The Fading of America: Is American Dominance in the World Ending?

Every great civilizations fall. From the Romans to the ancient Mayans, history is littered with kingdoms and nations who "ruled the world" for a period of time only to descend into obscurity afterwards.

So, when I read this interesting Newsweek article by Fareed Zakaria, an excerpt of his book The Post-American World, I couldn't help but think: Is it America's turn?

Perhaps not: American technology, ideas, and economic powers are still very strong, but the rest of the world is catching up fast:

American anxiety springs from something much deeper, a sense that large and disruptive forces are coursing through the world. In almost every industry, in every aspect of life, it feels like the patterns of the past are being scrambled. [...] for the first time in living memory—the United States does not seem to be leading the charge. Americans see that a new world is coming into being, but fear it is one being shaped in distant lands and by foreign people.

Look around. The world's tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Once quintessentially American icons have been usurped by the natives. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year. America no longer dominates even its favorite sport, shopping. The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn't make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world's ten richest people are American. These lists are arbitrary and a bit silly, but consider that only ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

These factoids reflect a seismic shift in power and attitudes. It is one that I sense when I travel around the world. In America, we are still debating the nature and extent of anti-Americanism. One side says that the problem is real and worrying and that we must woo the world back. The other says this is the inevitable price of power and that many of these countries are envious—and vaguely French—so we can safely ignore their griping. But while we argue over why they hate us, "they" have moved on, and are now far more interested in other, more dynamic parts of the globe. The world has shifted from anti-Americanism to post-Americanism. - via reddit

Illustration: Joe Zeff Design / Newsweek

One thing to consider is the rapid growth and development of various nations who now have stable economies and political systems. Also, wealth is globalizing as we see in nations like India and China and smaller nations like Kenya and Nigeria closely following up. This can be attributed to the growing middle class world wide which economically are the backbone of developing and developed nations.

Either way...I think it would be nice to have another large power in the World (my hopes would be India) as this would help stabilize many neighbouring nations, however, just as history has pointed out many many times (never forget your history and past or suffer the consequences!!) that sometimes two incompatible powers can be very detrimental.
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In public opinion we have been way off base with assuming we are still number one. Matter of fact, the world sees us as a huge smoldering pile of number 2.

"the watch dog of the world" has been idle licking its privates for some time now. Unfortunately no matter what we do as a nation at this time we will be seen as the school yard bully. And the vision of it wouldn't be wrong. Problem is our men are dying because the head bully can't walk away. He might get egg in his face that matches the shit on his shoes.
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Despite living here all my life, I've always believed that America was just another country, albeit rather aloof and often arrogant at its "status" among the world. It's about time people see the reality of our own mediocrity. And I think a fair percentage of Americans would agree as well... it's just that there are plenty who still unflinchingly believe "We're #1!," and scream it loud enough to overshadow the quieter, humbler Americans.
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Zakaria's brand of prognostication is interesting but it's also more than a little simplistic. Pointing to pockets of wealth elsewhere in the world doesn't tell us much. In fact, the world has moved on, but we don't know where and who with. Japan was thrown up as the next great power in the 1980s but it's been hobbled by stagnation and the growth of low-cost competitors in Asia. The Asian Tigers were the next big thing but 1997 indicated how delicate was their balance. China certainly looms large. And that's just it. China looms large but of what? It is an extremely poor country and whose legs are wobbly from forty years of Mao and ten years of this bizarre combo of satanic mills capitalism and strong state communism.

After two hundred years of hopeful ideology and wicked economic regimes it seems we're about to jettison the hope and settle for the wicked. It's despostism, a bribed middle class, and ever moving site of worker bees and a huge global surplus populations.
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People please....I am also American and I am not born in United States. America is a C-O-N-T-I-N-E-N-T. the name of this country is United States of America. Only yourselves say "americans". The rest of the world uses the real name.
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Seismic shift, my posterior. So there are bigger examples of lots of things in other countries, so what? What I'd like to know is why so many on the left are in such a hurry to usher in the demise of the United States.

The founders of this country did something incredibly right, and that has led to the US being a shining example of what can become of a land where freedom and liberty are recognized God-given rights. If the US falters and wanes, I would place the blame directly on the shoulders of those who are trying to lead us away from our roots and down the path of socialism.


@ Avier said: "Only yourselves say “americans”. The rest of the world uses the real name."

So, what should citizens of the United States call themselves? US-ians? Statsians? When people say "America" they're rarely referring to Central or South America. Almost universally they refer to The United States Of America.
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Bollywood is not the biggest movie industry in the world if you count worldwide revenues and the size of the global audience. Hollywood movies are seeen all over the world: North and Souht America, Europe, Asia, Africa... Bollywood movies are only popular in Asia and Asian communities around the world.

