“Growltiger’s Last Stand” is one of T.S. Eliot’s best poems, ripe with allusions. It is also a possible allegory for today’s strategists. Growltiger was a large and fearsome cat who became complacent and shabby, ultimately losing his edge and his friends. Eventually, the once feared predator was overwhelmed on his barge by a swarm of foreign rivals while his allies were gone. Growltiger’s opponents ganged up on him and dispatched him. Eliot wrote the poem in the 1930s while Great Britain faced serious overstretch, and the poem’s central character could be interpreted as an aging Imperial Lion or, in modern terms, a declining America.
Power on the Precipice offers a less poetic, but equally vivid, evaluation of a United States in decline. The theme of the rise and fall of great powers goes back to Edward Gibbon’s classic study of the Roman Empire, and Paul Kennedy broadened our understanding in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, with an emphasis on finance and economics. More recently Michael Beckley explored the interaction between a rising China and the United States and found more cause for optimism in his Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World's Sole Superpower.
Read the review at the Strategy Bridge here -
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.