The Debate Over Whether a Dominant America Is Now on the Decline in the World

U.S. intelligence agencies weigh in with portrait of a "less dominant" United States by 2025.

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The nation's intelligence agencies are the latest to engage in the debate over the future of American power, forecasting a decline in U.S. dominance. The current tumble in the economy has intensified discussion about whether something fundamental is happening in the United States beyond the usual cycles in the economy.

U.S. News's Thomas Omestad recently took a look at the topic in a special report, Is America Really on the Decline? "Even with a bold intervention by Washington to shore up financial markets, the scope and velocity of the made-in-America financial tumble have thrust forward doubts about the future—and the attractiveness—of the freewheeling U.S. capitalist model, about America's true strength overseas, and about the durability of a post-Cold War order with the United States as the unchallenged, full-service superpower," he reported.

Elliot Cohen, the State Department's counselor and a senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, does not see the fundamentals of the U.S. power position eroding.

This week, the National Intelligence Council, an analytical grouping of the nation's intelligence agencies, put out a wide-ranging study of the global future in 2025.

Here's what it says about the outlook for American's place in the world:

The United States: Less Dominant Power. By 2025, the United States will find itself as one of a number of important actors on the world stage, albeit still the most powerful one. Even in the military realm, where the United States will continue to possess considerable advantages in 2025, advances by others in science and technology, expanded adoption of irregular warfare tactics by both state and nonstate actors, proliferation of long-range precision weapons, and growing use of cyberwarfare attacks increasingly will constrict U.S. freedom of action.

A more constrained U.S. role has implications for others and the likelihood of new agenda issues being tackled effectively.

Despite the recent rise in anti-Americanism, the United States probably will continue to be seen as a much-needed regional balancer in the Middle East and Asia. The United States will continue to be expected to play a significant role in using its military power to counter global terrorism.

On newer security issues like climate change, U.S. leadership will be widely perceived as critical to leveraging competing and divisive views to find solutions.

At the same time, the multiplicity of influential actors and distrust of vast power means less room for the United States to call the shots without the support of strong partnerships. Developments in the rest of the world, including internal developments in a number of key states—particularly China and Russia—also are likely to be crucial determinants of U.S. policy.