America’s Decline Is Relative but Real—and Potentially Dangerous

The Rest of the World Is Catching Up, and the Nation's Cluelessness About Its Weaknesses Will Accelerate the Trend

Is the United States in decline? The debate on the subject lacks both content and context. To take the conversation about American decline away from arbitrary and subjective claims, we require an indisputable criterion. And the only criterion that really counts in international relations is comparison: How does the United States stack up as compared to other powers?

By that measure, the United States has been in relative decline since at least the 1960s. Yes, the economic strength of America has grown, and continues to grow, in absolute terms. But its …