America’s Blinders

SINGAPORE – The time has come to think the unthinkable: the era of American dominance in international affairs may well be coming to an end. As that moment approaches, the main question will be how well the United States is prepared for it.

Asia’s rise over the last few decades is more than a story of rapid economic growth. It is the story of a region undergoing a renaissance in which people’s minds are re-opened and their outlook refreshed. Asia’s movement toward resuming its former central role in the global economy has so much momentum that it is virtually unstoppable. While the transformation may not always be seamless, there is no longer room to doubt that an Asian century is on the horizon, and that the world’s chemistry will change fundamentally.

Global leaders – whether policymakers or intellectuals – bear a responsibility to prepare their societies for impending global shifts. But too many American leaders are shirking this responsibility.

Last year, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, two US senators, one member of the US House of Representatives, and a deputy national security adviser participated in a forum on the future of American power (I was the chair). When asked what future they anticipated for American power, they predictably declared that the US would remain the world’s most powerful country. When asked whether America was prepared to become the world’s second-largest economy, they were reticent.