Sunday, December 28, 2008

The World Has Moved On

It's interesting to see the near total absence of angry resentment as Americans settle in to the idea that the United States' global supremacy is over.

The screeching chants of "USA, USA, USA" and "We're Number One, We're Number One" seem to have had their last gasp at Sarah Palin rallies this fall.

From what I've been reading in the American media, it seems that most US citizens might actually welcome stepping out of the constant spotlight, even if that is for good. And why not? They've seen their country's treasure, even its promise for future generations, squandered on foreign wars which have failed to produce any winners, any victories. They have watched their jobs disappear and working and middle-class incomes stagnate even as those at the very top, who have alone reaped great rewards are now exposed as having sabotaged their nation's economy out of sheer greed.

The word is definitely and clearly getting out that America's unipolar world is over. From the Chicago Tribune:

"There is no return to the time when the United States was the 'indispensable power,' " said Stewart Patrick, a former State Department official at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The world has moved on."

A decade ago, the United States might have been able to bring enough economic pressure on its own to force an end to Iran's disputed nuclear program, said Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College.

But Iran by now has built economic ties to China and India, among others, so the United States has to assemble a much larger group if it hopes to force Tehran's hand.

"Ten years ago, the U.S. was generally the only game in town, and it had the power to close or crack open the door to Iran," Gvosdev said. "Now other countries have more options. … This doesn't mean the United States is weak, but it can't unilaterally impose what it wants."

A report this year by the U.S. National Intelligence Council cites a shift of economic power from the West to the East that is "without precedent," and this will mean that the United States by 2025 will "remain the single most powerful country but will be less dominant."

In every corner of the world, regional blocs are becoming established. No longer is the United States necessarily a welcome presence either. Even the South Americans, so long under the boot of the Monroe Doctrine, are coalescing into economic and defence alliances that exclude Washington.

American power, economic and military, will remain great but the United States is going to have to find better ways of using it. The Bull in the China Shop days are over. Ostracism is also a form of unilateralism, something that the neo-cons stupidly never grasped.

Canada needs to come to grips with this shifting reality because the consequences of what lies ahead for America and how that will bear on our country are far from predictable and only a fool would assume they'll be to our liking, much less benign. The bottom line is that it's going to take somebody a lot less star-struck with all things American than Stephen Harper to chart the course for Canada.


Anonymous said...

The shift from west to east is precedented if your outlook is a long one. Europe's ascendancy is recent (post industrial revolution), more particularly Britain (18th & 19th c) and then the U.S. (20th C). I agree completely about Canada needing to take stock of this shift. We are fortunate to be a country of resources, but that can also be a vulnerability when other countries get rather short of resources. How about using our own for a change, and looking around for how to develop a new and green economy appropriate to the shift. Everyone's attention is on the immediate financial collapse & no wonder. It's what affects us now. But beyond that is an old economy based on cheap labour and cheap oil. For the moment the cost of oil has been artificially depressed because of the recession. But it's only a matter of time until that changes again.

The Mound of Sound said...

Perhaps what is unprecedented in this is the abruptness of the shift, a whipsaw effect combining the investment of Western (American) wealth into growing its main rival's economy and that same rival then using that wealth to fund near-permanent, low-interest loans to its benefactor. America is effectively being bled out from both ends.

I totally agree with your advocacy for a "new and green economy." That's investing in the future, creating opportunities for long-term returns, rather than propping up failed financial institutions by making good their past recklessness and greed.

Anonymous said...

Steven Harper is only the latest most prominent Canadian to view "America" as an ideal towards which to navigate. Neither will he be the last. "The American Dream" is a very powerful myth sold throughout the globe. With the waning of the American Empire, that myth will also wane, but what will Canadians believe? How much ink how many hours and how much money have been spent worrying about what makes a Canadian and how does Canadian Identity relate to America? We will know the American Empire is indeed dead when the CBC no longer devotes an entire Sunday evening taking calls on Cross Country Checkup about how being Canadian differs from being American.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you're right on the unique relationship between the U.S. and China, which is now rapidly changing. It's interesting that those countries most adversely affected by the financial crisis are also the ones most heavily invested in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are also the countries that have been the heaviest consumers of antidepressants in the last decade, ie UK and the US. Another reason for Canada to examine or orientation and which countries we use as models for our own direction. The countries that are the most robust now are the ones who have been greening their technology and economy (and happen to be much lower consumers of antidepresants...coincidence or not?)

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not sure what to make of the link to antidepressants and economic fiascos but there's no question that reckless military adventurism played a pivotal role in America's fiscal collapse. It seemed to go hand in hand with Cowboy Capitalism and an indifference to debt that plagued both the US and Britain.

Anonymous said...

Antidepressants affect judgment in a way that replicates the attitude of cowboy capitalism. Speaking of which, the profits of pharmaceuticals are multiple times the closest corporations'.