On the Record

U.S. Decline Extremely Overstated

Robert Kagan

Editor’s Note: In an interview with Charlie Rose, Robert Kagan examines the supposed decline of the United States, and President Obama’s discussion of Kagan’s recent article, 

“Not Fade Away: Against the Myth of American Decline.”

Charlie Rose: I’m pleased to have Robert Kagan join us now. Welcome.

Robert Kagan: Thank you, Charlie.

Rose: So, did you have any communication with the president or with any of his staff about what you wrote for The New Republic?

Kagan: No. I mean, I talked to Tom Donilon and others on the White House staff now and then about various foreign policy issues, but I didn’t particularly talk to them about this.

Rose: As you know, Tom Donilon came on my late-night program and talked about the fact that the president had been influenced by your views.

Kagan: So I hear. I’m very pleased that the president found what I was writing interesting and useful.

Rose: So, what are you saying about America’s decline?

Kagan: I’m saying we have tremendously overstated, and it’s very premature to declare that decline. We are — the truth is, the United States, both economically and militarily, and also in terms of its overall influence, really is as strong as it’s ever been, and I think part of our problem is we have a mythical view of the past. People think that we were able to do everything we wanted, tell everybody what to do, order the whole world around in the past, and now we can no longer do it. The truth is, we’ve always had difficulties, it’s always been a struggle, but I think the United States is still in a very strong position.

Read the transcript and watch the full interview »