This is not a political post. It is about perceptions and nomenclature and is not designed to be provocative (sorry for the disclaimer but this is necessary so that we can focus on ideas and not polemics).
Nor is the fundamental premise original here; thanks to Jacob Shapiro who writes for the on-line service GPF (Geopolitical Futures), which by the way I recommend.
Is America today still THE dominant superpower in the world, or has it declined or is it declining and are we facing a “multi-polar world?”
Proposed Fact #1: American clearly and for the foreseeable future is the dominant world player. Witness by way of simple example the North Korean confrontation: who send three aircraft carriers to the Sea of Japan and was not in the slightest challenged?
Proposed Fact #2: State the reasons that there is a sense that America has faded: First, aspects of domestic US politics. Second, saying so serves the interests of various foreign powers jockeying for local advantage, and plays into the narrative that these future would-be co-powers aspire to achieve (primary players: Russia, China, India).
But hoping for a multi-power world doesn’t make it so, maintains Jacobs; and, rather persuasively. And the last time America was perceived as slipping (before the last election) was in the Nixon years, with Viet Nam and domestic unrest, which led many to see the US in decline; Nixon himself suggested the decline of American hegemony.
It is unclear, having lived through the years since the end of the Second World War and the nuclear birth of the USSR and its decline and the recessions almost too numerous to mention and Reagan and Iraq and 2001 and 2008, whether this analysis of US history is correct or merely convenient to the argument, but the position of the US in the world is one of both fact and the perception of that fact. Many nations are nibbling at us, but we seem to be able to weather absolutely any position we take. Whether we are great again or never were not great may be a potent political issue but, at least to Jacobs, it is mere nomenclature.