Dr. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Monday that American standing in the world will decline relative to other powers.
At a panel discussion titled “Primus inter Pares? The US and the global order” at the Herzliya Conference, a major policy conference in Israel, Haass said many factors suggest a relative decline in American influence, including an overstretched military, energy dependence, indebtedness and a dysfunctional political process.
Responding to a question about previous warnings of American decline that amounted to nothing, Mr. Haass said that there is a “worrisome amount of evidence” that the current situation is different. The American political system’s inability to tackle serious issues is a “systemic pathology,” he said.
When asked by the moderator whether one should “buy short on the U.S.,” he answered: “In the next few years, yes.”
Nevertheless, he said the U.S. likely will remain the world’s leading power, and expressed optimism that the trends might change. All the problems he discussed are “very fixable challenges,” he said.
Another panelist, Professor Shlomo Avineri of the Hebrew University, said that Barack Obama’s policy reflects his background as an intellectual. Noting that Obama is the first intellectual to be elected president since Woodrow Wilson, Avineri said his policy has several “Wilsonian” characteristics, including high rhetoric with little substance. He expressed hope that the administration will get a “reality check.”
The four-day Herzliya Conference on the balance of Israel’s national security is Israel’s foremost policy gathering. Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Central Bank Chairman Stanley Fisher, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and many others will speak at the 10th annual conference this week.