For Now. As things stand, America has the world's largest economy, the world's leading universities, and many of its biggest companies. The U.S. military is also incomparably more powerful than any rival. The United States spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world put together. And let's also add in America's intangible assets. The country's combination of entrepreneurial flair and technological prowess has allowed it to lead the technological revolution. Talented immigrants still flock to U.S. shores. And now that Barack Obama is in the White House, the country's soft power has received a big boost. For all his troubles, polls show Obama is still the most charismatic leader in the world; Hu Jintao doesn't even come close.
America also boasts the global allure of its creative industries (Hollywood and all that), its values, the increasing universality of the English language, and the attractiveness of the American Dream. All true -- but all more vulnerable than you might think. American universities remain a formidable asset. But if the U.S. economy is not generating jobs, then those bright Asian graduate students who fill up the engineering and computer-science departments at Stanford University and MIT will return home in larger numbers. Fortune's latest ranking of the world's largest companies has only two American firms in the top 10 -- Walmart at No. 1 and ExxonMobil at No. 3.
The idea that democracies are liable to agree on the big global issues is now being undermined on a regular basis. India does not agree with the United States on climate change or the Doha round of trade talks. Brazil does not agree with the United States on how to handle Venezuela or Iran. A more democratic Turkey is today also a more Islamist Turkey, which is now refusing to take the American line on either Israel or Iran. In a similar vein, a more democratic China might also be a more prickly China, if the popularity of nationalist books and Internet sites in the Middle Kingdom is any guide.
The United States still has formidable strengths. Its economy will eventually recover. Its military has a global presence and a technological edge that no other country can yet match. But America will never again experience the global dominance it enjoyed in the 17 years between the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 and the financial crisis of 2008. Those days are over.
Gideon Rachman in Foreign Policy. More Here.