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News | Dec. 18, 2020

Regaining the Initiative: Can the US Lead Again?

By F.G. Hoffman RUSI

Today, many analysts see an America in relative decline. The study of the rise and fall of great powers goes back to Edward Gibbon’s classical study of the Roman Empire. A few decades ago, in his The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Paul Kennedy emphasised the importance of economic strength as the foundation of great powers. The analysis of rising and declining great powers was renewed by Graham Allison, in his much debated Thucydides Trap. Other scholars including Joseph Nye and Michael Beckley have explored the intersection between a rising China and the relative decline of the US with a more positive outlook.

The incoming Joe Biden administration has to address this perception of US decline and reduced interest in global leadership. Biden has many choices facing him, particularly due to the Donald Trump administration’s ‘America First’ policies. A good starting point for considering how Biden should proceed can be found in Chris Imbrie’s Power on the Precipice which offers guidance on the key strategic choices facing Washington’s new leadership team. The Biden administration must engage with these choices as it seeks to renew US leadership and redefine its place in an evolving international order.

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Dr. Frank Hoffman is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the National Defense University or the Department of Defense.