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The End of U.S. Leadership?

In the run up to America’s 2020 presidential elections, will the coronavirus pandemic put the nail in the coffin of U.S. leadership and its democratic model? While Donald Trump may not have started this decline, he has helped amplify it during the current healthcare and economic crisis, according to Dominique Moïsi, a renowned international relations expert in France and the United States, and the author of Le Nouveau Déséquilibre du Monde (“The New World Disorder”).


France-Amérique: In your New York Times article, you discuss the end of American leadership. Is this a common theme borrowed from, among others, U.S. journalist Fareed Zakaria?

Dominique Moïsi: In his 2008 book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria did not talk about America’s decline. He described a world in which the United States was no longer alone. Instead, it had been joined at the top by other powers such as China and India. However, Washington had not been entirely dethroned and had retained its role as global mediator. Today, not only is Asia moving forward, but America is regressing. The current context has more in common with Paul Kennedy’s analysis in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, published in 1987, than with Zakaria’s.

The decline of the United States has often been predicted — in the 1970s following the Vietnam War, for example. Yet it bounces back every time.

A relative decline is not the same as an absolute decline. However, in relation to the rest of the world, America does seem to be “exhausted” by unfortunate military campaigns, money spent in vain, and the “Other.” The world’s leading military power appears quite “helpless” against the coronavirus. It must first reconnect with itself if it is to bounce back. The crisis in American democracy runs deep and is the result of a long process. Trump is a symptom of this dysfunction, not the cause.

What is the cause of this decline? The virus, Trump, or an underlying trend of voluntary withdrawal supported by public opinion that began under Obama?

During the Cold War and until the early 21st century, not only was America the leading world power, it was also the champion of democracy, freedom, and economic liberalism. For better (in Europe) or for worse (in Latin America, for example), the United States defended the values it embodied, most often sincerely. Hollywood helped and heightened America’s soft power and the draw of the American dream. A world “without America,” a world in which the dream is dead because it is inherently dominated by a culture of fear, is more chaotic and therefore more dangerous.

When did America’s decline begin?

The coronavirus is obviously not the cause of America’s decline. If anything, the pandemic has revealed and accelerated the major trends that have been growing for several decades. But this process of decline seems to have been developing relentlessly since the early 21st century.

Should France and Europe take over from the United States?

Less America in the world would inevitably lead to more Europe in an effort to counter Chinese and Russian ambitions, and face the current global disorder. Unfortunately, this is not happening. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, there is more Germany in Europe, but not more Europe in the world.


Interview published in the June 2020 issue of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the magazine.

  • Mr. Moïsi writes for the leftist New York Times newspaper so of course his views on the American President is biased. Actually, if according to him America is regressing, it’s because the Democrats and the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are intent on bringing it down to serve their purpose: getting rid of Trump at all costs — even if the country is pulled down with him. They tried everything else: attacking the president’ s family, his cabinet, his friends. The Russian, the Ukraine hoax, the impeachment cost millions to the taxpayers to no avail. In the meantime, the Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden scandals were not investigated and are protected by the Democrats (and some Republicans). The swamp is very murky and too many politicians know “where the bodies are buried.” I do you a favor for my charity, you do one for mine… The Covid virus which brought the country to a halt for several months with the economy being a casualty is the last card left for the Democrats before the election. In the meantime, Joe Biden is kept in the basement by his handlers for fear he will say more stupidities. Every day, Trump is battling against the leftist medias’ constant lies and convenient editing, Hollywood’s overpaid “luminaries,” the hypocrisy of the entitled limousine left, the radical college professors and universities and… the Moïsis out there. If one wants to get at least two sides of the story, listen to Fox News. Then one can have a sound argument to present your case. Unfortunately the masses listen to CNN’s hateful comments and repeat like parrots what they hear. Trump wants to keep America American and bring manufacturing businesses back to the country (most people did not know before Covid that most pharmaceuticals were made in China!).

