Monday, November 3, 2008

Price Of Primacy

So this great imperial democracy of ours has been financing its deficits, and its consumer society, with the savings of the sovereign wealth funds of China, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

Great powers throughout history, we know, were creditor nations, whereas ours is the quintessential indebted society. We could hear the gloating of America's critics and enemies as soon as the subprime loan crisis descended upon us.

From Malaysia to Venezuela, and from Europeans we had badgered about their brand of a capitalism more regulated than ours, there were unsparing critics who savored this moment. For them, we had gotten our comeuppance. Our Masters of the Universe, with their financial "derivatives" and new "instruments," were only pretenders.

There can be no doubt that we were due for our moment of reckoning. But Edward Gibbon wannabes should proceed with caution. It is not yet time to pen The Decline and Fall of the American Empire. Rome was long dead and buried when Gibbon, working in London, published his first volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776.

The destiny of the American empire is still unfolding. The bailout package, a staggering $700 billion, is only 5 percent of our national output; the country could afford it. While some may seek to write the obituaries of the American imperial republic, a survey of universities placing in the top 500 globally, conducted by Shanghai University, gave the United States a huge lead in such institutions: 159 versus 31 in Japan, 30 in China (the data include Hong Kong and Taiwan), and 2 in India.

For all the talk about the rise of China and India, these societies, long mired in poverty and squalor and handicapped by dominant traditions of inequality and caste, are in no position to inherit the American place in the order of nations.

They lack the openness of the United States, its sense of obligation to other lands, its willingness to defend the global order.

Americans know that the alternative to the American order in the world is not the hegemony of China or Russia or India but rather outright anarchy. The Chinese, shrewd about the ways of the world, acknowledge this. They are content to work and prosper, and move large numbers of their people out of poverty, under American primacy and tutelage. The Chinese hold well over a trillion dollars in American treasury securities. They are not about to bring the house down. The Chinese know Asia's bloody history.

American hegemony has been benign, and the alternatives to it are infinitely worse.

Likewise in the volatile Persian Gulf: The commerce of that vital region and the traffic of its oil depend upon the American Navy. No one in that tinderbox wants a Pax Iranica, and the Indians and the Europeans are not contenders to assume what has been America's role.

Critics of American primacy in the world often bemoan America's ways abroad. A "torture narrative" dwells on the transgressions committed at Abu Ghraib by some of our soldiers; books filled with outrage tell about the war fought in the shadows against al Qaeda and its affiliates. Pollsters return from Karachi and Cairo with numbers that demonstrate our alienation from public opinion in these places.

We may not fight every "war of liberation" in every corner of the Earth, but from the Balkans to Afghanistan and Iraq, history bears witness not to America's heavy hand but to its willingness to mount wars of rescue. America's embassies are besieged by those who dream of a new life on American soil.

It is the fate of great, universal powers to be both loved and derided.

But no prettier or more merciful and benevolent alternative to America's leadership is anywhere over the horizon. Save for the most virulent of America's enemies and critics, the world fully knows its need of America's protection.

We no doubt will have to persuade nations in Europe and Asia to pay for the order afforded them by an American security umbrella.

The price of our primacy has risen.

submitted by FoUd

Art - "Great Satan - Stirred, Never Shaken"


Right Truth said...

Great outlook on the economy and how some folks are interpreting the situation. Anarchy is a goal of some movers and shakers (look at William Ayers for example). Americans hopefully are too smart and love freedom too much to let that happen.

I was against the $700 billion bailout, which turned out to be $850 billion, which turned out to be only a down payment for bailouts to come. Several politicians didn't fall for the bailout and voted against it. I think when things settle down, they will be vindicated in their NO votes.

Marsha Blackburn (Rep. Tenn) voted against it, wrote a long letter to voters explaining why she voted NO. I'm saving that because her reasons were PRIME MEAT which will be used in upcoming elections.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Khaki Elephant said...

We no doubt will have to persuade nations in Europe and Asia to pay for the order afforded them by an American security umbrella.

Amen to that.

And if they don't want to participate, we're the world's only super power--I'd like to see them try to collect on our debt.