In the modern era of the U.S. quasi-imperial experiment, the State Department, USIP, and the Wilson Center have been vital foundations of national power designed to project our values for generations. This is now ending. For example, Trump wants to increase the size of the Navy to more than 350 ships from its current total of about 275 ships. But a principal role of the Navy, by virtue of its deployment patterns, is to enhance the influence of American diplomacy. That’s why a weaker State Department works to undermine the effect of a stronger Navy. As for USIP, it took on its bureaucratic personality during the Ronald Reagan administration, when it was forged into an engine of area expertise and conflict resolution built on sturdily realist internationalist principles. The Wilson Center does for America something vaguely similar to what the granting of citizenship to foreign elites did for Rome — it brings some of the finest minds from all over the country and parts of the world together to study American foreign policy, thus familiarizing themselves with Washington and thereby improving relationships among countries. It is a subtle and indirect process. But put that all together with our diplomatic and military reach, and you start to have the basis of a benign form of American influence worldwide.
No one of these pillars can stand on its own, obviously. The military, absent these other elements, acquires a different, bleaker personality. A domineering American military, shorn of an equally effective diplomatic service and lacking cultural outreach, is itself undermined as a moral force. And without that, alliances — built on a shared liberal vision — become harder to maintain. The difference between alliance building and outright hegemony can be a fine one. All this affects the morale of the armed services for the worse. By drastically cutting or eliminating some of the main civilian elements of American power, Trump is redefining the military in a way that should make the Pentagon brass uncomfortable.
Decadence is cultural and moral decline joined with materialistic indulgence.