Sunday, January 27, 2008

Parag Khanna in the NYT

David Seaton's News Links
This article by Parag Khanna in the New York Times that I have abstracted here is going to be a huge "conversation piece". I suggest you run off and read the whole thing now and then come back and read my comment, if you are so inclined.

Khanna's piece seems to be a "dark" view, but it ends on a note of wonky optimism that is beyond my ken. At this moment we are looking into a whirlpool.

Khanna sees all sorts of ways of “managing” the world situation, but, what I believe really defines the world situation is that it is no longer manageable. It’s un-manageability is its defining characteristic.

I also think that Khanna is wrong about Russia’s situation. We are going to be looking at a world of much armed conflict actual and threatened and the Russians have very good weapons for sale. In fact they are the only ones that provide antiaircraft systems of a quality that can neutralize the US air force’s superiority. Thus anyone who would like to be independent of US intimidation only has Russia as an alternative. Iran is an obvious case in point.

I would imagine that Russia’s population will increase as the oil and gas money continues to filter through their society. They also have a fair base in pure science as I recall and that is a real ace in the coming world, where science will have to solve so many hair raising problems. Anyway it is silly to write off any people that produced Leo Tolstoy and who drowned Adolph Hitler in their blood.

Really, what I worry most about is the effect this stomach floating drop in power, influence and ultimately standard of living, will have on the Americans themselves. There are certainly plenty of right wing demagogues around in the USA and I am worried by the idea of a “Wiemar - America”, with an apple pie version of “ve vass stabbed in der back” in the not too distant future. There may be American leaders waiting around the corner that could make Bush look good. DS

Waving Goodbye to Hegemony - New York Times
Abstract: Turn on the TV today, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s 1999. Democrats and Republicans are bickering about where and how to intervene, whether to do it alone or with allies and what kind of world America should lead. Democrats believe they can hit a reset button, and Republicans believe muscular moralism is the way to go. It’s as if the first decade of the 21st century didn’t happen — and almost as if history itself doesn’t happen. But the distribution of power in the world has fundamentally altered over the two presidential terms of George W. Bush, both because of his policies and, more significant, despite them. Maybe the best way to understand how quickly history happens is to look just a bit ahead.

It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline.

Why? Weren’t we supposed to reconnect with the United Nations and reaffirm to the world that America can, and should, lead it to collective security and prosperity? Indeed, improvements to America’s image may or may not occur, but either way, they mean little. Condoleezza Rice has said America has no “permanent enemies,” but it has no permanent friends either. Many saw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the symbols of a global American imperialism; in fact, they were signs of imperial overstretch. Every expenditure has weakened America’s armed forces, and each assertion of power has awakened resistance in the form of terrorist networks, insurgent groups and “asymmetric” weapons like suicide bombers. America’s unipolar moment has inspired diplomatic and financial countermovements to block American bullying and construct an alternate world order. That new global order has arrived, and there is precious little Clinton or McCain or Obama could do to resist its growth. READ IT ALL

1 comment:

Hans Fruck said...

It's certainly an interesting (and long) read. Re your comments on Russia. Khanna sees population decline and internal immigration from east to west as a key ingredient of the country's decline. While you think that oil and arms revenue will trickle down to the poor, bolstering population growth, I'm not sure that either will happen. Russia is controlled by oligarchs who've monopolised, almost literally in some cases, the country's wealth. I don't see why this would change. In country's like Brazil, wherever trickle down economics has been advocated there wasn't much trickling going on. Instead wealth seems to accumulate in ever-higher quantities in the top percentile.

The other thing is, I'm not sure that greater wealth will necessarily affect birth rates.