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Opinion

America: a superpower no more

Decline is occurring more rapidly than we think. It's time to embrace a new agenda.

By Walter Rodgers / April 8, 2009



Oakton, Va.

Two American icons, General Electric and Berkshire Hathaway, lost their triple-A credit ratings. Then China, America's largest creditor, called for a new global currency to replace the dollar just weeks after it demanded Washington guarantee the safety of Beijing's nearly $1 trillion debt holdings. And that was just in March.

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These events are the latest warnings that our world is changing far more rapidly and profoundly than we – or our politicians – will admit. America's own triple-A rating, its superpower status, is being downgraded as rapidly as its economy.

President Obama's recent acknowledgement that the US is not winning in Afghanistan is but the most obvious recognition of this jarring new reality. What was the president telling Americans? As Milton Bearden, a former top CIA analyst on Afghanistan, recently put it, "If you aren't winning, you're losing."

The global landscape is littered with evidence that America's superpower status is fraying.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan – arguably the world's most dangerous country – is falling apart, despite billions in US aid and support.

In Iraq, despite efforts in Washington to make "the surge" appear to be a stunning US victory, analysts most familiar with the region have already declared Iran the strategic winner of the Bush administration's war against Saddam Hussein. The Iraq war has greatly empowered Iran, nurturing a new regional superpower that now seems likely to be the major architect of the new Iraq.

Sadly, what was forgotten amid the Bush-era hubris was that America's edge always has been as much moral and economic as military. Officially sanctioned torture, the Abu Ghraib scandal, US invasion of a sovereign country without provocation, along with foolishly allowing radical Islamists to successfully portray the US as the enemy of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, shattered whatever moral edge America enjoyed before 2003.

Washington's uncritical support of Israel at the expense of Palestinians is perceived by much of the world as egregiously hypocritical. Consequently, America's collision course with Islam may be irreversible. Muslims believe Islam never lost the moral high ground – and they won't readily relinquish it for Western secularism.

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