America must make crucial policy choices if it is to overcome significant problems.

Like many other recent political analysts, Imbrie—a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology and former speechwriter and adviser for John Kerry—sees America at a decisive crossroads. Drawing on abundant scholarship and citing authors including Fareed Zakaria, Paul Kennedy, Barry Posen, David Edelstein, and Kori Schake, among many others, Imbrie mounts a well-informed examination of the country’s ills and offers a discerning perspective on its future paths. “Widening income inequality and stagnant wages, declining social mobility and life expectancy, racial tensions, and environmental stress,” writes the author, “are creating new fissures and dampening optimism about the future.” Citing six historical examples of nations in crisis, from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 20th century, Imbrie analyzes “how and why great powers decline, what policy decisions were most important in changing the pace or character of decline, and the conditions for successful strategies.” America faces a “post-dominant world,” he asserts, in which China, Russia, and other authoritarian states “will seek to modify today’s global system in ways that advantage them more than the United States,” forcing the U.S. to decide “whether it will fall into decline because of internal dysfunction.” Imbrie focuses on six areas of choice: where to employ military commitments, whether to invest in economic productivity or the military, how to assess the need for alliances, how to confront challengers, whether to promote “transparent, accountable institutions” rather than empower wealthy elites, and what role to take on the world stage in promoting democracy. The author’s advice is to “consolidate, adapt, and compete” by putting the drivers of productivity first—“R&D, science and technology, education, and infrastructure”—and by engaging in “robust diplomacy” rather than military interventions.

A thoughtful consideration of myriad challenges facing the U.S.

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-0-300-24350-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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