Archive for the ‘Globalization & International Trade’ Category

6
Nov

Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation

The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair. On this election eve, many Americans are losing faith in their country’s future.

The Statue of Liberty in New York: After a brilliant century and a terrible decade, the United States, in this important election year, has reached a point in its history when the obvious can no longer be denied: The reality of life in America so greatly contradicts the claim — albeit one that has always been exaggerated — to be the “greatest nation on earth,” that even the most ardent patriots must be overcome with doubt.

 

The monumental National Mall in Washington, DC, 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) long and around 1,586 feet wide at its broadest point, is a place that showcases the United States of America is in its full glory as a world power. A walk along the magnificent swath of green space, between the white dome of the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial, a temple erected to honor former president Abraham Lincoln, at its western end, leads past men in bronze and stone, memorials for soldiers and conquerors, and the nearby White House. It’s a walk that still creates an imperial impression today.

The Mall is lined with museums and landscaped gardens, in which America is on display as the kind of civil empire that promotes the arts and sciences. There are historic sites, and there are the famous steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King once spoke of his dream, and of the dreams of a country to be a historic force, one that would serve the wellbeing of all of mankind. Put differently, the National Mall is an open-air museum for an America that, in 2012, is mostly a pleasant memory.

After a brilliant century and a terrible decade, the United States, in this important election year, has reached a point in its history when the obvious can no longer be denied: The reality of life in America so greatly contradicts the claim — albeit one that has always been exaggerated — to be the “greatest nation on earth,” that even the most ardent patriots must be overcome with doubt.

This realization became only too apparent during and after Hurricane Sandy, the monster storm that ravaged America’s East Coast last week, its effects made all the more devastating by the fact that its winds were whipping across an already weakened country. The infrastructure in New York, New Jersey and New England was already in trouble long before the storm made landfall near Atlantic City. The power lines in Brooklyn and Queens, on Long Island and in New Jersey, in one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, are not underground, but are still installed along a fragile and confusing above-ground network supported by utility poles, the way they are in developing countries. Read more…

As published in www.spiegel.de on November 5, 2012.

 

5
Nov

By Tony Karon

U.S. President Barack Obama greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the end of their third and final debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on Oct. 22, 2012

Superbarrio Gómez ran the most underreported campaign of the 1996 U.S. presidential election. The masked Mexican wrestler turned social activist showed up in New Hampshire during the primary season and declared himself a “candidate” even though his foreign citizenship rendered him ineligible. Decisions affecting the lives of Mexicans are made in the White House, he reasoned, so Mexicans should have a say in choosing its occupant. It’s a sentiment that’s widely shared: two-thirds of the 26,000 respondents from 32 countries in a recent poll believe that the White House has an important impact on their lives, and for that reason, almost half believe they should have a vote in the U.S. presidential election. (If they did, President Barack Obama would be a shoo-in, according to almost every poll.)

The level of interest in this U.S. election, however, is considerably lower than that of 2008. One reason for this may be that any global citizen tuning in to the campaign’s foreign policy debate would have struggled to find substantial differences between what Governor Mitt Romney advocated and what the White House is doing. There is also a growing sense of the relative decline of U.S. global power. The U.S. remains the world’s most militarily powerful country and its largest economy, but its ability to shape economic and geopolitical events in distant climes has steadily declined over the past decade — whether it’s Afghanistan or Iraq, the rapidly changing Arab world or Europe’s debt crisis, Washington struggles to impose its will.

That said, the Oval Office remains the world’s strongest single center of power, and the outcome of Tuesday’s vote will be closely watched. Here are five places where the stakes are particularly high:

1. Syria: Breaking a Stalemate?

Syria’s civil war has killed upwards of 20,000 people, but the country remains locked in an effective stalemate: the regime of President Bashar Assad is unable to destroy the rebels, and the rebels are unable to destroy the regime. Given the sectarian stakes and the danger of igniting a wider regional conflict, as well as a fear of the growing influence of extremist elements among the rebels, the U.S. has held back from direct intervention, and even from enabling the rebels to receive heavier weaponry that could neutralize some of the regime’s military advantages. Read more…

Tony Karon is a senior editor at TIME, where he has covered international conflicts in the Middle East, Asia, and the Balkans since 1997.

As published by www.time.com on November 5, 2012.

2
Nov

What’s the foreign policy agenda for the next four years?

By Stephen M. Walt

Is it too early to talk about the foreign policy and national security agenda that will face the next president? No matter who wins on November 6, the feature that is going to dominate U.S. national security planning over the next four years is constraint. Even if we avoid going off the sequestration cliff, there is going to be considerable pressure on the defense budget. Forget all those promises that Romney made about ramping up defense spending, expanding the Navy, etc. If he does beat Obama and has to face reality (as opposed to his Etch-a-Sketch approach to campaigning) he’ll figure out that budget math is real and unforgiving. And given the budget picture these days, that means limits.

