The world’s ‘decay of power’


This book’s title guarantees to stir a huge controversy amid the circles concerned in politics, economy, security, society, culture, religion, social networking means and similar fields.

It will be a controversy similar to that caused by books like the “The Clash of Civilizations,” “The End of History” and “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.”

The book’s name is “The End of Power,” and its subheading is: ”From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be.”

Leaders of superpower countries, heads of giant companies and officials in charge of huge military machines all feel how their power is currently limited due to factors that defy the positions of traditional power

Hisham Melhem


It is written by Moises Naim, the brilliant Venezuelan writer, intellectual and economist and the former editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine. The book tackles perhaps the most important issue confronting the world at the beginning of the 21st century; that is the change of the nature of power or authority on all levels and how these changes do not only reflect on countries and their relations with one another but also how they influence the dynamics of new relations inside countries and among them. These dynamics have been founded by the globalized economy, information technology, means of social networking, the rise of international organizations and banks, the rise of international regulations and phenomena that limit the capabilities of a modern state and its sovereignty or what Naim calls the “decay of power” from Amnesty and big charity organizations to al-Qaeda and terrorist groups, including East Africa’s pirates.

Limited powers

Leaders of superpower countries, heads of giant companies and officials in charge of huge military machines all feel how their power is currently limited due to factors that defy the positions of traditional power. U.S. President Barack Obama cannot pass his project. He is in the spotlight with the spread of media coverage and social networking means that never end. He cannot pass his project because he is incapable of practicing the pressures his predecessors practiced. The strongest army in the world cannot impose its control on Afghanistan where U.S. enemies there use cheap and primitive means to neutralize and exhaust the U.S. army. Small and energetic companies which do not hesitate to take risks are currently competing and surprising giant companies. The EU is almost helpless in resolving the Euro crisis because of the relatively small Greek economy crisis.

Naim writes: “Power is decaying. Attaining power is easy but using it is more difficult. It’s also easily lost.” He adds that power is no longer centralized. On the political level, the number of sovereign countries increased from 51 in the 1940s to 193 today, and they fight among each other and with international organizations. Naim notes that some international organizations including Evangelical Christian institutions played a prominent role in the birth of the state of South Sudan.

Naim says the decay of power has advantages such as liberating societies and weakening authoritarian regimes. But he warns of its negative repercussions and calls for enabling citizens to restructure new political parties and new mechanisms for better governance that is decentralized and more effective.

This article was first published in Lebanon-based Annahar on March 7, 2013


(Hisham Melhem is the Washington bureau chief of Al Arabiya. He is also the correspondent for Annahar, the leading Lebanese daily. For four years he hosted “Across the Ocean,” a weekly current affairs program on U.S.-Arab relations for Al Arabiya. Melhem’s writings appear in publications ranging from the literary journal Al-Mawaqef to the LA Times, as well as in magazines such as Foreign Policy, Middle East Report, Middle East Insight, and Middle East Policy. Melhem speaks regularly at college campuses, think tanks and interest groups on U.S.-Arab relations, political Islam, intra-Arab relations, Arab-Israeli issues, media in the Arab World, Arab images in American media. In addition, Melhem has interviewed many American and international public figures, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, among others.)

Last Update: Thursday, 07 March 2013 KSA 10:43 - GMT 07:43
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