The North American hegemony was preceded by the British. It is normally accepted that the latter prevailed during the period between the triumph of Waterloo in 1815 and the end of World War I in 1918. The United States’ hegemony, for its part, began in 1945. The time between the two wars constituted a sort of no man’s land in which the United Kingdom was too weak to impose its hegemony, and the United States had not decided to impose its own, by virtue of the isolationism that prevailed among its population. There was not, however, any resistance on the part of London to pass the torch to Washington, a natural heir in history and culture.
The United States seems to have arrived at the end of its cycle, for the same reason that the United Kingdom — and all those that preceded in this position of preeminence — did: the limitations imposed by its own economy. Effectively, the hegemonic powers do not stop being so due to desire but for necessity. With a debt of $13 trillion, the United States would be using up its fuel in order to be the leader of the world.
In his work, “The Frugal Superpower,” Michael Mandelbaum, one of the U.S.’ most prestigious political scientists, clearly raises this reality. Some of the paragraphs of the book speak for themselves: “In agreement with the estimates of the Budgetary Office of Congress, the annual deficit (of the country) will be greater than a trillion dollars for all of one decade at the end of 2009 … While greater than the debt is the cost of its service. This cost will reach 10 percent of the total federal budget for 2011 and 17 percent for that of 2019… The era (of world leadership) is reaching its end. In the future the United States will have to behave more and more like an ordinary country.” (New York, 2010)*
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed this situation in a discussion on Sept. 9 at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Referring to the impact of the United States’ debt on the country’s foreign politics, she remarked: “It undermines our capacity to act in our own interests and it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable. And it also sends a message of weakness internationally.”
The decline of the United States is accompanied by the rapid emergence of China, a country that recently passed Japan as the second world economy and that prepares to ascend to first place in 2030. Will Washington learn to adapt to this crossroads of ascending and descending curves? To judge by the proposed defense budget for 2011 ($708 billion and 6 percent higher than the peak of the Bush era), it would seem not. Furthermore, Washington seeks to contain the advance of Peking from its own natural sphere of influence: the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea. At first this was classified as a zone of “national interest” for the United States, while it carried out war exercises there. This defense of each inch of its supremacy does not suggest anything good for the coming decades.
*Editor's Note: Quote could not be verified.