Of course, foreign policy and national security tends to produce a lot of surprises; it’s probably the least predictable part of a president’s agenda. Remember that George W. Bush was totally blindsided by 9/11, an event that shaped almost everything he subsequently did in foreign and defense policy. Barack Obama didn’t see the Arab spring coming, yet he’s had to devote a lot of time and attention to figuring out what to do (or not to do) in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and elsewhere. No list of agenda items will cover all the possible topics, and it’s a safe bet the next president will get to deal with something that hardly anybody anticipated.

That said, what do I see as some obvious items that the next president will have to address? Obviously, he’ll have to manage the withdrawal from Afghanistan, keep relations with China on an even keel, cultivate reasonable ties with Mexico and other neighbors in the western hemisphere, and hope that the Eurozone mess doesn’t get worse. But here’s my list of the items that might take up even more of his time.

#1: Managing America’s Asian Alliances

No matter how much you hear about the importance of cooperating with China, a serious rivalry is almost inevitable. I don’t expect a shooting war — and certainly not in the next four years — instead, the key element of that rivalry will be a competition for influence in Asia. The United States is already trying to shore up ties with Japan, Korea, India, and various Southeast Asian nations, and China is going to try to limit with this process where it can.   Read more…

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on October 31, 2012.

31
Oct

By Javier Solana

On November 6, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will emerge victorious after an exhausting electoral race, setting the wheels in motion for the coming four years. An ocean away, on November 8, more than 2,000 members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will gather in Beijing. Approximately a week later, the members of the Politburo Standing Committee will walk out in hierarchical order, preparing to take charge of a growing country of 1.3 billion people.

The leaders of the world’s two largest economies are changing. So is the world itself. The Middle East, in particular, is experiencing a moment of intense transformation. While reconstruction – both literal and figurative – is commencing in some parts of the region, countries like Syria are aflame. Others, such as Iran, with its moribund revolution, have never ceased rumbling. Amidst a crumbling economy, the country remains belligerent, using its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to launch at least one successful drone flight above Israeland reportedly initiating recent cyber attacks.

As a result, relations among regional actors remain tense. After his speech at the United Nations appealing for a “red line” on the Iranian nuclear program in the spring or summer of 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called an early general election, which could potentially give him a strong mandate for action against Iran. Egypt, meanwhile, is finding its own equilibrium, both domestically, drafting a new constitution, and in terms of foreign policy.

Then there is Turkey, straddling Europe and the Middle East. An emerging economy poised to become a regional power, it has exchanged fire with its neighbor to the south, Syria, and has called on its NATO allies to bolster its security.

This is part of the changing panorama that new world leaders will inherit in the Middle East – a region in which the United States has been deeply involved. After nearly a decade of draining military engagement, the US combat mission in Iraq concluded in 2010, and the combat mission in Afghanistan is set to end in 2014. Read more…

Javier Solana was Foreign Minister of Spain, Secretary-General of NATO, and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. He is currently President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

As published in www.project-syndicate.org on October 29, 2012.

23
Oct

The US faces many pressing issues in the near future. But none of them got much air time on Monday night in the debate between President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney. Instead, the two candidates appear stuck in the Bush worldview, and reveal a global power on the decline.

By Gregor Peter Schmitz

Obama’s best line was his claim that Romney didn’t understand the nature of a modern military. “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed.”

Ed Luce, the sage Financial Times columnist, knows from his country’s own history all about the decline of global powers. A Briton who loves America, Luce has sought to provide the United States with well-meaning counsel, most recently in the form of a book with the whimsical title “Time to Start Thinking.” The tome is nothing less than a 320-page appeal to the US to finally face up to future strategic challenges inherent in a rapidly changing world order — so that America’s decline might remain but a horror scenario.

After the 90-minute-long foreign policy debate on Monday night between US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, several questions remain unanswered. One, however, has been cleared up: Neither Obama nor Romney have read Luce’s book.

The two contenders for what is likely the world’s most powerful office left little time for thinking — either for themselves or for the television audience. And they failed to adequately address the new challenges facing the wobbly global power America — climate change, for example, which was left unmentioned in presidential debates for the first time since 1984. Or the rise of Asia. Or even the lack of domestic investment in infrastructure and education.

Most of all, however, in the debate in Boca Raton they declined to discuss how they intend to address the country’s central foreign policy conundrum: Americans no longer want their country to be a global police force, but they still want to continue believing in American exceptionalism.

Trapped in Bush’s World

Instead, viewers were witness to a phenomenon that Luce had likewise predicted: Romney and Obama exchanged carefully prepared platitudes as though they were trapped in a world order created for them by White House predecessor George W. Bush.

The two adversaries talked about Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and the broader Middle East. And they of course also engaged in the petty discussion as to who visited Israel or American troops abroad sooner. Read more…

Dr. Gregor Peter Schmitz is a correspondent in the Washington office of DER SPIEGEL. He focuses primarily on the coverage for SPIEGEL ONLINE but also writes regularly for the magazine.

As published in http://www.spiegel.de/ on October 23, 2012.

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