Bollywood is good at producing a *lot* of low budget movie titles but not so good at marketing them around the world.
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Anyone who has studied macroeconomics knows that nations go through stages of development. America used to be a manufacturing economy, but has long since moved on to become a service economy. Manufacturing economies draw in a lot of hard cash in the short run, the way America did after the World Wars and Japan and China have been doing since the 70's, but ultimately the dependence on cheap labor and a degrading environment catch up with them.
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Your headline is misleading, Alex. The point of the article was not that the US was fading, as many claim, but simply that the rest of the world is now catching up.

I thought it was a good read, though. Thanks for posting it.
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The USA isn't a civilization, it's an empire, a country and perhaps a hegemony.

The civilization or culture zone "we" belong to is the western one, which I can't see going down anytime soon. People are still wanting to be more like the westerners in other cultures. Furthermore I don't believe civilizations can really die out anymore as we go towards a more global perspective.

If you really meant the USA as a country and it's power, then yes, I agree that it can't be kept at this level with the Asian countries growing economically like they do while your debt to them rises evermore.

As I live in Europe I would like to see the EU grow to become a more significant political power than it is today. :P
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This is not necessarily my point of view, but I have travelled to many places of the world (and lived there, not just visited) and have gotten to know its inhabitants.

I have noticed that the reason for anti-Americanism is not jealousy or anything of that sort, but it is that people believe that Americans are ignorant, arrogant, and lazy, and that they look at the world through rose colored glasses.

They see the people of America as loud, obnoxious, and fake, and they laugh at them.
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The article was interesting, but some points make me wonder. For example, he says, "It is an accident of history that for the last several centuries, the richest countries in the world have all been very small in terms of population." Is it really an "accident"? Who's usually better off... the mother of 14 or the mother of two? It's probably easier to be prosperous when you don't have to deal with the problems caused by too many people and not enough resources.

The end of American dominance is not an accident, either. It was predictable. Things come and go. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
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I like to think of it as that the "US empire" left such a huge shoe to fill that it would take almost the rest of the world to fill it.

I don't see what the big deal is, status quo leads to stagnation, after all.
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Biggest this, largest that...big deal.
You know what else's level of advancement could be determined by size? Dinosaurs. As they evolved, their bodies grew, not their brains.

Unless size is always proportional to internal R&D budgets, giant exhibitions of old technology mean nothing.
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Calling America "America" is correct and even follows the naming convention for the rest of the countries in the Americas.

United States of **America** ==> America
Estados Unidos de **Mexico** ==> Mexico
**Canada** ==> Canadia
Republica **Argentina** ==> Argentina
Republica Federativa do **Brasil** ==> Brazil
Republica del **Ecuador** ==> Equador
Republica de **El Salvador** ==> El Salvador

In other languages this may not be the case, but in English it seems that calling our country "America" works just fine.

If you feel slighted, feel free to say you're from America.
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@Avier: You are correct, we refer to ourselves as Americans. Its a figure of speech, a long-established shorthand, much simpler than saying "I'm a United States of American". As with many words, there are regional differences in meaning. I know many people from the C-O-N-T-I-N-E-N-T get all hot and bothered at this difference in usage, but get over it. The Newsweek articles was published for an "American" audience, so to speak. Nobody is sleighting you.

Secondly, though Zakaria's overall argument is probably correct, the examples given in this blurb are rather silly. The "tallest building", "largest casino", "largest mall" - these are just carnivalesque status symbols. Rule of law, long-term economic stability, the ability to accommodate sustained growth without inequalities and social/political unrest - these are the more significant (and difficult to assess) questions.

Orjan: keep smiling, and hoping about that one. The EU seems poised for a century of steady decline.
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Thank you gatherdust and Bean, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Sure the United States is going through some rough times with the war in Iraq, and potential economic recession, But I don't see this as a "falling" of the United States. If you look around the world you see other countries facing similar problems. Also, there really is no one country thats stands out to take the "number 1" title.
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First of all, this isn't a recent idea at all, it's at the very least twenty years old - I don't understand why it's up here.

Second of all, the problem, to paraphrase #2 in Austin Powers, is that there is no 'world' anymore, there's just the corporations. Economy has supply and demand. Our politicians sold our country out decades ago, creating a "Global Economy" where the poor of the world supply and America's middle class buy. NAFTA was just the final nail in the coffin.

