Fawaz Turki: Declinist Historians are No Doomsayers

Roundup: Media's Take

Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.

In his State of the Union address in January, US President Barack Obama disputed the notion that America is in decline. “Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned doesn’t know what they’re talking about”, he declared. “America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs”. Declinist historians, along with 69 per cent of Americans, beg to differ though.

American declinists, whose morbid role in the world of academe is to look for universal rhythms that accompany the rise and fall of civilisations, have had a field day since the 1980s, pondering their nation’s potential fall from grace as a big power. Perhaps, in historical times, even imminent fall....

Modern-day American declinists abound and have, for the last three decades, addressed the issue of whether the US is headed to the wayside. Scholars like Paul Kennedy, ‘The Rise and Fall of Great Powers’, 1987, Joseph Nye, ‘Soft Power’, 2004, and Cullen Murphy, ‘Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America’, 2007, come to mind. Their argument in a nutshell is this: America is a hegemon in decay set on a course that will see it fall to stronger rivals, perhaps not as crudely as Rome had fallen to barbarian tribes in the third century, but falling it is....

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