Some may continue to point to the structural advantages enjoyed by the United States...of its rare combination of hard and soft power; of the fact that it remains the only serious power with true global reach... But in the current climate such facts appear to be cutting little ice with those who now insist that as result of Bush's ill-conceived war on terror, followed by the financial crisis, American decline is now a foregone conclusion.
It's the economy that will increasingly set the limits on commitments Western powers are willing to make abroad, whether in the form of military intervention or even of aid. And, on the flip side, it will be economic pain that will increasingly serve as the main driver of rebellion and political instability across the global spectrum.
Britain's soft power which was becoming more perceptible with the migration of more than 20 million Britons from the years 1650 to 1950 to outside of Europe would continuously spread the English language, teaching administration, customs and Christianity. The term “Anglicization” was used exactly like the more recent “Americanization” to describe the process of dissemination of the English culture. The passage of time proved that neither hard nor soft power guaranteed the sustenance of the Empire.
As international borders become more porous, nations must use soft power to build networks and institutions to respond to shared threats. In this sense, power becomes a positive-sum game. It is no longer sufficient to think exclusively of wielding power over others. We must instead think of using power to accomplish goals with others.
What will it mean to wield power in the global information age of the 21st century? What resources will produce power? In the 16th century, control of colonies and gold bullion gave Spain the edge; 17th-century Netherlands profited from trade and finance; 18th-century France used its larger population and armies to gain advantage; while 19th-century British power rested on its primacy in the industrial revolution and its navy.