An international-affairs reporter concludes the United States has reached the end of its ascendancy and ponders how Americans will adjust to a world in which their country no longer dominates.
Rejecting the myth of American Exceptionalism, National Journal and Atlantic Monthly writer and editor Starobin quickly traces the rise of the United States. Then, pointing to such markers as the widening income gap, the country’s migration away from risk tolerance, its sluggishness in scientific fields such as robotics and green initiatives and its reluctance to accept cultural developments such as same-sex marriage, Starobin contends that the door has begun to shut on what Henry Luce famously called the American Century. The author’s premise—that with the implosion of the Soviet Union, America has passed the apex of its economic, cultural, political and perhaps even military influence—may well be correct, but it requires more convincing support than Starobin offers. But his imagining of a world “After America” is impressive evidence of the author’s grasp of the global scene. He posits five possible scenarios: (1) a world ruled by chaos, where civilization falls apart as in the transition from the High Middle Ages to the Renaissance; (2) a multipolar world, with a few major nations maintaining a balance of power; (3) a Chinese-dominated era; (4) a return, though on a much larger scale, to the dominance of city-states, where the usual suspects like New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong are joined by newcomers such as Toronto, Shanghai, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bangalore; (5) the realization of the age-old dream of world governance. Relying on interviews with academics, businessmen, military experts and government officials, and reporting from places as diverse as a Chilean copper mine, a Washington think-tank and an Indian seaport, Starobin takes us on a Friedman-esque journey, making a plausible case for each imagined future, explaining in almost chatty terms how America will fit into this new world, whatever form it takes.
Creatively reported and provocatively argued.