By Mohammad Mehdi Tehranchi;

Will the U.S. Experience Decline or Reemerge?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 12:07

World War II ended after the United States' forces used mass-destruction weapons for the first time in world history against two Asian cities which left nothing but the mass killing of a vast number of Japanese civilians. The US atomic bombardment of the Japanese cities was a new evil innovation in utilizing science and technology by individual countries to gain more power. The new world order was formed by the US over the globe in 1945.

The United States detonated two nuclear bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.

A decade later, on October 4, 1957, the Americans who know themselves as the technological winner of the last world war were shocked by the USSR. The former Soviet Union launched Sputnik satellite successfully into space which pushed the US into a deep panic. The development divided the world into the Western and Eastern blocs.

The Soviet Union, officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991.

The Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on October 4, 1957, making it the first successful artificial satellite and marking the start of the Space Race. The satellite traveled at about 29,000 kilometers per hour, taking 96.2 minutes to complete each orbit.

Since then, the world countries have realized that they could gain more power only through being a pioneer in science and technology.

It is worthy of mentioning that it was space technological supremacy, launching Sputnik satellite, which gave the USSR upper-hand in face of the US hegemony.

More than any other occurrence in the United States history, the mentioned Sputnik-related crisis caused the American people and policy-makers to realize the importance of providing governmental supports for scientific-technological efforts to be capable of maintaining the US' military, technological and scientific supremacy in countering other world nations.

US atomic attack to Japan, as well as its reaction to the USSR's success in launching the Sputnik satellite, laid the foundation of the United States' current general structure.

Since then and according to the US' major policies, the country's universities became the first bedrock for conducting government-backed researches. Several state-run laboratories were established to gain more scientific progress aimed at reinvigorating the country's national security. The mentioned inspiring policies further motivated a generation of university students who were completing science and engineering courses across the United States.

Shortly after World War II and during the Cold War years, the US government boosted its support for scientific efforts which resulted in the glory of the country's scientific institutions. The mentioned approach guaranteed the US' fifty years of pioneering in science and technology worldwide. The approach also granted Washington an internationally leading role.

Undoubtedly, the US' diplomatic and economic progress were rooted in the shocks the country's society faced following the launch of the Sputnik satellite. Approval of Space Law by the Congress, the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, unprecedented hike in the budget of the scientific institutions, the establishment of state laboratories as well as the establishment of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA or DARPA) were among the US' measures to narrow down its vulnerability in facing a crisis similar to the Sputnik.

DARPA is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military to cope with surprising innovations similar to the Sputnik.

The 20th century ended the Eastern bloc's collapse and the United States' access to the Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science (NBIC) gave a chance to the US to rule over the world during the 21st century. However, social developments and the promotion trend in various parts of the world were signs of a wonderful change in higher education, researches and innovations across the global geography.

The mentioned change created an advancing multi-polar world regarding science and engineering after decades of domination of the US, the European Union, and Japan.

A glance at the rate of different countries' investments in the last two decades shows the significance of allocating more funds to research centers. The US, which was the leading player in the research activities worldwide expressed concern over footages of a new form of competition in international arenas. The US, according to its data, was concerned about the progressive capabilities of China, India and even the Russian Federation.

The Russian Federation, commonly known as Russia, is a transcontinental country extending over much of northern Eurasia (Asia and Europe). The largest country in the world by land area, Russia has the world's ninth-largest population.

In the meantime, Iran managed not to remain behind in the mentioned global competition. In over a decade of continued scientific achievements, Iran upgraded its scientific standing from 58th in 1996 to 15th in recent years. Unprecedented growth in peaceful nuclear, as well as space industries and the remarkable number of higher education alumna, turned independent Iran into a competitive newly-emerged scientific power. The sanctions, imposed on Iran, were a series of inactive strategies adopted by the US to prevent Iran from emerging as a new scientific power. However, the country successfully managed to turn the sanctions into opportunities in various fields of science, economy, banking and oil industry.

Under the 2015 nuclear accord, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to put limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for the termination of economic and financial sanctions. However, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and introduced the harshest ever sanctions in history against Iran. So far, the European trio – Germany, France, and Britain - which are signatory to the pact and the EU in large have not done anything tangible to shield Iran from sanctions.

