Train in Vain

Monday, Feb 23, 2009

More from the well-reasoned Dr. Robert Pape about the financial turmoil:

America’s relative decline since 2000 of some 30 percent represents a far greater loss of relative power in a shorter time than any power shift among European great powers from roughly the end of the Napoleonic Wars to World War II. It is one of the largest relative declines in modern history. Indeed, in size, it is clearly surpassed by only one other great-power decline, the unexpected internal collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Most disturbing, whenever there are major changes in the balance of power, conflict routinely ensues. Examining the historical record reveals an important pattern: the states facing the largest declines in power compared to other major powers were apt to be the target of opportunistic aggression. And this is surely not the only possible danger from relative decline; states on the power wane also have a history of launching preventive wars to strengthen their positions. All of this suggests that major relative declines are often accompanied by highly dangerous international environments. So, these declines matter not just in terms of economics, but also because of their destabilizing consequences.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="650" caption="Percentage of world product"]Balance of World Power[/caption]

The National Interest: Empire Falls, Dr. Robert Pape, January 22, 2009.