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The Politics of Managing Decline

Raymond Geuss

Abstract

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has appealed to the other members

of the European Union to engage constructively with the Bush

administration as a means of working towards peace in a perilous

world. The combination of highly developed destructive capacity, relative

economic decline, diplomatic incompetence, and continuing

political divisions among a frustrated and resentful population that is

deeply ignorant of the wider world and subject to recurrent bouts of

collective paranoia does indeed make the United States a dangerous

international agent. One of the main ways, in particular, in which the

U.S. represents a particular menace to world peace at the moment is

that it has come to be in Washington’s short-term interest to make the

world a place in which the quick recourse to violence, and the constant

threat of violence, is accepted as part of normal practice in international

relations. The use of military power presents itself as an

increasingly attractive option primarily because the U.S. is becoming

weaker and weaker economically and politically, and force is one of

the few means U.S. politicians can deploy that offer any hope whatever

of allowing them to advance or protect what they think are their

vital interests.

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