I know some are going to roll their eyes at this post, but if it weren't the case and our politicians were actually for the people, our public education system wouldn't be the lowest in the industrialized world, college would be affordable, our manufacturing and support jobs wouldn't have gone overseas, a blind eye wouldn't be turned to illegal immigration (please read that world "illegal" again before you flame) so a slave class could be created and the minimum wage and labor unions could be circumvented, our nation would use our nations own oil reserves and research ethanol to remove our dependency on foreign oil and the devastation its done to our economy... the list goes on and on.
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lulz @ know-it-all americans.
i seriously dont care whats going on in that part of the world. and why does it ALWAYS have to be a competition when it comes to americans? biggest skyscraper, biggest mall, richest people... what do you win by it? a cookie? americans with their homicide rates, extreme poverty going hand to hand with excessive over consumption, rotten economy and that cocky arrogant attitude. what a great country indeed.
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Fareed has a gift for broad statements. I once read an op-ed by him in the Washington Post where he claimed that Americans 'don't do science' anymore, therefore we needed to relax the post 9-11 immigration rules and protocols. As an American with Mathematics and Computer Science degrees, I was not impressed with his logic.

In that case he was justifying policies he no doubt wanted anyway, on the basis of their ability to promote the US's scientific standing. Guess he's going to use the US's geopolitical standing to try to get the country doing what he want's more generally now.

Don't think much of this type of argument. This is what kept European powers trying to hold on to their colonies after WWII.
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I agree with sparge, in that it is not the US falling behind, but the rest of the world catching up.

I have a bad feeling about China, though. Simply too many people, getting industrialized too quickly. The concept of human rights means nothing to them, either.
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Monica, thanks for bringing that up. What I can't believe is that the US basketball, Dream Team loses to people like Puerto Rico. What the hell!? We invented that game man. Sheeeeeiiiit.

Anyway, I don't care what our national status becomes, I will never watch soccer.
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ptitz said: i seriously dont care whats going on in that part of the world

Really? Because the simple fact that you bothered to post here says otherwise.

and also

americans with their homicide rates, extreme poverty going hand to hand with excessive over consumption, rotten economy and that cocky arrogant attitude

Actually it sounds like you'd fit right in.
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E, sorry but I have to say this, America didn't invent basketball. Yes it was first played in the states, but it was invented by a Canadian.
Maybe another case of the so-called world view of the ignorant, arrogant American?
Growing up, whenever my family encountered someone who was loud, rude, a ninnyhammer or obnoxious, my parents would explain to us that it was simply because they're American. Even if they were refering to our extended family (many of my ancestors came to Canada from the States). False information, but just an example of how the rest of the world, or at least a small part of it, views Americans.
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i wonder if it makes people feel good to come post on here about how all americans are ignorant and arrogant. what's more ignorant or arrogant? me the american, or you who assumes me to be so just because of where i am from? grow up.
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Basketball was first played in Springfield Mass, not Canada. That makes it American as far as I'm concerned.

Go back to clubbing baby seals if you don't like it.
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Number 1 or Number 2, Number 38?

Depends on what your criteria is. A while back a poll was taken of European hotel managers about their guests.
Americans were the No. 1 tippers and No. 3 in politeness (behind the Japanese and the British).
What about books published? New patent filings? Trial by a jury of your peers? Opportunities for appeal and redress of grievances?

Well, Guantanamo prisoners excluded...

I think popular opinions about Americans reflect attitudes about Bush and Co. rather than the rest of us. Of course, when he won in the second election it did reflect poorly on America as a whole.

The best thing we can do to improve our standing in the international community and economy is to stop voting for Republicans.

Of course, if America is such a terrible place why do so many people try so hard to move here? Despite our faults, America is still the "land of opportunity". Its the best place for innovation, free speech and public accountability. We just need to keep it that way.
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The center of the world has really shifted to the east (middle+far). The battle for raw materials and energy has started. The battle for a moderate Islam has started. The battle of currencies Euro vs $ has started.
America is still the land of freedom and opportunities, mind the hard work. I don't think this is going to change. But its place in the world may...

With a state welfare/social security, maybe it will be frenchified :p
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fair point, although i must say it is rather arrogant to say that american ideas, technology and economic status are so superior. im sure japan would be close competition in that field. sounds like a rather biased article.
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"Go back to clubbing baby seals if you don’t like it."

What does that have to do with basketball? Or this article, for that matter?

