We bankrupted ourselves first ideologically through unilateralism, then militarily through “global war,” and now financially through the debt crisis. Rising great powers, we are told, now lead the way.
But where do we locate this new leadership? In Europe’s self-absorption over its rising Muslim quotient? In Russia’s self-inflicted economic penance for its smackdown of Georgia? In India’s crippling obsession with Pakistan? In China’s super-cooling economy and the social unrest it’ll trigger? In Japan’s … whatever Japan is doing nowadays?
So which foreign leader has captured the world’s attention with his promise of changed leadership? Ah, that would be Barack Obama, president-elect of that has-been superpower.
Amidst the most destabilizing global economic crisis since the Great Depression, no great power has stuck its neck out to claim new authority in the international system. Instead, our presidential interregnum has triggered an odd calm, with even last month’s global economic summit effectively postponed until Mr. Obama’s inauguration.
I’m not suggesting we haven’t reached the end of an era, because we have, just that the new boss is going to look an awfully lot like the old boss.
The world remains a dangerous place. Not in terms of state-on-state war, but because the previously enclave West has exposed itself, through globalization’s rapid expansion, to a host of lower-trust environments – the “wild” East and South.
So failed states rank higher than Pentagon fantasies of high-tech war with our biggest creditor, China. So do transnational terrorists capable of temporarily sowing chaos across networks, like they recently did in Mumbai.