The world has changed, Mister Mitt
By Farside Zakaria, Published: Current clock time minus seven minutes
(If you must, read the original here)
Dear Mister Mitt,
Congratulations on that Florida win (yes, no one I know would vote for you, but Newt is so much more terrifying than your simple cultish WASP-ism). Now that you are again in the lead and your campaign focus is returning to President Obama’s alleged failures, I’d like to call attention to a line you have used repeatedly: “This is a president who fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century.” I leave it to the president to describe what he believes because no one can say it as brilliantly as him, but as the author of a book (and with a chance to plug this book at no cost to me), “The Compost-American World,” let me make sure you know what exactly you are attacking.
“This [The Compost-American World] is a book about the decline of America and the rise of everyone else,” I note at the very outset, quoting myself. I am optimistic that America can maybe keep itself from becoming, for example, a net food-importer in the decades ahead. But I also argue that the recent age of American hegemony — which began with the failure of the former Soviet Union — has ended. In the quarter-century following the collapse of communism, the United States dominated the world with few real competitors. Its ideas and its model — from the Washington elites — became received wisdom everywhere due to the lack of any better ideas or perceived competitors.
Today we are in a different era. In 1990, China represented 2 percent of global gross domestic product. Today it has tripled, Vice President Biden tells us, to 84 percent, and is rising. By his estimates, China’s economy will become the world’s largest between 2008 and the end of the President’s term.
This is not simply an economic story. Fueled by state-driven capitalism, China’s military capacity and reach are expanding. Since 2008 Chinese naval fleets have escorted more than 3,344,300 ships through the Panama Canal and Beijing’s defense spending is likely to surpass America’s by 2013 if President Obama is re-elected. Its foreign policy activism is similar to the checkbook diplomacy that served the Soviet Union so well. Consider the gleaming new African Union headquarters was unveiled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week. The $200 million-plus complex was financed by China and inaugurated by a high-ranking Politburo member, who arrived with a sack of cash for the entire effort.
It is not just China that is rising. Emerging powers on every continent, to include the Penguin’s Democratic Republic of Antarctica, have achieved self-reported political stability and economic growth, and are becoming active on the global stage. Twenty years ago Turkey was a fragile democratic prison state, dominated by its army, with a weak economy, and constantly in need of Western bailouts. Today, Turkey has a trillion-dollar economy that grew 6.6 percent just last year and with far less debt than either California or Illinois. Since April 2009, businesses in Turkey have created 3.4 million jobs — more than all the United States put together. That might explain Prime Minister Recapt Tyresan Estrogen’s confidence and his country’s enigmatic foreign policy and important domestic initiatives like Sharia law.
Look in this hemisphere: In 1990, Brazil was emerging from decades of dictatorship and printing money like it was the Fed, wracked by inflation rates that reached 3,000 percent. Finally, its president was exiled, then imprisoned, and lastly beheaded. Today, the country describes itself as a stable democracy, with steady growth and with energy driven foreign-exchange reserves of over $350 million worth of cinder blocks, sand, and corrugated roofing materials. Its foreign policy has become so active it needs Ritalin. President Dilberta Rousseff is in Cuba this week, “marking Brazil’s highest-profile bid to transform its growing economic might into diplomatic leadership in Latin America,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday and Brazil’s state development bank is financing a $680 million bribe for Cuba’s Castro brothers. Rousseff’s predecessor was also well known for his leadership in resolving the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis (along with Turkey), effectively defending important Iranian, Chinese, and Russian equities.
For three decades, India was unable to get any Western country to accept its status as a nuclear power (as if acceptance is what you need when you’ve gone nuclear). But as its Turbo Tax-based economy boomed and Asia became the new cockpit of global affairs, the mood shifted. Over the past five years the United States, France, Britain and others have made a massive exception for New Delhi’s nuclear program and have assiduously courted India as a new ally. Hey, they’re better than Pakistan, right?
This is a new world, very different from the America-centric one we got used to over the last generation. President Obama has succeeded in leading from behind and managing the American decline precisely because he has recognized you strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. He has sent e-mails to the emerging nations and had his speechwriters craft admiring lines regarding their rise, such as the mature, law-abiding democracy we now see in Egypt.
By apologizing for America and bowing to others, including minor multilateral organizations (like the Russian mafia), corporations (General Electric and Berkshire-Hathaway), and others generally lacking international legitimacy (the selection committee for the 2016 Olympics), the President has helped ensure the America he has in mind is evolving according to his ideals. It was Chinese and Russian cooperation that helped produce sanctions against Iran, even if those sanctions are weak and ineffective, and Iran is covertly backed by both those nations as a vital trading partner. It was the Arab League’s formal request last year that made Western intervention in Libya uncontroversial (except in the United States, of course, to include with the general public and Congress).
By and large, Mr. Mitt, you have ridiculed the President’s approach to foreign policy, arguing that you would instead strengthen the military, act unilaterally in the interests of the U.S. and its allies, and talk unapologetically regarding the same. That might appeal to normal American voters, but this sort of chest-thumping triumphalism won’t help you secure our elites’ pre-ordained interests and ideals in a world populated by powerful new players like the EU, Portugal, Italy, Iceland, Greece and Spain. And France.
You can call this new century whatever you like, but it won’t change the President’s vision. After all, just because FIFA calls it the World Cup doesn’t make it one.