When Mitt Romney campaigns in Arizona and Michigan this week, he will likely repeat something he's been telling audiences since the beginning of his 2012 campaign. He warns that under President Obama, America will continue to decline as we retreat in global power, influence, and military might.
Romney knows that he's tapping into anxiety about America's role in the world, but Robert Kagan argues that this anxiety is misplaced. He's out with a book to explain why and spoke with Kerri Miller.
In his book "The World America Made" Kagan asks, "What would it mean for the future if the international order were no longer shaped primarily by the United States and like-minded allied nations? Who or what would take America's place? And...equally important: Is America really in decline?"
Kagan is a columnist for The Washington Post and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He serves as a senior foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney. His new book "The World America Made" is Kerri's Pick of the Week.
Is America in decline? Holding steady? Or do we have a bright future?
Do you even care if we are the top power in the globe?
Societies rise and fall based on how the general population benefits from the society. France was doomed to fall when Louis IVX moved the nobles to Versaille and they no longer took interest in the people on their estates, the remainder of European nobility lost its value in WW I when they had massive charges into cannon + machines gun fire. I could name others.
Is it necessarily a bad thing that the U.S. isn't the sole superpower? As the U.S. has led many countries have viewed us as arrogant and have disliked us. We play the role of world police and other countries take us for granted. How about we hand over the reigns.
The arrogance of those who say "we're in decline" only proves that the U.S., at least our political leaders, are arrogant and believe we are more special than we are.
As goes America, so goes the world. If the US grows and improves, the world will be the healthier for it. As the US diminishes, the worse the world's prospects for enduring harmony and universal prosperity become. In my view, the US is in a gray area where we can't see it's future clearly. I lean towards the lighter shade of that that grey though
Economically, the U.S. is definitely in decline. With computers, companies can easily now outsource huge sectors of our economy to foreign countries. This will only get worse. Without a massive movement against outsourcing, college graduates can look forward to only low paying jobs if any at all.
Can he comment on the state of our education system? The relative place of the U.S. in terms of math, science, reading, graduation rates? These are not good and falling yearly. If our foundation is weak, it will undermine our ability to lead globally in the next few decades.
usa will be super-power easily for next 50 years - china is not a democracy and there is no free speech - india has infrastucture and corruption problems - russia has a long way to become a stable democracy - these 3 nations have a long way to go to match usa
We have a bright future if we want it. Nothing is outside of our reach but we need to be having serious discussions about the issues that face us. Until our political leaders (especially the Republican Party) are willing to focus on the issues that matter we are not going to move forward.
Think about climate change from a fiscal conservative perspective; most of the Republicans in office today would list themselves as fiscal conservatives. Even if you do not believe that global warming is real it makes sense from a fiscal conservative perspective to focus on a clean energy climate. Becoming an energy-independent society would not only lower overall energy costs but increase national security. Yet, the discussion is all based on the science and whether or not that is factual. Let's start having a real discussion about these topics instead of focusing on things that don't matter and just as distractions.
In 2009 Biden said that the admin's goal was to build a multi-polar world. I don't share Mr. Kagan's fear about a diffusion of power. States pursue interest and we're no different... we can partake in as many fictions as we want, doesn't change reality.
Societies rise and fall on the way the general population benefits from the govt or economy. The french monarchy was doomed when Louis XIV moved the nobility to Versaille and they no longer took part in the peoples lives. The remainder of European nobility was doomed when they had common soldiers attack under heavy cannon and machine guns. . . . Our society is increasingly being run by economic principles that ok everything that promotes those who are best at greed. Our politicians need huge sums to run for office and they can only get these by pandering those who are best at greed, judges are appointed based on their acceptance of this, university chairs are funde for those who come up with the prettiest discriptions of why this is true. . . . None of this works to benefit society _ as can be seen by how much of the housing bubble was involved in mortgagers selling risk and those who packaged mortgages were able to bet against the securities they created. . . . As America continues to move from producing useful goods, moves useful manufacturing and services to low wage nations, and purchases politicians and others to continue the move in this direction we will be moving to losing power to those who invest in all the members of society. . . . Our power was based on the investments made in the 1930s to build hydro dams, roads, plant forests, and improve harbors. These gave us the electric power to do the Manhattan project, make and ship goods that won WW II, and then made it possible for the SW to have Vegas, irrigation, LA water supply, Seattle's electric supply, the power that maintains the mid South and makes it possible for farmers to get their goods to market. . . . The current refusal to invest in the future because we are too selfish will doom our future because govts like China, India and Vietnam are investing in their futures.
In terms of Mr. Kagan's advice to Gov. Romney, why does Romney not have a full foreign policy plan on his site? His jobs/economy has an entire 87 page plan that is complete.
We are bankrupting ourselves trying to maintain what is effectively a world-wide American empire. We'd have all the resources we need to resolve our internal problems if we didn't feel the need to dominate the rest of the world.
What's the role of "soft power" in America's future?
It seems so many people who talk about the (supposed) decline of American influence are calling for military action. But I think our feelings of decline are mostly caused by our long, drawn out foreign military campaigns and I don't think there's any appetite for more.
I agree with Morris Berman ("Dark Ages America") when he compared the United States with Ancient Rome, the disparity between rich and poor, unsustainable debt, expensive and wide-ranging wars, etc. I also do not see any hope for America as it is now organized, only continuing decline.
