America Diminished: Parag Khanna’s “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony”

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America Diminished NYTimes The Washington Note.jpg
photo illustration by Kevin Van Aelst; reprinted with permission from the New York Times
My New America Foundation colleague Parag Khanna has a vital article out today in the New York Times Magazine titled “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony.”
While scenarios of the world’s geostrategic and geopolitical future are proliferating today not only i Khanna’s essay but in other provocative articles like “After Iraq” by Jeffrey Goldberg, Khanna’s comprehensive approach to the question of America’s future makes a great deal of sense to me.
What I like most is that he articulates what I’ve been sensing for some time in the global marketplace of power. Other nations aren’t going to count on America’s guarantees quite as much as before. They are filling the void of America’s perceived decline with their own plans and pretensions and gambling that tomorrow’s future will be far more fluid than yesterday’s — and that some of America’s allies and foes will be able to surf this lack of global equilibrium into a better position.
Khanna perceptively writes:

At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership.
So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing — and losing — in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules — their own rules — without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.
The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.

I particularly liked Khanna’s treatment of trends in Asia:

Without firing a shot, China is doing on its southern and western peripheries what Europe is achieving to its east and south. Aided by a 35 million-strong ethnic Chinese diaspora well placed around East Asia’s rising economies, a Greater Chinese Co-Prosperity Sphere has emerged.
Like Europeans, Asians are insulating themselves from America’s economic uncertainties. Under Japanese sponsorship, they plan to launch their own regional monetary fund, while China has slashed tariffs and increased loans to its Southeast Asian neighbors. Trade within the India-Japan-Australia triangle — of which China sits at the center — has surpassed trade across the Pacific.
At the same time, a set of Asian security and diplomatic institutions is being built from the inside out, resulting in America’s grip on the Pacific Rim being loosened one finger at a time. From Thailand to Indonesia to Korea, no country — friend of America’s or not — wants political tension to upset economic growth. To the Western eye, it is a bizarre phenomenon: small Asian nation-states should be balancing against the rising China, but increasingly they rally toward it out of Asian cultural pride and an understanding of the historical-cultural reality of Chinese dominance.
And in the former Soviet Central Asian countries — the so-called Stans — China is the new heavyweight player, its manifest destiny pushing its Han pioneers westward while pulling defunct microstates like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as oil-rich Kazakhstan, into its orbit. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization gathers these Central Asian strongmen together with China and Russia and may eventually become the “NATO of the East.”

Khanna’s depiction of what is coming next is essential reading and gives one an informed snapshot of the mess that America will have in tomorrow’s world.
Much of what Khanna describes would have happened over time regardless of the failure of both President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to put America on a more enlightened and constructive track at the end of the Cold War. But as Charles Kupchan, author of The End of the American Era: US Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century, has told me many times — “President Bush sped up history and made what would have taken a couple of decades happen in just a few years.”
For those who want more, I highly recommend Parag Khann’s book which will be out in March, The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order
– Steve Clemons

Comments

28 comments on “America Diminished: Parag Khanna’s “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony”

