Term Paper: US Decline

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US Decline

The decline of the United States

The Romans.

On them I impose no limits of time or place.

I have given them an empire that will know no end."

The Roman poet Virgil (70 -- 19 b.c)

It is a poignant historical fact that great empires decline and dissipate into ruins and dust. This was the fate of the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, the Islamic Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Numerous historians have noted the cyclical nature of the rise and fall of these societies. The question that is central to this paper is whether the new "empire" of the Unites States is also to follow the path of decline and destruction that has been the fate of previous "superpowers" like Rome and Great Britain. The concomitant question that obviously follows is that, if this is the case, what measure scan can be taken to avoid the decline of the United States.

There are many political theorists who are of the opinion that the present trajectory of the United States in terms of economics, politics and social issues makes it a likely candidate for incipient decline.

True of all the ancient empires we know, the cycle of rise and decline appears to be accelerating. The twentieth century saw the collapse of seven great empires -- Mandarin China, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey, Japan, the British empire, and twice over in the case of Tsarist and Soviet Russia. Since the events of September 11th, 2001, the twenty-first century seems likely to threaten the sole remaining superpower, the United States, with nemesis.

Perkin 104)

Central to the decline of empires are a number of fundamental elements that tend to recur with each historical phase. If one were to apply these criteria to the present situation in the United States across a number of fronts, one could easily conclude that America is well on the way to decline.

These basic aspects of decline refer to economic power and greed, political power, including the disassociation of this power from the electoral base, invasive elements for outside the country which sap important resources, internal and external strife and the decline of the moral, social and spiritual cohesion of the society.

In terms of these basic elements there are striking similarities between the fall of older empires and the present-day political, economic and social scenario in the United States. Similar to ancient Rome, America is a world power - an empire - and, like Rome, it is showing classic symptoms of decline and decadence.

One of the more obvious reasons for the Roman decline, and an aspect which applies just as well to the British experience is the over - expansion of power and resources in the effort to maintain control of a wide- ranging empire. There are obvious correspondences of this in the present efforts to conduct an international war against" terror" - a point that will be expanded in this paper.

Another aspect which was to mark the decline of the Roam Empire was internal dissention and the division between the classes. The differences in political and economic terms between the patricians and the plebeians are often cited as a central causative factor in the collapse of that empire. This has its American correspondences in the political and economic division between those in political power, corporate power structures and the less influential members of the society.

An important factor in the demise of empires is the invasion for outside. In the case of Rome it was the invasion and infiltration of the "barbarians' which proved to be the final straw in the dislocation of that empire. In the example of the British Empire, the far-flung colonial empire eventually collapsed under the weight of dissent and rebellion for the colonies. If we transpose these events to the present situation in America, it is obvious that terrorism, as well as an economic invasion in terms of world trade and competition is acting in similar vein to the experience of the Roman Empire.

From the above aspects economic and power degradation follow. This will be explored in more depth shortly. However the point that should be made at this juncture is that no one element can be seen in insulation. The social, political and economic factors leading to empire decline are intimately connected and act on each other to create the dynamic point at which an empire dissolves from order to chaos.

One the most important areas of confluence of these various factors that stimulate decline, is the link between economics, politics and the social order. This are can be viewed in a variety of different ways.. One of the central aspects in this regard is the use of surplus income and resources. As Harold Perkin states in History Today,

The key to the formation, survival and decline of all historical societies is their use of surplus income and resources. Without the extraction, by an elite, of products surplus to immediate requirements -- in the form of food, arms, luxuries and other goods and services produced by farmers, craftsmen, traders and servants -- no society, beyond the most primitive, would be able to afford the protection, law and order, administration, defence, spiritual advice, personal services, cultural production and so on essential to its existence.

Perkin 104)

While this fact might seem obvious and rather simplistic, yet Perkins asserts that "superpowers decline through external causes, specifically 'imperial overstretch' when the military costs of expansion and defence exceed the fiscal capacity of the state. " (ibid)

Besides being a cause of economic and political decline this factor is really a "...byproduct of the internal problem, the failure of surplus extraction to match the rulers' ambitions. It reflects the comparative size of the resource base and the rising cost of military and economic power in an increasingly competitive world." (ibid) The fact that the United States is at present the only power with a sufficient extraction base to be called an "empire" makes it vulnerable to an overextension of this supply base. This raises the issue as to whether the United States can sustain the cost of projecting its power to exceed the balance of its extraction base,

Despite the lightning success in Afghanistan, the inability of the United States to impose its will on such insignificant powers as Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Serbia, North Korea or East Timor -- or to guarantee its citizens at home or abroad immunity from suicidal Al-Qaida terrorists -- suggests that the empire is not invincible.

If one takes into account the fact that the United States maintains more than 800 foreign military installations, 60 of which are considered as major, then the problem assume a growing urgency. (Al-Saeed A.)

The above factors lead as well to another issue which also shows the flaws in the structure of the empire; namely the loss of central control and influence. Commentators are of the opinion that the Untied States is already at a stage where its extractions base is no longer able to cope with the demands of being an empire.. For example, the question is raised as to whether the United Sates can control the multi-national corporations which manipulate the global economy for their own profit.. (Perkin 104)

In terms of this view there seems to be an insidious but gradual collapse of control, similar to that which occurred in the final stages of the Roman Empire.

Another example is the inability of the United States to deal with the very urgent problem of environmental pollution. - a problem that the United States is at least partially responsible for. The issue of global warming is a case in point and the recent flooding and extensive damage to the Southern States also raises the question of the competence of the empire.

All of the above views lead to another aspect that is a classic indication of empire decline. One do the major factors in the decline of earlier empires was the disparity between the elite, who acquired a disproportionate of the resources and these who felt disenfranchised. This is a common factor that can be seen in all aging emperies before their collapse. Internal ands more significant external dissent and even rebellion is the result, which further degrades the cohesion and integrity of the empire. This can be seen in the dissatisfaction of many Third World countries with what they perceive the dominating and unfair advantage that America has, especially in terms of international trade.

One of the central issues in the decline of empires, which some claim to be the main concerns in contemporary American culture, is the reduction in moral and ethical standards. "The primary reason for Rome's fall was moral decline. Every Roman writer who chronicled the fall of the republic -- Appian, Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Sallust, Cicero, and others -- marveled at the evaporation of ancient virtue that preceded the loss of liberty." (Bonta. 2005. p. 36)

Bonta's view reiterates a common perception of the underlying and fundamental cause of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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