It is impossible to see how the United States can at any point in the next quarter century regain anything like the commanding position in the world system that it occupied from 1991 through late 2019. What we are experiencing is not just a decline but a collapse of America’s global hegemony.
This is the first time any significant world power has undergone a collapse as speedy and dramatic as what the United States has been undergoing since early March. Yes, in the past, empires have come and gone. Most recently, in 1974-75, the significant global empire Portugal had amassed over the preceding 450 years underwent complete implosion after young officers tired of having to police the country’s large colonies in Mozambique and Angola returned home, overthrew the dictatorship in Lisbon, and made decolonization their first order of business. Then, in 1991-93, the sphere of strong influence that the Soviet Union had built for itself in East Europe and Central Asia– not wholly an empire– collapsed.
The collapse the United States’ position as world hegemon is starting to experience now is more dramatic and far-reaching than either of those two collapses. It is also to a large extent being fueled by its own leadership. With decision after decision after decision, Pres. Trump has been cutting Washington off from having any effective ties with governments, alliances, and global institutions that previous presidents had worked hard to establish and that provided the vital underpinning for the country’s global power.