It never has beed described as a safety net, but our manufacturing industry is what saved many,many people during previous downturns in the US economy.
We don't have that safety net anymore.
Our economic engine and employment safety net now belongs to China, so large amounts of people can't just get a transitional job like they could before.
With friends like Project for the New American Century, who needs enemies?
If the 'project' is to bankrupt America with military engagements, mission was accomplished. Not all Americans believe in world domination, like your guest. It's time to discredit this idea, not to give it any credence.
The guest confuses macro ecronomics and military capability with the state of the union.
Multi-national corporations and the military may be healthy, but Americas working class in not. Opportunities for middle and lower class workers are diminishing and costs of basic necessities (housing and health care) are moving beyond the masses. The power lies with the few. The democracy is a farce.
The chant of "USA #1" spoken, and shouted, as if our place in the world is measured in sports metaphors bothers me.
We aren't number one in so many important ways - health care, infant mortality, education, even our infrastructure has been side-lined in our apparent all-out need to dominate beyond our shores. We need to step back and take a good look at who we really are - and measure our care of our neighbors here at home against that provided by other nations to their citizenry - and then become part of the world team - not insisting on leading it all the time.
I think that as long as we continue to live in a society that is based on absolutes and individualism, instead of creativity and innovation and collaboration we will have a hard time and a rough time moving forward.
America has been supporting Pakistan for 60+ years now; and almost all scholars agree on Pakistan's role in esclating violence in that region. America has indirectly undermined peace and harmony in that region of 1.4+ billion people.
So with any decline, it would mean that America would sell less weapons to Pakistan and support the Pakistani Army. Though I do not wish a decline of America, I wish America would stop supporting Pakistani Army.
USA as top power in the globe: many believe we are THE BEST country in the world. Many countries are more egalitarian, and/or have resolved many social problems: health care, affordable housing. Much to learn and utilize from other cultures/countries, which will never happen if US thinks it is THE BEST. I'm for more countries in the mix, working co-operatively. Really - the idea/ideal of the U.N.
I've studied a lot of history and a good part of America's wealth came here because we kept out of WW I & II for years while we produced & shipped the goods that the fighters needed. The countries that waste large parts of their wealth on wars lose their world position. GHW Bush actually made the 1st Iraq war profitable, all of our others since Korea have cost us most of our future possibilities. Also we need to build modern democratic societies in the world like we did in Japan, S Korea and Germany instead of the incompetent and corrupt ones that we saw Bush II do in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I have seen a statistic that for each talented engineer or scientist brought to this country we gain 7 working class jobs. Why do we make it difficult for talented people who receive graduate education here, to stay in the US?
I would disagree with the guest about the relationship with Europe. I think that the Nobel Peace Prize being given to Obama during his first year in office is a great example of this relationship. The prize was basically given because Obama was not George W Bush.
I don't understand why people like Mr. Kagan sound the alarm bells when there is talk of cuts to the US defense budget. The US military is the most powerful in the world by a long way, so how will some cuts in the defense budget harm us? How powerful does the military need to be?
I haven't heard the conversation entertain the possibility that america isn't in decline but is rather holding its position and the rest of the world is closing the gap behind us.
I would like the guest to discuss the ramifications of America's declining middle class on our future; a second issue would be the cost of health care and the Republican attempts to end Obama care. Our current costly health care system is draining our resources and the decline of the middle class is threatening our economy in numerous ways.
When will we see members of the Kagan familiy (father Donald, sons Frederick and Robert) speak and write with as much concern about the existentialist threat to Japan from the nuclear weapons and delivery systems of North Korea as their concern about the supposed existential threat to Israel from Iran?
Can Robert Kagan comment on Pakistan? Thanks.
The guest keeps saying "thats how its been done" and "look at americas history" ... its like, yeah just because thats how it was done in the past doesn't mean we have to follow that. theres gridlock in every aspect of life now. 9/11 was an inside job and obama is just trying to work with the financial criminals that run the military instead of leaving them in the dust.
It seems that the US is holding steady. We haven't been at the top of education or health care for some time now; but it is our competitive nature that wants to push the US to the top.
Why does there always have to be a global super power? Can there not be a global community in which work to better our societies as a whole or is that an unreasonable for that scale?
MPR: Thanks for taking up my question with Mr. Robert Kagan.
Related to the discussion yesterday, could the guest please comment on the affect of having 70% of the nation be overweight? What effect does this have on our healthcare system? What impact does it have on defense? What happens if we get to 80%? 85%?
No nation should rule the world - they all should. Focus on reforming the United Nations instead.
I was distressed by the little I listened to. Mr. Kagan disdained "entitlements" as if income in retirement and access to health care were societal evils rather than ways Americans are able to live decent, dignfiied lives.
Instead of feeding, educating, and providing health care for Americans, I guess all that matters to him is that the US fund the war machine (it's mostly Offense not Defense). When Kerri let him get away with such inhumane (let's not just kill our own people but let's kill other human beings all over the world) perspectives, my blood boiled and the radio was turned OFF. And this is Kerri's book of the week to recommend? Sad indeed. And this followed the discussion about blaming the unemployed for not being rich, entrepreneurial, and successful - how dare they work hard to get college degrees and have any expectations for jobs? It's all those students faults. Crazy right-wing morning at MPR!