by Oliver Steward

The United States is experiencing relative decline vis-a-vis in relation to other so-called ‘Great Powers’, notably China. The election of President-elect Donald  Trump may navigate this transition or accelerate this relative decline in the second decade of the 21st century.

US GDP has only grown nominally at 1.5%.  Some important elements can be taken to show the growing disparity and changes to the world’s two most important economic powers. As discussed in The Globalist, ‘US GDP stood at $16.8 trillion in 2013 —just about 4% larger than China’s economy…. [While]The IMF estimates that China’s GDP at purchasing power parity was $17.6 trillion at the end of 2014.’  Furthermore the US is spending $1 trillion on domestic and national security under the auspices of counter terrorism. It has spent blood and treasure in two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

As Paul Kennedy’s 1987 book Rise and Fall of the Great Powers  prophesied, all Great Powers will inevitably experience decline as they overstretch their foreign and military commitments and hollow out their economic base.  I have an affinity for this nation. However, the foreign policy choices it makes will have consequences for years and maybe decades to come.  Trump’s slogan ‘Make American Great Again” was a rhetorical device to win this latest 2016 Presidential Election.  But this is an implicit assumption that America has lost its way, and is going down a wrong path.  It must change course, according to Trump to renew its position both domestically, economically, and internationally.

this is an implicit assumption that America has lost its way, and is going down a wrong path.

If it is indeed suggested that America is in decline due the foreign policy choices it makes, then it must recalibrate its national security strategy according to the harsh realities of the changing geopolitical system in order to achieve the best outcome possible. However, with this comes ideas surrounding policy.  This will be the central paradoxical question which will be the centrepiece of the new Trump Doctrine in foreign policy:  How to expand America’s influence across the globe during a time where its enormous material power may not be able to translate into diplomatic relations that it so desires? It is predicted that the course of Trump’s foreign policy trajectory will exasperate decline by the statement “We are witnessing a fundamental shift in international relations overturning well established notions.” I will come to a few foreign policy issues which will put this idea of whether America can ‘manage decline’ as President Barack Obama has done in the last 8 years.

President-elect Donald Trump has to navigate these troubled international waters with pragmatism and an ability to be open to new ideas. Protectionism and withdrawal from the international community will only hasten America’s decline.  However in this short term the question remain as to how the United States will respond to the challenges be set to its position.  Firstly Trump’s move towards China’s rise, will either strain relations due to his economic protectionism which may do more damage to the US in the long run.

(via hypeline)

(via hypeline)

Over the next two decades of the 21st-century international politics will be shaped by whether the international system will become multipolar or akin to a post unipolar world where the United States remains the predominant power operating in an international system populated by rising powers with their own ambitions and aspirations.  Suffice to say America’s unquestioned pre-eminent in international politics is waning in this transitory phase of international politics.  The Middle East will certainly test whether Trump’s foreign policy doctrine will go beyond dropping more bombs and to actually deal with the political endgame in an attempt to bring an end to the violence there.

The Middle East will certainly test whether Trump’s foreign policy doctrine will go beyond dropping more bombs

On a last note, the new Cold War between America and Russia may actually reach rapprochement as Trump was a preferred candidate so hopefully a deal can be reached on arms limitations and Syria.  Big question remains on the US relationship with NATO, the UK and European Union and whether it will honour this security alliance or take a backward step of looking more inwards. All these foreign policy commitments will demonstrate whether America manages its ‘decline’ or accelerate its waning power and thereby lose its superpower-status.

Over the next few decades of the 21st Century it remains to be seen whether the international system will be shaped by an increasingly multipolar order — based on the rise of regional Great Powers, or something more fundamental.  The extent to America’s own power and influence in this new state of affairs, will be subject to increased inquiry and circumspection.

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