April 10, 2012

THE NEXT LAPDOGS:

The Myth of America's Decline: Washington now has added China, India, Brazil and Turkey to its speed-dial, along with Europe and Japan. But it will remain the chairman of a larger board. (WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, 4/09/12, WSJ)

It is this trilateral system--rather than American power per se--that is in decline today. Western Europe and Japan were seen as rising powers in the 1970s, and the assumption was that the trilateral partnership would become more powerful and effective as time passed. Something else happened instead.

Demographically and economically, both Japan and Europe stagnated. The free-trade regime and global investment system promoted growth in the rest of Asia more than in Japan. Europe, turning inward to absorb the former Warsaw Pact nations, made the fateful blunder of embracing the euro rather than a more aggressive program of reform in labor markets, subsidies and the like.

The result today is that the trilateral partnership can no longer serve as the only or perhaps even the chief set of relationships through which the U.S. can foster a liberal world system. Turkey, increasingly turning away from Europe, is on the road to becoming a more effective force in the Middle East than is the EU. China and India are competing to replace the Europeans as the most important non-U.S. economic actor in Africa. In Latin America, Europe's place as the second most important economic and political partner (after the U.S.) is also increasingly taken by China.

The U.S. will still be a leading player, but in a septagonal, not a trilateral, world. In addition to Europe and Japan, China, India, Brazil and Turkey are now on Washington's speed dial. (Russia isn't sure whether it wants to join or sulk; negotiations continue.)

New partnerships make for rough sledding. Over the years, the trilateral countries gradually learned how to work with each other--and how to accommodate one another's needs. These days, the Septarchs have to work out a common approach.

It won't be easy, and success won't be total. But even in the emerging world order, the U.S. is likely to have much more success in advancing its global agenda than many think. Washington is hardly unique in wanting a liberal world system of open trade, freedom of the seas, enforceable rules of contract and protection for foreign investment. What began as a largely American vision for the post-World War II world will continue to attract support and move forward into the 21st century--and Washington will remain the chairman of a larger board.

Despite all the talk of American decline, the countries that face the most painful changes are the old trilateral partners.

One suspects the older powers will have an easier time just dying off than the younger ones will have accepting that there is nothing distinctive nor valuable about themselves and that their future lies in just aping Anglo-America more thoroughly.
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Posted by at April 10, 2012 6:33 AM
  
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