Urban Legends

In 2013, the American Pew Research Center discovered that the majority of those surveyed in 39 countries believed that China was or would soon be the leading superpower. This feeling was shared by more than half of the Americans surveyed. The fact that the United States is not capable of commanding an increasingly troubled world by itself does not mean that the nation of George Washington is declining like the Roman Empire. The mantra of China’s supposed global triumph, without possible derailment, and the decline of the United States, whose century is already expiring, is composed of two urban legends. The United States would be described perfectly by this quote by the great Mark Twain: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” At the same time, the superpower of China is still a premature bombshell.

For the moment, the United States does not have an alternative as a nation still capable of protecting its influence and leadership on every continent. The cocktail of a flexible economy, technology and its young demographic gives it an undeniable soft power. Only a very improbable anti-Washington alliance between India and China, which will exceed it in population before 2025, would eclipse the United States. However, facing the worldwide jigsaw puzzle, it is worth asking, like Joseph Nye does in his latest book, if the American century has ended (“Is the American Century Over?” Polity Press). His response, with nuance, is negative.

Obama still has some tricks up his sleeve in order to extend the American century into the 21st century. He does not want to be a second Carter; he needs an international story in order to make history. Preventing Iran, the true “Islamic State,” from arming itself with a nuclear bomb, would result in the return of the great Persian nation to the international community. The imminent return of Cuba to the Latin American stage is Washington’s work. The drift of Putin’s nuclear Russia can only be redirected from the United States.

The United States does suffer fatigue from intervening on the international level, but it cannot abandon the world. In Central Asia, it cannot leave behind all of Afghanistan. The nation is deepening its involvement in the Middle East. Its airplanes, necessary to contain the Islamic State group, are returning to bomb Tikrit, where it fights with Iran as an ally. The civil war in Yemen traps Washington again in the mess of the Middle East and the region’s religious battles. Separated factions in the region’s poorest country are confronting Saudi Arabia and Iran. The United States and the Gulf nations would not let Iran control the strategic bottleneck of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, in the Arabian Peninsula, which separates the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea on the route from the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. It is 30 kilometers at its narrowest point, through which 20,000 ships navigate every year.

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