  • Moïsi makes the critical point when he states that Trump is not the source of the problem, but rather the symptom and a glaringly obvious symptom at that. A vulgar, garish and racist sociopath would never have received the majority of the popular vote (actually, he didn’t) unless there was some very serious underlying social dysfunction leading to rampant tribalism. Shameful levels of income inequality between the top 10% and the rest of the country has left poor, undereducated whites struggling to make ends meet. This has made them susceptible to the hate-mongering lies of an autocrat who promotes scapegoating of Mexicans, blacks and other minorities. The saddest effect of this is that they have thrown their support to a president, and his political party, whose policies such as defunding public education, opposing affordable health care, opposing increases in minimum wages, and the systematic disenfranchising of our democratic voting rights, all of which serve to make their plight in life even worse. Meanwhile the “limousine Republicans” and corporate captains that populate the rest of his base continue to prosper at the cost of creating a dangerously weakened democracy.

  • Le New York Times (qui représente à lui seul ce qui existe de pire en matière de désinformation et d’obscurantisme au niveau planétaire) illustre parfaitement le déclin intellectuel et moral des USA. Exemple parfait de confusionnisme idéologique et journalistique : l’extrême droite déguisée en gauche, les identitaires et les ultra-réactionnaires déguisés en progressistes. Le trumpisme ne représente que l’écume de la vague, en comparaison. La seule chance pour l’Europe de ne pas être entraînée dans ce naufrage historique : se désaméricaniser, et sans tarder. (Pour la France il est déjà trop tard.)

  • One reader has made my point by repeating what the leftist medias and newspapers have been telling the masses ad nauseam: People don’t have to think for themselves because if they can be told the same thing over and over again for 3 1/2 years, they will believe it! It has come to that if one dares to advance another opinion, then one is branded a fascist and a racist. Facts: Under Obama’s presidency, there was much division, unrest and crimes in the major cities but conveniently ignored by CNN and other biased channels. He had 8 years to fix it! Under Trump, minorities have benefited from the economy, which if it had not been so strong in the last 3 years, the USA would currently be in worst shape. Instead of spewing hate and untruths, I would refer the reader to some people who, instead of whining like CNN’s Don Lemon, have made great accomplishments in their lives. Some were from humble families. Dr. Ben Carson; Candace Owens; Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina; Colonel Allen West; Robert Woodson; Shelby Steele who specializes in the study of race relations and multiculturalism; Thomas Sowell, economist and social theorist, doctor of philosophy, Professor Carol Swain, who has a PhD in political science from Vanderbilt University, studied race relation, and was endorsed by 2 Supreme Court justices; Leo Terrell, civil rights attorney; David Webb, activist and radio talk show host; Charles Payne, financial analyst; Professor Wilfred Reilly, who has a PhD in political science and is the author of Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left Is Selling a Fake Race War; Professor Glenn Loury, professor of economics at Harvard and supporter of the 1776 Project (dealing with N.Y. Times inaccuracies); 24 year-old Coleman Hughes, writer and columnist; and yes, Professor Cornel West from Harvard, Princeton and Yale, who has been critical of Obama and Hillary Clinton although a very strong voice of the left-wing party. By the way, all the above mentioned are wonderful, brilliant people of color.

  • @Nicole Richaudeau The New York Times is indisputably racist, xenophobic, francophobic, and it very often publishes disinformation. It is Trump to the power of 100.

  • Le meurtre raciste de Jessica Doty Whitaker par des suprémacistes noirs est une abomination. L’absence d’indignation collective est une seconde abomination venant s’ajouter à la première.
    Jessica Doty Whitaker live mattered.

  • Thanks to France 24, I learned about the racist murder of Jessica Doty Whitaker, 24 years old, in Indianapolis. She was murdered by BLM activists after saying All lives matter. But the NYT and the WP stay silent after this hate crime: Their silence is not only a journalistic choice. Silence is complicity.

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