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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The USA is no longer the preeminent superpower?

13 Jun 2024

For many many decades, the USA has been seen as the world's preeminent superpower.

It led the way in the development of industrialisation, technology, weaponry and its economy was the powerhouse of the Western world. It set a standard that all other democracies aspired to match.

Is that still the case today?

Well it appears not.

The USA is a superpower in decline and it is rapidly being outclassed in a number of areas by other nations that have risen from poverty and obscurity to demonstrate their superiority.

If we look at technology it's clear that the USA is still a leader in some fields but has definitely fallen behind in others.

When it comes to semiconductors and state-of-the-art fabrication technology the USA has slid from top position. Who would have thought, at the end of WW2 that a tiny country called Taiwan would eclipse the USA in terms of its ability to create the devices that power most modern computers?

Then there's the 21st century version of the space race, where China is rapidly demonstrating its credentials as a credible force. Yes, US companies such as SpaceX are demonstrating prowess and have truly delivered re-usable tech for boosting satellites (and astronauts) into earth orbit -- but China is scoring an increasing number of "firsts" in terms of lunar exploration and are expecting to build manned moonbases within the next decade or so.

One of the fields that truly cemented the USA as a superpower and the world's most powerful economy was the car industry.

When Henry Ford slashed the cost of cars through the use of assembly-line processes and clever design, the US economy responded very positively. Some say that the 20th century US economy was built on the back of the automobile. Readily available, affordable transport gave a huge boost to businesses and significantly hiked the standard of living for most US citizens.

Although the USA lost its crown as the world's best auto-maker to Japan many decades ago, it has now been dealt an even bigger blow by China and its lead in the manufacture of EVs.

The USA is now scrambling to defeat the threat of cheap Chinese made EVs by introducing huge tariffs on such imports. This move, from a nation that was a champion of globalisation and free trade, is surely an admission of defeat.

Even in the theatre of war, the USA is being embarrassed by much smaller nations.

The latest "must have" weapon is the FPV drone and Ukraine has clearly demonstrated that it leads the world in the building and use of these craft. Their innovative approach to repurposing a harmless recreational toy so as to become one of the most effective and feared battlefield weapons shows just how out of touch the USA has become.

Yes, the USA has a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons but, because of their effectiveness, these are unlikely to actually be used in a conflict. From that perspective, they are totally outclassed by these new generations of cheap, disposable and highly effective drones made by a small former Soviet state.

Once again, the USA's response to dealing with the fact that almost everyone on the planet makes better drones than themselves is to regulate. The US government is, as I type, pushing legislation through The House to ban drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI. This legislation is tacked onto the 2025 National Defense Authorisation Act and although it's touted as a "security" measure, the reality is that it is the only way that domestic drone companies can get any sales in the face of vastly superior Chinese products being sold at a fraction the price of US-made alternatives.

So the USA really does seem to be very much a superpower in decline.

No empire lasts forever (just ask the Romans) and so it seems that the USA has "past its best-by date" already.

My commentary today is not a criticism of Americans. I have a great many US citizens amongst my circle of friends and they are wonderful people. However, I fear that the rise and fall of nations is part of a natural cycle. The best thing the USA can do right now is take a good look at itself, play to its remaining strengths, try to remove corruption within the halls of administration and do its best to slow this decline.

Remember, the only constant in this world is change.

Carpe Diem folks!

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