Paul Kennedy was on fine form at Wednesday’s Breakfast Club event at the RAC on Pall Mall. In conversation with the impressive Bronwen Maddox, editor of Prospect Magazine, it was a fascinating way to start the day.
Twenty five years after his best-seller, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (Vintage Books, 1987) was first published, Paul noted that the world stage had changed noticeably, not least due to the end of the Cold War.
In the hour-long discussion with Bronwen, Paul effortlessly covered China – where he says that water supply and self-generated food production will be very real issues by 2030 – to the EU – where he thinks it was a mistake to ever suppose that countries from Germany to Greece and Portugal could share a common monetary policy without common fiscal/taxation/disciplinary policies without coming a cropper – and of course, the US.
In talking about America, Paul referred to his oft-quoted phrase, first coined in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, of “imperial overstretch”, warning that the US is in danger of concentrating too much on its military capabilities to the detriment of its infrastructure. As someone who is based at Yale, he is well-placed to comment on the huge gap between state colleges and the “ivory towers” of the Ivy League universities, and what it says about the state of this “great power”.