The End of the American Century
11 min readSep 24, 2019

America no longer wants to lead the World, and both our enemies and allies have noticed.

The American Century is over. The country no longer wants to be tied down by the principles and laws of international relations that we helped create. America is tired of managing the system of global governance created after the allied victory in World War II. Most importantly, America has given up on being the leader of the world that it worked so hard to make free. Like other great empires of history, the cost of maintaining control of the over the international system has proven to be too much. Unlike those empires, it has been the cultural and political rather than economic costs that have led to the end of the American Century.


In February 1941 Henry Luce, the creator of Time magazine, published an article entitled “The American Century.” In it he argued that America was facing a great decision: should the country lead the war against fascism despite not being directly threatened by it? It was a turning point in the history of American foreign-policy because in one succinct argument Luce explained why the United States had to give up its historical attachment to isolationism and instead embrace its destiny as the leader of the free world. This was a moment that the United States had begun preparing for three decades earlier. The foundations of a New World Order were created at the end of the First World War by American president Woodrow Wilson and his new liberal internationalism. His “Fourteen Points” speech established principles such as the promotion of diplomacy, respect for international law, and the right of self-determination over the realpolitik of European states that had led to the “war to end all wars.”

Woodrow Wilson trying to convince Congress to join the League of Nations, Jan. 8 1918

Victory in World War II convinced America and the world of the righteousness of these principles leading to the creation of a system of international organizations to protect and promote them. American leadership of this new system meant including the additional ideals of democracy, free trade, and respect for human rights. And there was no greater symbol of American leadership or the new system than creation of