I haven't posted anything in-depth the past few days because I've been busy with real work, and also because my blogging time quota has been dedicated to the comments to this post from John Quiggin (in response to this post by me, which was in response to his comments on my first retort -- and Phil Arena's "Amen" -- to this post by Quiggin), where I've spilt several thousand words at least. I've said a lot in there, much too much to summarize simply, but I think/hope it aggregates into something coherent. Probably the closest thing to "my overall view of the world" that I've put down. So, um, if you're interested in that you can plow through those lengthy comments to see if I've made any sense. And the argument is ongoing, although it seems to be dying down, so if you want to chime in please do. This is how I learn.
Anyway, at long last (in blogotime) Drezner weighed in with a sanity post, as I hoped and expected he would. And, in typical fashion, he expropriated the only marketable bit from the argument -- the title "The End of Power" -- but also spoke some sense.
While I was obsessing about Egypt last week, I see that John Quiggin, William Winecoff and others have been having a rollicking debate about the status of American hegemony, the fungibility of military power, and Boeing/Airbus subsidies. OK, that last one is less interesting, but I strongly encourage readers to go through the comment thread to that blog post. [KW: Yes! Please do! That way it'll seem like I didn't waste a bunch of time on the internet]
Drezner quotes a representative bit of Quiggin in which he (Quiggin) completely misunderstands how power works::
There's something missing from this debate that is worth raising, however -- a proper definition of power. For example, in his first post, Quiggin noted that "[advanced industrialized countries] might be said to have declined in relative terms. But this doesn’t seem to me to constitute 'decline' in any important sense." This is heresy to an international relations scholar, in that power is viewed as a zero-sum commodity.
This cheesed off Winecoff and others into pointing out the myriad ways in which the U.S. power profile is a) still outsized; and b) largely shaped the current global order we live in; and c) allowed entities like the EU to focus on welfare maximization rather than security.
I actually think Drezner got the  in the quote wrong. It was pretty clearly referring to the US in particular, and not advanced industrialized countries generally. Anyway, It didn't cheese me off so much as make me wonder how a cosmopolitan social scientist with interests in social science generally and political economy specifically has such a strange view of power and influence.
I had put it this way:
[A] decline in relative terms is exactly what most people mean when they talk about the rise or decline of states. There's a storied IR debate about whether states are concerned about absolute or relative gains (or both), but basically everyone agrees that when we're talking about power and influence -- as opposed to, say, affluence -- relative differentials is what is important. So Quiggin is not only wrong here, he's got it perfectly backwards.
Drezner agrees, and helpfully goes on to talk about the different between compellence power and deterrence power:
[I]t is useful to think about the power to deter change from the status quo vs, the power to compel change in the status quo. In a deterrence scenario, countries use their capabilities to ward off pressure from other actors, or from structural pressures. In a compellence scenario, a powerful government threatens to use statecraft to extract concessions from other actors, or use power to alter the rules of the global game.
This is helpful in one sense, but obfuscates in another. It's helpful because it is definitely true that capabilities in one sphere does not necessarily imply capabilities in the other. It's also helpful because it can help separate which dynamics are present in which contexts. "Power" is a somewhat clumsy concept -- notoriously so, in academic IR -- so adding precision and context is good and right.
On the other hand, I think it gives Quiggin an out that he doesn't deserve. His point, generally, is that the US's power has already valleyed out, full stop. I think every IR person that has read that argument has completely disagreed, but that's to miss an even more fundamental point: The status quo is the US's ideal point, or relatively close to it. Even if US power has declined, at least at once it was the predominate power, capable of shaping the global order to a substantial (but not infinite) way. If deterrence/compellence is defined relative to the status quo, and the status quo predominately reflects the interests of one particular state, and that state has greater deterrence capabilities than any other state, then... you can finish the sentence. Compellence power isn't even needed, only deterrence power is.
FWIW, I believe the US has greater compellence power than any other state as well, even after some relative decline (this is the Drezner position too, I think, as well as nearly all of the IR profession), but that's almost irrelevant. Once a great power becomes a status quo power, it takes extreme, out-sized compellence powers by another state to change the system. Like, say, winning a World War, and then a Cold War in succession. That clearly hasn't happened yet. Or, as Drezner put it:
[N]either U.S. deterrent power nor other countries' compellence power has changed all that much, even in the economic realm. The rest of the G-20 can scream as loud as they want, but quantitative easing is going to continue. China has tried to find ways to use its newly found financial muscle to force changes in the international system, to little avail. To be sure, Russia, China and others can compel countries on their immediate periphery, but even a glance at the 2008 Russian-Georgian war suggests that even modest efforts like these are expensive and messy.
Right, but the important fact is that the US is the status quo power. China and Russia aren't. And the US has been able to repel Russian and Chinese (and French and Brazilian, etc.) efforts to revise the system with ease. As in, it hasn't even been a conversation worth dwelling on.
Drezner calls this the "extinction of compellence power as we know it". I don't think so. I think it's a combination of a few things.
1. The overestimation of the US's compellence capabilities previously. It's frequently said that the limits of the US's power in the 21st century is demonstrated by the difficulty in pacifying Iraq and Afghanistan. But the US couldn't pacify Korea in the 1950s (when it was unquestionably the only global power), nor Vietnam in the 1960s-70s. In other words, a better lesson is that the capability to remove a regime is not the same as the power to reconstitute society in the wake. Power is always limited, even for the most powerful state. The US experience in Iraq is actually much better than the experience in Vietnam.
2. Selection bias. Drezner should be susceptible to this argument, since one of his best-known articles focused on the importance of unobserved events. Well, the lack of challenges (or feeble "challenges" that are mostly signaling to domestic audiences) to the order initiated by the US is evidence of the US' compellence power, just by way of carrots rather than sticks. Integration into the US's order gets you rich (Japan, Germany, China, etc.), segregation from it makes you poor (N. Korea, Cuba, etc.). This is the Ikenberry argument, although he never puts it quite that way.
I could go on, but this is long as it is, esp when combined with my previous posts and comments at Crooked Timber. But if something isn't making sense (this seems to happen a lot when non-IR people read what I write) I'd be happy to revise/revisit my claims.