It should be mentioned that the US has started to specify its weak points via reviewing its current standing as Washington has mainly realized its deficits. A report titled "Over the Storm" drafted by the American Science Foundation in 2005 released a warning for the threats facing the US' domination. The report had significant impacts on the policies of former US President Barack Obama.

US scientific supremacy is rapidly declining in various fields including higher education and knowledge-based industries.

Once, the United States was the leading destination for foreign university students in higher education worldwide. The total number of students who complete their registration process in the US universities reached 784,000 in 2013 from 475,000 in 2000. However, regardless of the rise in the total number, the registration percentage declined from %25 in 2005 to %19 in 2013 due to other countries' success in attracting international students. Britain, Australia, France, and Germany were new destinations for international students.
In other words, skilled technicians and engineers are the primary sources of innovations in the nowadays competitive economy in the 21st century. The governments in certain countries have paved the way for the students to access higher education as a priority. In the meantime, the mentioned countries have been trying hard to attract a talented workforce as those skilled staff working in scientific and engineering fields intend to seek a better financial situation in other countries.
According to the latest statistics released in 2020 by the American National Science Foundation (NSF) under the title of Science and Engineering, Indicators show that China has reached or in some cases has left the US behind regarding researches and innovations.
The statistics show that the total number of Ph.D. graduates in China has approximately reached the United States' record.

On the other hand, the U.S. budget allocation on researches has been declining year by year while individual Asian nations, especially China, have increased the mentioned budget. The research budget in China is more than the European nations' budget for the same purpose, and it will soon surpass the US research budget too.

On the subject of global investment in research activities, the US' share decreased from %32 in 2000 to %25 in 2007. The European countries' share also decreased from %25 to %20 in the same period. Nevertheless, the Asian countries' share increased from %25 to %42, which was a severe alarm to the US.

On the subject of research activities from 2000 till 2018 across the world, the US' share declined from %28 to %17, but China's share increased from %5 to %21.

On the subject of a value-added share of hi-tech and mid-tech industries, China's progress was eye-catching in the face of the US. Regarding the hi-tech industry, the US' share decreased from %38 to %32, but China's share increased from %6 to %21. In hi-tech and mid-tech industries in 2018, China with %28 surpassed the US whose share was only %22 of the global share.

The mentioned indicators caused the US to get worried about the rivals' progress in various filed of science and technology.

However, science and innovation are playing a very active role in the US economy and national security more than ever; some scientists are worried about the people's lack of intention to seek governmental supports for the scientific centers in comparison with the rivals' budget allocation.

The US' scientific supremacy is now in danger due to the American officials' ignorance and indifference.

The worry started following the September 11 attacks when the US officials failed to understand the importance of science in attaining more power. The worry further covered the country's higher education centers, especially in science and mathematics.

The US engaged in three wars in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. It dispatched a vast number of forces and spent a hefty amount of money for military operations in the region. Later the US engaged in two proxy wars in Iraq and Syria, which resulted in nothing but the destruction of the US hegemony.

If the US intends to leave behind its rivals in the new knowledge-based world economy, it should accelerate its scientific growth which is undoubtedly indebted to providing more supports for the research centers by the government. Worrying about the people and government's adherence to push the relevant decision-makers under pressure to provide supports for the scientific centers caused some representatives in Congress, including Vernon Ehler (r-mi), one of two Ph.D. physicists in Congress, to ask this question, "Now that we need the Sputnik- like the story, where is it?" Some others, including Bill Gates, the owner of the Microsoft Company, have talked about an accidental occurrence similar to the Sputnik satellite launch to once again lead the country towards adopting farsighted policies in the science field.

Some other figures, including Shirley Jackson, the former chairman of the US' Science Development Society and head of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, believe that the US is currently facing an invisible crisis.

In February 2005, the US Media National Society held a meeting, which was attended by the business and academic elites to express their concern over threats posed by the Asian countries of China and India against the US scientific supremacy. The meeting addressed by Craig Barret, the executive manager of Intel, said, "This is a gradual crisis. It is not something to which the Americas' mind can give the correct response. This is not a hit similar to the Sputnik story or tsunami."
In the meantime, a senior columnist in the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman said, "The crisis is nothing but continued erosion of the United States' scientific and technological base which has thus far been upgrading innovation sources and living standards in the US."
Mac Cromic and Smith, the authors of Post-Sputnik novel, which was written in 2008 to explain the US' scientific policy in the 21st century and published by the University of Michigan, opined that there are several reasons to be worried about the ruling system in the US. They added that the US students had gained weak results in international mathematics and other scientific exams. The authors further said that many American companies and industries are losing their international standings and traditional leadership as the companies' owner had started to sell their shares to the foreigners, including the Chinese enterprises.

