Is America over? Not by a long shot.
American decline is the conventional wisdom, as the United States suffers from high unemployment, crushing debt, and political gridlock. Here's the bigger picture: a competitive and innovative economy, reliable allies, a superior military, and foreign autocrats on the run.
Some recent polls show that between 60 and 70 percent of Americans believe that the United States is in decline. And who can blame them? High unemployment. Crushing debt. Political gridlock. And students who think that Plato created the first plate.Skip to next paragraph
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The picture looks bad. Even the famous magazine Foreign Affairs has gone so far as to ask on its cover: "Is America Over?"
Well, here's an answer: "No." For all the unrelenting gloom that has descended upon Americans like an ever-present Addams Family cloud, the country still remains very strong in key areas of global vitality. It is unlikely to be superseded by another country anytime soon.
The stakes in the debate on American decline are big. Exaggerated views of demise can create a self-fulfilling prophecy at home, encourage global troublemakers, and produce world economic and strategic instability.
But let's just consider these facts about the US:
•It has had the most competitive major economy in the world over the past several years, according to the World Economic Forum. Only the small states of Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Singapore sometimes eclipse it. Even the European Union countries are now looking to America to help them out of their debt crisis, as ironic as that may sound.
•It has the world's best entrepreneurs and by far the highest number of Fortune 500 companies. It remains at the forefront of the technologies of the future, such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, and has the advantage in cyberspace, even though it has fallen behind in some other areas, like green technologies.
•It remains by far the world's leading magnet for immigrants, allowing it to draw on millions of bright, hardworking people. It's hard to exaggerate such brain power, which constantly helps renew the country.
•It has trustworthy allies in NATO, the EU, the Group of 20 industrialized countries, and elsewhere that usually help it meet national and international goals. Contrast that with, let's say, China and Russia. They suspect each other and often lack such global support.