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The Exceptional Empire: Why the United States Will Not Decline — Again

Abstract

Is the United States inevitably in decline? After the foreign policy controversies of the George W. Bush years, a new consensus declares the end of American dominion. In this article this conventional wisdom is challenged. The US constitutes an ‘exceptional empire’ and, despite the recent rise of powers such as the EU, China and India, the four foundations of this distinctive empire remain robust. First, the US still exhibits global predominance in hard power. Second, the essentially unipolar international order shaped by Washington remains resilient. Third, neither the rise of ‘anti-Americanism’ nor the alleged decline of US ‘soft power’ endanger its predominance. Fourth, the US political class is committed to preserving American primacy after Bush. No other power is currently in range of competing with the US for global influence. Moreover, each faces powerful internal weaknesses and external threats at least as significant as those facing the US. America's global predominance in hard and soft power do not translate into omnipotence. Nor does predominance promise an error-free foreign policy. The US nonetheless continues to defy both history and theory.

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Notes

  1. For example, Obama endorsed expanding the army by 65,000 and the Marines by 27,000. Romney pledged to increase army numbers by 100,000 troops, annual growth in the defence budget of $35–40 billion for several years and a minimum expenditure of 5% of US GDP on defence. Giuliani prescribed 10 new combat brigades for the army as a ‘baseline’. See: Barack Obama, ‘Renewing American Leadership’ and Mitt Romney, ‘Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges’, Foreign Affairs July/August 2007; Rudy Giuliani, ‘Towards a Realistic Peace’, Foreign Affairs September/October 2007.

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Singh, R. The Exceptional Empire: Why the United States Will Not Decline — Again. Int Polit 45, 571–593 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1057/ip.2008.25

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Keywords

  • exceptional empire
  • hard power
  • George W. Bush
  • unipolar
  • US foreign policy
  • decline