They concluded that foreign workforces had occupied more and more job opportunities in the U.S.

Following other countries' intention to conduct researches by themselves, many essential types of research are being conducted outside the United States. More students are avoiding registering in U.S. universities as they are being attracted to other countries' academic centers which are offering better centers for research and training courses.

Besides, there are several countries that can now be considered as serious rivals for the US, and the US itself is engaged in national challenges, including dependence on other countries' crude oil, facing epidemic diseases and biologic attacks.

Such problems, which of course are different from alarms caused by launching the Sputnik satellite in 1957, should not be ignored. The mentioned challenges and many other problems need public awareness in order to push the government towards paying more attention to the reinvigoration of scientific and technological progress. It is so regretful for the Americans that the US has turned into an imitator instead of a scientific leader worldwide.

Based on the American politicians' anticipations, the pandemic disease or a biological attack turned from a possibility into a reality after a decade when the possibility was planned. It is happening precisely within the framework of conflict between the US and China as two close rivals in the scientific and technological fields and in the days when the US is on the verge of decline. The US has named the coronavirus as the Chinese virus and China has claimed that the US soldiers participating in the Military World Games as the root causes of the virus outbreak.

The 2019 Military World Games, officially known as the 7th CISM Military World Games and commonly known as Wuhan 2019, was held from October 18–27, 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China.

The 7th Military World Games was the first international military multi-sport event to be held in China. Also, it was the most significant military sports event ever to be held in China, with nearly 10,000 athletes from over 100 countries competing in 27 sports.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The disease first emerged in China in early February and then infected most of the world countries, including Iran, Italy, Spain, France, the U.S., and many other nations.
Following the claims as mentioned earlier and explanations, two scenarios can be developed. The first one is the repetition of history. It will include the formation of new players in the scientific and technological areas, especially China, which has been the main threat to the US' domination for more than a decade. The US' policy-makers, relying on high-level documents, have claimed that China is a threat to the United States threats.

In this battle, may a bipolar world similar to the second Cold War-era take shape in the near future as it took shape in the Sputnik story in 1957? However, such a claimed world will not be formed unless the pandemic disease can create a shock similar to the Sputnik story to change the US scientific and technological policies simultaneously. If the latter prediction occurs, the US will witness another fifty years of scientific leap which will enable it to return to its previous standing, which is now declining in the face of the newly-emerged powers.

The US' revival can be materialized only after the Far East nations' economy narrows down. It can be materialized if the US manages to dominate energy resources in Iraq and Iran.

It is worthy of explaining that bipolarity can be defined as a system of world order in which the majority of global economic, military and cultural influence is held between two states. The classic case of a bipolar world is that of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, which dominated the second half of the twentieth century.

Iran, along with China's hastily growth, is one of the leading foreign barriers in the mentioned scenario. Iran can prevent US domination over the Persian Gulf energy resources and can foil the US sanction-based plots.

The second scenario talks about the collapse of the US hegemony. It talks about a new world order in which the US is not the leading player similar to the European countries that lost their standing during the Cold War and were turned into the second-hand powers.

Now, talking about being surprised by the crisis regardless of a decade long warnings seems to be meaningless. It is more alike to the inefficiency of the US management system.

This article tries to emphasize the post-coronavirus world situation in which the US-planned theory of globalization and collective leadership of the world will come to an end.

I have to mention that materialization each of the mentioned scenarios can lead us towards the source of coronavirus as a product of the US-owned biologic weapons arsenal or transmission of the disease from an animal including bats or anteater to the people in China's Wuhan.

However, the U.S. President Donald Trump's behavior to emphasize imposing more sanctions on Iran and targeting popular Iraqi forces of Hashd al Shaabi speculate that coronavirus outbreak might be a pre-planned plot.

A well-known Iranian proverb says that nothing can be hidden forever.

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