The Decline of U.S. Global Power
What’s the shelf life of empires? Decades, maybe centuries.
All things come to an end. Recall Shelley’s great poem Ozymandias about the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the Great and his seemingly invincible kingdom. Ozymandias was Greek for Ramses.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. And on the pedestal, these words appear
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
It is difficult to discuss imperialism because there is virtually uniform elite opinion that the U.S. is not an empire. Washington will not willingly concede its global superpower position. But remember the omnipotent British Empire? Where is it today?
Alfred McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of the classic The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. He is the recipient the Association of Asian Studies’ Kahin Prize. He is also the author of Policing America’s Empire, Torture and Impunity and In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.