Or was it just a cheap shot because you're an insecure little man/woman?
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no, seriously, i just DONT WANT TO KNOW. im not going to try to prove anyone here that ive got bigger balls because apparently my country is so much bigger. has the most powerful(?) army. or more impact on global economy(china does, CHINA). im not going to go to other countries and make a fool of myself looking down at everyone there.

excuse me, i really dont want to start a flame war here. what exactly are you trying to prove? that i really DO care about americans? that its so bloody obvious that i cant live without those silly chaps?

i didnt even read half of that article to be honest.
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fareed zakaria is taking advantage of the strike while the iron is hot mode of business. i don't blame him for making the financial decision to publish a headline grabbing tome, but he is being intellectually dishonest.

everyone seems to have temporal myopia. rome lasted for more than 800 years between its founding and its fall. had you checked things out at the time of the punic wars, you would have declared "hannibal ante portas" and said rome was falling. instead, their greatest days were in front of them.

the united states leads in so many categories, across every spectrum. no other nation on the planet holds such an advantage. china may have economic power, but their philosophical underpinning is weak. europe has diplomatic power, but no military strength. only america has power, and the ability to project that power, in every sphere.

thing king is dead, long live the king.
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It's a bit like how the UK used to dominate the world, the US has had it's turn, now it's Asia's time to lead, by the end of this century I'm confident this will be the case. The 3 Trillion dollar war in Iraq will be a ball and chain for America for generations to come.

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ptitz, for a guy who claims not to care, you sure are defensive.

I apologize on behalf of whichever American beat you up when you were in grade school. He obviously didn't know how hard you'd take it.
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Most of the worldwide anti-American feeling is focused towards the American government, not the American people. The Muslims are upset because of your support to Israel, your military bases in Saudi Arabia and of course the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The South Americans are pissed off because of what you did in Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador and all the military coups you've instigated there. The South Koreans and the Japanese are annoyed with you because every other month a marine rapes a teenager and gets away with it. And I suppose some Vietnamese are rightfully outraged because of what Agent Orange, one of the defoliant deployed during the Vietnam war, is doing to their children. Basically the biggest USA supporters are in Africa.
The fact that the American government main purpose is to ruthlessly promote its own interests around the world (rather than peace, development and free market as the propaganda goes) was until recently known only to those who had to suffer the consequences of American "interventions" as well as those who didn't buy the "U.S.A. as a world cop" marketing ploy. Today, most people who have followed the run-up to the Iraq invasion are aware that yet again, another dominant power takes advantage of its dominant position to ensure that it stays that way, by any means necessary. Five centuries from now, historians (if there are any left) will probably describe the U.S.A. as a formidable merchant country which did its best to extend its influence, like many other countries before it.
Let's hope that, when America eventually loses its leadership, the fall won't be too violent and that the global hostility against America will have declined.
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i was responding to sparges post...

i dont care for any of those things americans try to boast about so hard. i care for all the people that get screwed over in process.

and yes, what a cunning insight into my childhood years.

i actually knew an american kid that went to a local school here. he was so out of touch with real world. kids used to beat him up. first for being a douchebag and second for being an american. his mom sent him to international school because of that.
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they werent my friends. i cant see why you made this assumption. i knew that american kid, thats all. as a matter of fact bullying isnt all that common around here. guess they really didnt like him.

whats your point?
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Actually, ptitz, I was just pointing out that for someone who berates Americans because they are "cocky and arrogant", you came off awfully cocky and arrogant yourself.
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1.You find Americans arrogant.
2.Where you come from, people beat up Americans, at least partially - for being Americans. So who's the asshole here?

Perhaps you're the bigot? Perhaps you are that which you claim to hate? Thats what I meant by the self awareness bit.

I don't see what's so hard to follow.

Was actually trying to clear things up. My apologies if I offended.
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I crack up whenever I read some Islamic hothead predicting the "End of the US" any day. They get all excited thinking about a world with no US of A in it.

OK, we are the 3rd most populous country in the world. No 1 economy, one of the largest landmasses. Our country takes almost a whole continent and has massive shorelines on both of the planet's 2 biggest oceans. The US has the largest military, many top universities, and top research facilities on the planet.

It contains 300 million armed, dedicated, pretty religious, and highly motivated citizens.

So where exactly does a country like that disappear to? Yea Mr. Muslim fanatic... keep dreaming ya idiot. We are going to continue to be your worst nightmare for generations to come.
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as an Australian, I'd be less concerned about America's status in the next century than your own country. Being a colony of China doesn't strike me as all that awesome.
Cheers Mate.
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thats a bold assumption, to think that where i come from(when as a matter of fact i dont really come from anywhere since i dont really have a cultural or national identity) people beat up americans for fun. poor bastard was 11. kids are cruel these days. i mentioned it more as of anecdote of a kind. but you say what, american kids dont beat up other american kids in america?

and ok, say i am arrogant bigot. so since i am arrogant bigot, its ok for americans to be that way as well?

i think i expressed my point quite clearly. i dont like americans for boasting too much how great their country is. for all the wrong reasons. to the point of narcissism. because your government spending all the money on (read awesome)army instead of proper health care is not something to feel proud about. in my opinion.

but what is YOUR point exactly?
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It's about time the rest of the world caught up and starting picking up some of the slack.

