Don’t get me wrong. American foreign policy should be primarily multilateral in a complex, interconnected world. And Washington must accommodate the rise of powers such as China, Brazil, and India, and try to see how they can contribute more to global security – especially China which has the financial wherewithal to do so and should contribute much more than it does.
But a weaker America would mean a much less stable world, chiefly because there are no sensible substitutes for the range of tasks it undertakes. And so the real goal for other major countries should be to preserve America’s global leadership or at least not undermine it. And the real goal in Washington should be to create slowly the diplomatic architecture to bring others into roles of greater responsibility.
If that works, maybe America can take a breather from its global tasks, some time down the road.
Steve Yetiv is a professor of political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He is the author of “The Petroleum Triangle” and “The Absence of Grand Strategy” and is working on a book on US decline.