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In the early 21st century, Americans wondered if their country was in free fall while other nations grew -- politically, culturally and militarily. By 2050, they may not have to wonder. Halfway through the century, the economies of China and India will likely continue to outpace the United States, and the Gulf States and European Union -- notwithstanding its financial crises -- will be forces to be reckoned with, both economically and diplomatically. And what of the United States? Well, read on.
A soft landing for America 40 years from now?? Don't bet on it.? The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines.? If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting. Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003. Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration's rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.