November 01st 2009 01:22:23 PM
Below is an abridged version of a recent piece by Gregory Copley, director of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy. He itemizes the ways in which America has been knocking itself down from superpower status, something that half the country has long longed for — and elected Barack Obama to culminate. It’s a phenomenon that I call “third world envy” as I occasionally muse: “I don’t know who’s more jealous — the third world of us, or us of the third world.” Of course, our third-world envy is partly born out of fear of the third world’s envy of us, and so we try to become less enviable, less rich, more socialist. The irony, of course, is that socialism breeds envy. Hence the Russian anecdote about the genie telling the old peasant woman that he’ll grant her one wish, but whatever she chooses, her neighbor will be twice as blessed. Her wish: “Make me blind in one eye.”
I won’t even get into the racist implications of the fact that Americans wishing to see America get knocked down from superpower status have chosen a black man to do it. Instead, I’ll get to my main point, based on one particular sentence from Copley:
What Obama now fails to realize is, that having emasculated US strategic projection and coercive authority, other states no longer need to listen and comply. This situation will [become] increasingly evident.
If this sad fact is the case, the one time I would welcome it being evident is this December, when the International Court of Justice rules on the illegality of the Kosovo secession from Serbia. All five members of the UN Security Council plan to be actively involved in those deliberations — with the US, Great Britain and France on one side, and Russia and China on the other. Every country in the world will be watching with interest as it decides whether to follow Washington’s instructions and recognize Kosovo, or whether to preserve international order, and decline. Meanwhile, the 62 countries who have already recognized Kosovo will have the option to withdraw that recognition after hearing the Court’s non-binding ruling. Let’s hope that one good thing can come out of our shameful squandering of the global position that our forbears built for us.
But Copley’s article is much wider in scope and implication than this one example I extrapolated it for, so here it is:
By Gregory R. Copley
The Extinction of Superpowers
IT WAS CLEAR, WITH THE END OF THE Cold War in 1990, that the Eastern and Western blocs would disintegrate, and the one remaining superpower - the United States, the cornerstone of the Western bloc - would not long remain unassailed. The world, as I forecast then, would return rapidly to multipolarism, and re-form into new alignments. There was a forlorn hope in some quarters in the US that it would retain its superpower capabilities, and that its writ would remain unassailable.
…[T]he US was well-equipped to transform; indeed, it was still the best-placed nation-state to transform sociologically, economically, scientifically, and militarily. If it wished to do so. If it could resist the urge to fritter its hitherto overwhelming strategic strength on all threats and irritants, regardless of the appropriateness of the action. Its strength in all arenas was squandered, as though the currency of its strength could be spent equally, without accounting, on every challenge.
The world has changed. The US did not change with it. On the contrary, without the critical discipline of a highly-capable and, yes, feared adversary, the US lost focus, lost urgency, lost whatever humility it had. It failed to re-invest adequately in the tools and humility to deal with the new world.
Even all of this did not point to an inevitable decline in the US, other than in relative terms, due to the rising multipolar and anomic environment. In other words, there was no real reason for the US to slide inevitably in all the vital strategic indicators.
Equally, there was no reason to suppose that the US would not, could not, reverse its strategic decline…And yet that is what it chose to do when it elected Barack Obama as President; he had committed to reducing all of the factors of US strength: economic innovation and capital formation skills; military strength; reliable strategic alliances; and the ability of the US to defend and enforce its interests globally.
…Obama has massively and rapidly reduced - and in places destroyed - the ability of the US economy to produce the wealth which makes all other strengths possible. Obama - compounding the corruption of the financial system which Congress began years earlier, mandating that the banking system fund non-viable loans to fulfill the populist promises of politicians - rapidly increased Government intervention into the US economy, meaning that a smaller private, productive sector has had to work harder to fund the expanding state sector, while being viewed as an “enemy of the state” by zealous statists.
Obama has covertly and overtly nationalized or neutralized key sectors of the economy; he has alienated the historical allies of the United States to a far more serious degree even than his predecessor, Pres. George W. Bush. He has begun the emasculation of the US Armed Forces, and still - even though he has consistently lied to, and alienated, the US’ most important allies - thinks that he, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, can berate, bully, and intimidate its allies and neutrals, and even a few minor adversaries, around the world.
What Obama now fails to realize is, that having emasculated US strategic projection and coercive authority, other states no longer need to listen and comply. This situation will becoming increasingly evident. The US strategic decline will be partially disguised by the reality that possibly no other military-economic power will, in the coming few years, eclipse it in absolute terms. But that power will essentially be dramatically reduced in meaning and options. The global absence of overwhelming threat, indeed, has also enabled the United Kingdom to cloak its disappearance into strategic irrelevance, apart from its uniquely capable Armed Forces, which continue to “punch above their weight,” despite the reality that the administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have squandered the strategic architecture which had taken a millennium to build.
But US Pres. Obama has no understanding of history, other than he wishes to eliminate what the US, and the West, has historically achieved.
Barack Obama took, as he said he would, strong steps to ensure that the US was no longer a dominant - or predatory - global power. That was his moral or political conviction; his vision that the US should no longer [be] the great capitalist superpower. And yet he expects to maintain, as US President, global authority in his own right. This is narcissism on a global scale. Rather than “speaking softly and carrying a big stick,” as US Pres. Theodore Roosevelt advocated, Ohama increasingly carries a smaller and smaller stick, and speaks more and more loudly. What proved to be a successful strategy for Teddy Roosevelt has been reversed by Barack Obama, and will, ipso facto, lead to US strategic decline.
This reality has already begun to be proven.
I ask again: can the US recover its strategic position before the global context eclipses it? Certainly. But the longer it waits to re-build its economic flexibility and confidence - and this means reigniting the market through less, not more, covert coercion - the more difficult the return of the US to great power status.
Some great powers, some empires, revive. Some.