Monday, January 29, 2007

Losing it

"You run this town because people think you run it."
Miller's Crossing - quoted by Tony Karon in Haaretz

David Seaton's News Links

When we talk about the war in in Iraq being a disaster, we are talking about a lot more than the terrible suffering of the human beings directly involved, we are talking about the crumbling of a system in which we are all stakeholders. Make no mistake: this massive loss of international influence will directly affect the average American's wallet. He or she is going to be sore as hell. DS

Zakaria: Preview of a Post-U.S. World - Newsweek
Abstract: Two things were missing from this year's world Economic Forum at Davos: snow (which arrived eventually) and America-bashing (which did not). There were, of course, lots of American businessmen, activists and intellectuals filling the panels and halls of the conference. There were even a few senior American officials—though no star speaker. But, for the first time in my memory, America was somewhat peripheral. There were few demands, pleas, complaints or tantrums directed at the United States. In this small but significant global cocoon, people—for the moment at least—seemed to be moving beyond America. "There has always been a talk by a senior American official as one of the centerpieces of the Forum," said a European who has advised the Forum for many years—and who asked to remain anonymous because of his relations with U.S. officials. "And in the past, people eagerly anticipated who that would be—Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice. This year, almost no one inquired. We expected disappointment. But there was none. No one even noticed."(...) The ball for every problem is in everybody's court, which means that it is in nobody's court. The problem is that this free ride probably can't last forever. The global system—economic, political, social—is not self-managing. Global economic growth has been a fantastic boon, but it produces stresses and strains that have to be handled. Without some coordination, or first mover—or, dare one say it, leader—such management is more difficult. The world today bears some resemblance to the 1920s, when a newly globalized economy was booming, and science and technological change were utterly transforming life. (Think of the high-tech of the time—electricity, radio, movies and cars, among other recent inventions.) But with Britain declining and America isolationist, that was truly a world without political direction. Eventually protectionism, nationalism, xenophobia and war engulfed it. In a provocative essay in Foreign Policy three years ago, the British historian Niall Ferguson speculated that the end of American hegemony might not fuel an orderly shift to a multipolar system but a descent into a world of highly fragmented powers, with no one exercising any global leadership. He called this "apolarity." "Apolarity could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age," Ferguson wrote, "an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism, of economic plunder and pillage in the world's forgotten regions, of economic stagnation, and civilization's retreat into a few fortified enclaves." That might be a little farfetched. But for those who have been fondly waiting for the waning of American dominance—be careful what you wish for. READ IT ALL

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