America's grand strategy: Disguising decline

Meanwhile, China is pushing the United States and its allies out of one global market after another. In 2010, China surpassed America as the world’s leading manufacturer. In 2021, China surpassed South Korea as the world’s leading shipbuilder. A single Chinese company, DJI, makes 70 percent of the world’s civilian drones. One-third of global industrial robots are made in China, which is also the world’s largest market for them. It is probably only a matter of time before China challenges the United States, Europe, and Japan in aerospace and automobiles as well.

Wherever we look, then, we see the United States in retreat or in defeat or in stalemate, whether in the military arena or in the realm of trade and industrial production. Since the fall of Saigon, with the exception of military victories in Iraq and Libya that led to chaos, the only lasting military and geopolitical victories of America and its allies have been in Europe. One was the bloodless liberation of Eastern Europe from the Red Army and the incorporation of much of it into NATO. Another was the defeat of Serbia in the war of the Yugoslav succession. Unable to resist Chinese salami tactics in the South China Sea, and unable to convert short-term military victories into lasting diplomatic victories in the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. foreign policy has only had successes in Europe.

I have been told that Germans have a proverb about working in an office hierarchy: “Bow in front, kick behind.” This is a good description of America’s actual global strategy for disguising its accelerating decline. While appeasing a powerful, rising China in practice, the United States picks fights with weak countries—Serbia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and now a much-diminished Rump Russia. The United States is a declining force in global commerce and global diplomacy, but in its remaining North American and European spheres of influence, it can still play the hegemon and relive the glories of the past.