Monday, November 17, 2008

The world in waiting

You might have thought that an emergency gathering of leaders from the world’s 20 main rich and emerging economies, with the global economy poised for its worst slump since the Great Depression, would have aroused some interest. The event was deemed unworthy of the main section of Saturday’s New York Times. (Room was found on the front page for a story about how hard it is to open the “clamshell” packaging of toys and electronic gadgets. The summit, “A crisis in finance”, made page 3 of the business section.) On television news, world leaders’ efforts to stave off disaster were displaced by speculation about Hillary Clinton’s next job and by fires in California (four firemen injured).(...) neither the new president nor the Congress will seriously contemplate anything that might be seen as a surrender of sovereignty to international bodies. Desirable though it may be in principle to create some kind of supranational financial regulator, for example, this is not going to happen. In the regulatory sphere, as with fiscal and monetary policy, US policymaking will remain national for the foreseeable future. Clive Crook - Financial Times

It is notable that two major centers of power issued statements on the geopolitical scene that were quite forthright. Both the European Union in a unanimous statement and President Lula of Brazil said they looked forward to renewing collaboration with the United States, but this time as equals, not as junior partners. (...) Can Obama accept the fact that the United States is no longer the world's leader, merely a partner with other power centers? And, even if he can, can he somehow get the American people to accept this new reality? Immanuel Wallerstein
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The ground breaking "Bretton Woods II" meeting in Washington last weekend was strangely absent from American media. Why?

It may be because the end of American world hegemony it foretells is simply too depressing for Americans to read and hear about. Immanuel Wallerstein, who is otherwise quite hopeful in regards to Obama, asks the $64 question upon which much of the success or failure of his presidency depends:
Can Obama accept the fact that the United States is no longer the world's leader, merely a partner with other power centers? And, even if he can, can he somehow get the American people to accept this new reality?
That is the central question: can he himself accept it and if so can he get Americans to accept that "American Exceptionalism", of which he is considered by many to be "exhibit A", is finished?

Probably not. As different as he and Bush and Clinton and Reagan are, they are all presidents of the USA and form follows function. Only Jimmy Carter, timidly and briefly, tried to awaken Americans to reality and he is still reviled for doing so.

However, if with his intelligence and eloquence, Barack Obama can somehow midwife this end of the "dream" and the liberation that the reality of its ending represents, then and only then, will he have the chance to become one of America's greatest presidents. DS


RC said...

Could it be that David Seaton is actually allowing for possible greatness in the Obama camp, or is there a tongue in a cheek?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Well, not exactly "tongue in cheek". If you told me that you were in training to be the next heavyweight boxing champion, I would be solicitous and supportive. I'm that kinda guy.

stunted said...

I suspect that you are not the type to nervously pace the waiting room, but I wouldn't build up any great "hope" that the president-elect will be midwifing the demise of American exceptionalism. On CBS the other night, he said he will rebuild "our moral stature" in the world, but, according to an article in Le Monde recently, some of his collaborators have anonymously, of course, let it be known that there will be NO prosecution of anyone in the Bush administration for authorizing torture, let alone cooking up an illegal invasion. These sources say it is better to move on to this new moral stature-building than to clarify the past. This, of course, assumes that regaining a lost moral stature can be accomplished without showing the world that America is a nation of laws that is willing to prosecute its citizens it suspects responsible for war crimes. It appears that the incoming administration also believes that Americans are beyond the reach of the type of prosecution we meted out in Nuremburg; that those torturing were merely following orders and shouldn't be punished for doing their duty. It's time to move on, as in 2000 after the recount fiasco. Change like this is very easy to believe in. Prosecution, like impeachment, would seem to be off the table.
America's electing a black man to the presidency is a huge accomplishment that I in no way belittle, especially as it was done at a time when we are facing daunting problems. That may be the only change the world will see. I hope I and his anonymous advisors are wrong.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I think that Obama will finally prove that the color of a person's skin is meaningless and that a black skin offers no more guarantee of authenticity than a white skin does.