October 3, 2009


Today I had the great honor of meeting a Dartmouth '76, a man by the name of Dr. Paul Stockton. He also happens to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense- a rather imposing title. He divided his time with me and about ten other students between giving us career advice and pontificating about the nature of power and the international dynamic. Words on both subjects were of course most welcome from such an expert.

After Dr. Stockton's short, informal lecture, I approached him to introduce myself, thank him, and ask him two questions. He was most willing to oblige. My first question, which only had the purpose of setting the stage for my next, was "Do you believe that the United States is the most powerful country in the world?"

His answer, of course, was "Absolutely." What else could I have expected a senior official of the government to say? And he's right. (I was only practicing good law- never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer.)

My next question was more important, and I prefaced it as such. Then I asked: "How long do you think that will last?" I was eager to hear his thoughts on the perhaps-imminent or perhaps-imaginary fall of the United States. I mentioned the fall of the Roman and British Empires and the fact that the U.S. has followed a similar pattern to the top of the international hierarchy.

Dr. Stockton's answer was rather stoic. He replied that it was a crucial question, but that he believed that the U.S. would hold on for a few more generations. I then asked the next important question, being, "What happens after that? Will the countries just keep moving through this cycle and take turns being superpowers?"

His answer was yes.

This made me think. Will the world really have the same hierarchal structure forever, with just changes in which specific country is in power at the time? Dr. Stockton thinks so, apparently... But I'm unsure. For one thing, nothing can go on indefinitely. Therefore, there must be an end to this cycle of the transfer of power. Mustn't there? Mustn't there be another international hierarchal system that will rise to the occasion of changing times?

The international dynamic is something that is crucial to all our lives. There's only one Earth, obviously; and so there's no way to escape international politics, at least not until we colonize Mars. And so I believe it is important to think a little bit about this question. What will happen? Will China take over and become the next superpower? Will Russia? Or will the status quo hang from the ledge by its fingertips and (perhaps) manage to eke out a few more years of existence?

Either way, it's good to think about where we're headed... where this country's headed... where this world as a whole, anarchy aside, is headed. So think. What will happen when, if, America falls?

Do you have an answer?

1 comment:

  1. gravy6:02 PM

    There is no indication that America has to 'fall'. Rome lasted for centuries, and its collapse was due largely to poor leadership later on. If the United States elects forward thinking governments and plans for the future, there is no reason that we cannot exploit China's rise or India's rise to benefit our own interests, an maintain hegemony.