This article stresses the paradoxical character of a U.S. decline, and addresses the impossibility for the U.S. to accept its demise as superpower. It applies this framework to the case of the 2017 tensions with North Korea, and deduces a possible future path for the U.S. course of action, as well as possible levers regarding the U.S. stance.
It is the last part of a series of three articles where we examine three dimensions of U.S. decline as perceived – publicly – by the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC), part of the U.S. Office of The Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In the first part (open access), we sought to understand what the NIC means exactly by a U.S. decline and its onset. The second article focuses on the sources of American decline and power, as identified by the NIC, which also give us indicators to monitor the decline.
When decline of a country is the issue, the perceptions and resulting actions of the declining power are crucial. Therefore, we focus upon the way the U.S. Intelligence Community (I.C.) addresses the idea and reality of an American decline, through the unclassified (public) version of Global Trends: The Paradox of Progress (GT), the Quadriennal Strategic Foresight report the U.S. I.C. produces for the new President elect.
Because of GT’s uncertainties, ambiguity, indeed a paradox regarding the U.S. decline, results. On the one hand, decline is asserted but with implicit uncertainties, and, on the other hand, ways to revert it are also suggested. Furthermore, the U.S. I.C. also stresses the unique moral place of the U.S. in the world. As a result, the foresight report could finally prompt and support not acceptance of the end of the U.S.-led unipolar world, but the design of a very assertive U.S. policy to regain or keep superpower status, which it is a moral duty to follow.
There is here convergence between the assessment of the U.S. I.C. and the Trump presidency’s “America First” policy. Isolationism is not part of the picture, despite some commentators’ initial hasty conclusions, just after the elections.
When applied to the 2017 North Korean crisis, the framework constructed by GT explains the U.S. stance. It shows it is likely that the crisis has also become a stake in the U.S. struggle for recovering or maintaining its superpower status. As a result, there is a high probability to see the U.S. remaining locked into its escalating stance, even though diplomacy is also used behind the scenes, should a face-saving path forward for the U.S. not be found and used.
Meanwhile, by choosing this direction towards power, the U.S. could lose sight of its very security, which could, in turn, favour and potentially hasten decline, hence the paradox.
Full article 2547 words – approx. 7,5 pages
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* It is crucial never to forget the importance of morality in American foreign policy, e.g. Robert W. McElroy, Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs, Princeton University Press, 1992.
About the author: Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues.
Featured image by tammyatWTI, Public Domain, Pixabay
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