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Rising debt means sinking power for the US argues special report

American military power will decline from 2020 unless the US can solve its mounting debt crisis argues a report published today.

The prediction, by Professor Iwan Morgan, is part of a multi-author study produced by LSE Ideas which suggests that economic crisis is likely to quickly erode America’s world dominance.

The special report, ‘The United States after Unipolarity’, says President Obama’s attempts to define a new realistic foreign policy may be hampered by domestic economic struggle.

United States After UnipolarityProfessor Morgan, from the University of London, writes that predictions for the US to hit its highest ever debt level in 2023 mean that resources will increasingly be eaten up by social security and medical benefits, leaving the nation increasingly unable to exert power with military or economic levers.

He says: “From 2020 onward the future for US military power looks bleaker without a domestic correction of fiscal course.

“The United States is slowly awakening to the reality that growing public indebtedness represents the greatest threat to its power and prosperity in the twenty-first century.”

Others authors in the study share this analysis: Dr Adam Quinn, from the University of Birmingham, suggests America will have to start making hard choices about areas in which it will leave itself vulnerable as shrinking military budgets remove the luxury of universal protection.

The report points out that the final bill for US involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan is estimated at more than $4 trillion.

America’s military decline in military power will be matched by its slipping control of world economic affairs argues Joseph Joyce, Professor of Economics at Wellesley College. Nor is there an obvious replacement, with both G20 and G7 undermined by domestic crises in their constituent nations and by disparities between them.

Professor Joyce writes: “The United States no longer has the will or means to dominate international economic governance, but there is no clear replacement. The prospects, therefore, are for an extended period of lower-level accords, with bilateral and regional trade agreements…replacing international pacts.”

However not all authors are equally pessimistic for America’s future. In a foreword, Professor Michael Cox, Co-director of LSE IDEAS, suggests that Europe’s debt crisis could strengthen the US by leaving it perfectly placed to exploit the economic revolution in Asia and to be the “strategic balancer to China’s rising power.”

“The United States After Unipolarity” is a special report by LSE IDEAS available online at http://www2.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/publications/reports/SR009.aspx

It features eight articles by Adam Quinn, Andrew Futter, Luca Tardelli, Joseph Joyce, Iwan Morgan, Robert Kelley, Steven Casey and Oz Hassan. There is a foreword by Michael Cox and an executive summary by Nicholas Kitchen.

The report is published in conjunction with a lecture at LSE today, entitled ‘Women Advancing Democracy’ by Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. The lecture is jointly organised by LSE IDEAS, Wellesley College and the Institute for the Study of the Americas.

LSE IDEAS is a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and strategy based at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


For more information contact LSE press office on +44 (0)207 955 7060 pressoffice@lse.ac.uk


2 December 2011