America, the shining city on a hill, swollen over centuries into a reluctant empire, faces a long march into the twilight of its greatness. Our duty now is to supervise our relative decline. Other superpowers shall rise to match us: China, surely, and newly consolidated Europe, and maybe Russia or Japan. From ancient Rome through the Ming Dynasty, from the days of the Spanish Armada to the British Empire, the implacable rule of history is that no one stays on top forever.
We had our day. It's over. Nice while it lasted.
This, at least, is the latest word on the street (well, maybe if you eavesdropped on a couple of nerds outside one of those think tanks on Massachusetts Avenue).
Declinism crosses partisan lines. You can find it in fat books, dense journal articles and angry hip-hop songs. Hollywood takes it as a given. We're past our prime, suffering from incompetent leaders, an overextended military and an incurious, flabby citizenry.
All this strikes me as the cue to place a bet ...