Tag Archives: debt

Disagreeing with Joe Nye

As a colleague who has been learning from Joe Nye for many years, I join the chorus applauding his latest in a string of pearls of wisdom about power in international affairs.  The Future of Power is a must-read.  Imaginatively, judiciously, Joe tours the horizon of current debates and offers thoughtful, policy-relevant advice.

From questions about the rise of China and decline of the U.S., to cyberspace and changing metrics of power in 21st century international affairs, he advances the debate.

With so much to agree with, what’s to disagree?  While my major difference is more one of emphasis than fundamentals, let me overstate it for the sake of clarity.  Consider the core question: what is the single biggest threat to American power and security today?

Interestingly, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has answered this question unambiguously.  As Mullen has stated on several occasions, his considered judgment is that “the single biggest threat to American national security is our debt.”  By debt he means not only the current mountain of nearly $14 trillion of gross federal debt that has accumulated mostly over the past decade, but also the current trajectory that will add an additional $1.5 trillion this year, and even worse, embedded trendlines in spending and taxing that are undermining America’s balance sheet.

In the words of our colleague Larry Summers, who just returned from Washington: “Is there not something odd about the world’s greatest power being the world’s greatest debtor?”

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