And when they get there, let's see how they handle all the crap we've had to deal with in the last hundred years or so.
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Nicholas D

Your points have been the most even handed here.

Spot on about the current status of the US in a broader historical setting.

A lot of nit picking from a lot of other posters, who site the singular and try and expand that to define and support their arguments.

Also just because the author of th report has a middle eastern sounding name doesn't automatically make him an Islamic mad man.

No more that being a yank denotes gun toting right wing tornado bait yahoo.

And I use the word yank to denote US Americans.

I don't see it as being in anyway offensive...despite all over the world the Word is usually suffixed with "...go home"
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all i have to say is that nobody should really be surprised by this. it is called nature.. everything from truly organic to completely artificial goes through cycles and we can't *freak out* when we're on the downward. i think we have to give ourselves a little more credit as far as intelligence goes. yes yes, we've made some incredibly stupid judgments that are embarassing enough not to mention. but we've also made some HUGE strides, not just here in the US but all over the world. this is all just part of the redistribution of wealth and power, and i gotta say- we americans are exhausted. i'm GLAD other countries are taking the torch.. give us a vacation for a couple years and maybe our economy will bounce back a little bit. and then maybe we'll make the top ten list for completely new reasons. i just hope everyone keeps their head on straight and doesn't let the media and little articles like this one skew the perception that we're completely capable of living through what disasters we bring upon ourselves. human beings are the most adaptable animals on the face of the planet, and a little status change shouldn't have us running home to our mommies.
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I don't worry so much about America's dominance in the rest of the world so much as I worry about our stability within our own economy on our own soil.

When I see situations like the Katrina disaster and the whole mess that has created, along with the crash of the housing market, the growing cost of the average quality of life, and the actual possibility of having a female or ethic president for the first time in our great nation, it all signals very radical times for our great nation. It's scary but exciting at the same time. Sure, things have gotten pretty bad over the last eight years but maybe the next eight will be a time of positive growth.

The overall quality of life for the average American is still light years ahead of other countries. And we are still looked at as an important powerhouse in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Look at the Dafur situation for example. The fact that we haven't taken as big a step in helping fight that genocide makes us look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world..... because we are still looked as one of, if not the strongest country in the world.

Also, one quick side note:

What some people may not realize is that America plays a huge role in the development of the other countries that are "moving ahead of us." Like Dubai. A lot of American investors are why that place is what is it. Outsourcing is another example. My company tried to lay off some employees to an outsourcing company based in India...... owned by Americans.
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If the economy of America-in-debt ever crashes, expect a Katrina-like response on a massive scale. The people are asleep in their dreamland of useless "look-at-me-my-life-really-matters-read-it-on-my-vapid-blog", dvd & gameplaying escapes from reality, hell, most Americans believe history in fictional movies to be real. The people would awake from their sleep and see the mess of their country and what would they do with it?

We all know what happens to people when the electricy goes off for a few hours, they start to think and talk to one another and their neighbors again, until their power goes back on and they rush back to their imaginary worlds.
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The Cold sad truth is the most dominant country, the #1, is the one with the greatest military. If your rich, but I'm strong, I'm gonna kick your ass and steal your money. Face it. Although stronger economies do lead to greater militarys if they have the natural resources to support it.
Places in the middle east cannot, but China and America are basically the same in everyway geographicly, so would probably be one of the two that will emerge on top. No country in the Middle East will ever be #1. There isn't enough natural resources. Everyone sees Dubai and is like "oh shit thats where the money is going". Well all I see is a bigger city that will get fucked by global warming. The United States is always going to be a top power, maybe not #1 but always a top power.
And sometimes you don't even know who is the top power. We defeated Britain in 1812 and Britain was supposedly #1.
Taller buildings aren't a sign of economic dominance, just a bigger target.
All I'm going to say is don't doubt America.
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American Recession starting in 2008.....and uh oh! Whats this? Holy shit the WHOLE DAMN WORLD is in recession! Man thats wierd. That must mean, uhhh wait for it....our economy is pretty F'ing important!!! If someone destroys us by magicly taking out the best military in the world, they will have to deal with all the economic reprecussions...
The day our economy fails is the day the Middle East gets totally F'ed in the ass by wars we won't be interveining in. Its the day China and the EU go into depression, and the day all the countries with outsourcing and American owned countries wish America was still around.
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