Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University has been battling the declinist heresy for more than two decades. In 1990 — at a time when it was fashionable to predict that Japan might eventually eclipse the US — he published Bound to Lead, arguing that America was likely to remain the world’s dominant power for many years to come. Now, 25 years later, Nye has written a book with a similar theme but a different target. In Is the American Century Over?, he takes on the current wave of declinism — which these days is usually based on the idea that China will displace America as “number one”.
Once again, Nye begs to differ, arguing the case for America’s continued dominance on the basis of its political, economic, cultural and diplomatic strengths. The fact that, back in 1990, Nye was correct to debunk the idea that America was on the slide is just one good reason to take his new book seriously. His writing is illuminated by a calm authority and the ability to clarify issues by breaking them down into their constituent parts.