To get an idea of how the 21st century will play out, it might help to look back 1,000 years or so, writes Parag Khanna in the Financial Times. "The world we are moving into in 2011 is one not just with many more prominent nations, but one with numerous centers of power in other ways," he writes. "It is, in short, a neo-medieval world. The 21st century will resemble nothing more than the 12th century." That's the last time the world was "genuinely western and eastern at the same time."
So how does the US fit into this Middle Ages analogy? Bust out your history books and follow along: "If the European Union today plays the part of the Holy Roman Empire, then the US is the new Byzantium, facing both east and west while in a state of relative decline." But fear not: "The Byzantines lasted for many centuries beyond their material capability, through shrewd diplomacy and deception rather than by force." And remember, adds Khanna: The Middle Ages, despite its reputation, was an "age of great invention and discovery," one that led to a Renaissance.