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America’s Suicidal Statecraft

America's strategic decline, particularly in the Middle East, has more to do with its incompetent use of power than with the emergence of competitors. But, by unleashing Islamist forces and fueling Iran's quest for regional hegemony, the US has paradoxically created favorable conditions for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement.

Since its victory in the Cold War, America’s global hegemony has rested on three pillars: economic power, military might, and a vast capacity to export its popular culture. The recent emergence of additional powers – the European Union, China, India, and a Russia driven to recover its lost status – has eroded America’s capacity to shape events unilaterally.

Even so, America remains by far the world’s most powerful country; its decline has more to do with its incompetent use of power than with the emergence of competitors. It is American leaders’ “suicidal statecraft,” to use Arnold Toynbee’s pithy phrase for what he considered the ultimate cause of imperial collapse, that is to blame for America’s plight.

Consider the Middle East. Nothing reveals the decline of the United States in the region better than the contrast between America’s sober use of power in the first Gulf War in 1991 and the hubris and deceit of today’s Iraq war.

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