this argument would mean that there are no great powers at all in the world, since all the other countries rely on the USA, not only economically, but also culturally: movies, music, design, food. The American Culture has influenced the whole world – and it still does. Especially China is influenced by American Culture (if it wasn’t so, why are there even fake Apple Stores on the street of most big Chinese cities?) – so it’s a two-sided relationship.

The logical conclusion from all of this is that the United States of America still are a great power. Even if they might not be the super power of the world anymore it’s doubtless to me that they are still one of the most important nations on earth, not only political seen but also culturally. I therefore disagree with Emmanuel Todd: In don’t think the American Order has broken down yet and I highly doubt that it will soon.

 

¹ http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi-data/#/2011/DIST

² http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi-data/#/2011/ARMY