America in the Asian Century

Paradoxically, only a more confident America can accept a reduced global status, because reconciling oneself to change is always easier once one has taken the steps needed to adjust to it. Fortunately, America has a much-needed opportunity to refocus on itself – to recover its inner strength without withdrawing from the world.

NEW YORK – At “ground zero”in lower Manhattan, two empty spaces will be filled by water cascades, memorializing in a serene and respectful way the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Next to them, a powerful tower, designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind and nearly completed, rises vigorously into the sky, a symbol of the triumph of life over the forces of death. One word comes to mind to characterize the impression made by this place, the site of an unprecedented crime: resilience.

In a building that houses what will one day be a memorial museum, one can buy a DVD entitled “9/12: From Chaos to Community.” Ground Zero is the architectural and human proof that, despite America’s current economic woes, it would be premature, if not dangerous, to write the country off as a declining power. America has the moral and intellectual resources that it needs in order to rebound.

But what is necessary is not sufficient. In order to reinvent itself, if not to manage its relative international decline, America must proceed toward a rebalancing of its domestic and international priorities. In the immediate aftermath of World War I, a triumphant America withdrew from global responsibility, with tragic consequences for the balance of power in a Europe that was left to face its inner demons alone.

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