Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter, has published an article in the current issue of Foreign Policy ("After America") speculating the state of the world in the era of American decline.

The article, a plea for the US foreign policy machine to define a strategic vision for the coming decades, reads as the warning of a bleak future of geopolitical uncertainty, disorder, and disintegration. While Brzezinski admits the hypothetical nature of his claims, he does not hesitate to insist on the role of the United States as the linchpin and voice of reason of world affairs.

While contemplating the possible consequences of American decline on a number os issues including relations with Mexico and the Arab World as well as on "management of the global commons" like sea lanes, space and the environment; what resonates most is his succinct description of the reality of China today:

In Brzezinski's own words:

"China, invariably mentioned as America's prospective successor, has an impressive imperial lineage and a strategic tradition of carefully calibrated patience, both of which have been critical to its overwhelmingly successful, several-thousand-year-long history. China thus prudently accepts the existing international system, even if it does not view the prevailing hierarchy as permanent. It recognizes that success depends not on the system's dramatic collapse but on its evolution toward a gradual redistribution of power. Moreover, the basic reality is that China is not yet ready to assume in full America's role in the world. Beijing's leaders themselves have repeatedly emphasized that on every important measure of development, wealth, and power, China will still be a modernizing and developing state several decades from now, significantly behind not only the United States but also Europe and Japan in the major per capita indices of modernity and national power. Accordingly, Chinese leaders have been restrained in laying any overt claims to global leadership."

To read the full article at Foreign Policy, click here.

- Amy Greene

(photo credit: Atlantic Council)