Thursday, June 28, 2007

How to End American Hegemony: A Strategy Guide

This post is in the spirit of Edward Luttwak's Coup d'etat: A Practical Handbook. It is an NSC-68 for America's competitors and is intended as a warning that the lack of coherent grand strategy from Washington is creating the conditions for American decline.

Continued American predominance is not inevitable. American grand strategy, or more precisely the lack thereof, is working to ensure the decline of long-term relative and absolute U.S. international power. The following strategies for its competitors will aid this process.

Be Patient.

Long-term trends among the great powers show the United States is declining relative to the two major rising states, China and India, while Europe continues to ebb.


This situation shows prevailing dynamic differentials are unfavorable to continued American predominance. The first rule of a grand strategy for American decline is to do nothing that would disrupt these projections. Avoid at all costs major wars with neighboring states, grand attempts at internal restructuring, and, most importantly, direct provocation of the United States that could lead to full-scale war.

The declining power, once it recognizes the situation above, almost always initiates drastic actions to preserve the status quo. History has shown such measures are unlikely to be successful. There are two exceptions, both of which are important to note. The first was Athens' initiation of preventative war with its rising neighbor, Sparta. The second was American rebuilding of military might, economic strength, and moral authority vis-à-vis the Soviet Union from 1977 to 1991. To ensure American decline, prepare for both strategies, beginning with attempts at American renewal and, should they fail, American preparations for major war.


The United States is borrowing heavily to finance its entitlement system and foreign ventures. These two areas alone will require substantially more funds in the decades to come than can be raised through revenues. Assist in every way possible this process, while luring away its revenue-generating industries, especially those involving future products and services. Build research facilities, high-tech infrastructure, and a highly educated class of workers that will be irresistible to American companies. Provide them tax and policy incentives to relocate to your soil. This will also create the conditions for domestic growth of companies that will collaborate and compete with American multinationals.

This strategy should be conducted in unison with a plan to attack the U.S. economy through the weaknesses of its energy sector. The rise of broader international demand for petroleum and shortages in refining capacity combine to push the price of oil and natural gas ever higher. Hurricane Katrina inflicted severe damage on an already aging U.S. refining infrastructure. The development of replacement biofuels, while politically attractive in campaign seasons, will not ameliorate these problems because they cannot be shipped via domestic petroleum pipelines and, therefore, lack an effective distribution network.

Secure rights to petroleum fields and facilities. Quell disturbances and threats in petroleum producing areas, especially in the Caspian basin. Make long-term agreements with governments that have an interest in opposing the United States (e.g., Russia, Iran, and Venezuela). Develop petroleum-drilling and pipeline technology and market it as an alternative to American products, which at present can be leveraged via American export controls.


Allow the United States to drain its power by doing the heavy lifting of maintaining international peace and security. This is especially important for expensive and unpopular chores, such as trying to pacify an increasingly violent Iraq, confronting an Iranian regime intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and paying huge sums to a North Korean government that is going produce nuclear weapons regardless of the agreements it signs. Sit on the sidelines and take every opportunity to criticize the United States for its mistakes. When the time is right (i.e., the American costs have been ruinous), condemn the failure of American leadership and offer to be an "honest broker." This will provide much-needed moral authority.


Bury all attempts to reform the structures and institutions of the international community. At present these attempts must be led by the United States and will result in an international community that reflects American values and interests. By preventing reform now, American influence on the process will be reduced in line with its declining overall international power and appeal. Take care of any necessary unpleasantness to maintain authority (e.g., Tibets, Chechnyas, and Tiananmen Squares) now. Then condemn American foreign policies as historically immoral, tracing a line of evil from the Bay of Pigs and My Lei to Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay. This will undermine American influence when a future administration realizes it needs a strong international community to protect itself during the rise of the East and attempts to build one at the eleventh hour.


Indications for a decline in long-term American international power are highly favorable. Implementing these strategies will hasten prevailing trends away from American hegemony and toward a more balanced multipolar international system.

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