  1. Carroll says:

    When a candidate will talk about this and the occupation and genocide in Palestine we are supporting I will start believing they want “change” for America..until then their change rhetoric is just the same old crapola.
    Remember this voters, if you don’t remember anything else…if they will pimp for a genocide they will do anything, sell out on anything and betray anything, including you, because in doing this they have already sold this country’s good name for nothing more than campaign cash.
    Iraq comes home: the war of ideas, by Philip WeissJanuary 28, 2008
    Obama vs. Clinton: Code for Anti-Israel Lobby vs. Pro?
    Haaretz is teasing an exclusive interview with Obama in which he says that his opponents are trying to undermine his support in the Jewish community. I’m for a Jewish state, he says, and not for the right of return “in any literal way.”
    That hasn’t stopped the Israel lobby from going after Obama’s team as crypto-anti-Israel. Here is a rightwinger singling out Rob Malley (a true leader) as anti-Israel. And American Prospect reports that the Commentary crowd is going after author/adviser Samantha Powers for once uttering the words Israel and Iraq and “special interest” in the same breath. The quote from SamPo:
    Another longstanding foreign policy flaw is the degree to which special interests dictate the way in which the “national interest” as a whole is defined and pursued . . . America’s important historic relationship with Israel has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics, which, as the war in Lebanon last summer demonstrated, can turn out to be counter-productive…. So greater regard for international institutions along with less automatic deference to special interests–especially when it comes to matters of life and death and war and peace–seem to be two take-aways from the war in Iraq. [Emphasis mine]
    The American Prospect argues that Commentary is distorting Powers’s meaning. She wasn’t really talking about the Israel lobby. I hope she was. Aren’t you sick of all the code here? Let the issue come out. Let Obama take a meaningful stand on the settlements. Let Walt and Mearsheimer advertise on Obama’s website. Let the American people discuss the issue openly. Let the neocons show us their star-of-David underwear.
    And stop claiming that the Jewish community is for a more evenhanded policy in Israel/Palestine. If it is, great, let us see that. If it’s not, let’s talk about it, and see what young Jews can teach their elders. And if Obama is not allowed to say what he really thinks because he needs Jewish money, shouldn’t we be talking about that too? I thought this campaign was about change, and goodbye to special interests…
    Posted at 03:18 PM in Clintons, Politics, Culture, U.S. Policy in the Mideast

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  2. TonyForesta says:

    A thousand thanks pauline, and true that with regard to threat posed by electronic voting.
    Without a paper trail, we have no vote!!!
    As dear leader dictates and preaches to the people tonight, we – all Americans are reminded that pain is coming. The subprime decable, and the far more disturbing credibity crisis in US financial intitutions, and ratings organizations is not fully unravelled. The markets will correct. Either our crown jewels in the financial sector are incompetent, and do not know the depth of thier suprime exposure, – or they are criminal and responsible for fraud and malfeasance impacting the global financial system. (Whatever this thing called the global financial system is, remains for me an unknown unknown, – and if anyone can ever explain the structure of the global financial system, – I would be forever in your debt.)
    The point is the subprime horrorshow has matasticized overseas, and those investors, several of them engorged with exhobidant wealth financed with our petro dollars, and US Treasuries. These investors are forced now to factor in a credibility risk when dealing with American financial intitutions, and rating agencies. These investors will very methodically adjust their positions out of, a away from American assets. This process will not be sudden, because these investors are deeply riveted to the US economy, – but America’s days as the most trusted and secure system, and the best investment opportunities are fast eroding.
    The superrich will be largely insulated from this pain, blanketed as they are with wealth and access undreamed of by most Americans. It is poor and middle class America that must hazard, endure, and manage the pain that is coming.
    China sit’s on more that a trillion US treasuries, the House of Saud close to a trillion. Other emerging markets own another trillion in US debt securities. If these notes are called, even in relatively small percentages, – the US economy will constrict proportionately. The only viable solutions are massive increases in interest rates, and a subtraction of capital out of America, or the US Government to default on our government backed notes. The horrors, and the pain will be whisked off the richmans table, – not as crumbs, but as boulders on the heads of poor and middle class Americans.
    The sad reality all American must face is that America is no longer trusted or well like in the rest of the world. There are of course varying degrees of distruts, and dislike, – but the America we bequeath our children today is a tarnished and diseased nation, facing epic crisis politically, economically, and morally.
    Do we support the fascists and the unabated nazification of America, the mangling, dismembering, perverting, and betraying of the Constitition, the bill of rights, our democracy, the rule of law, and every principle that formally defined America?
    Or do we look for, and demand a new direction, and real change, and an honest recognition of exactly where we stand as a nation, and a people, and set about the arduous process of restoring credibility, security, and prosperity to America.
    The fascists have destroyed our once more perfect union, – we must repair damage, and restore America to a place of noble standing in the community of nations. Now we have shapeshifted into, and are indeed the great satan.
    “Deliver us from evil!”

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  3. pauline says:

    I forgot a few words racing through my brain -
    “Tax lawyers, tax preparers love the confusion.
    Clinton’s old IRS Commissioner…”

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  4. pauline says:

    Carroll:
    It’s confusion by design. One of gw’s empty 2004 State of the Union promises was “to simplify the IRS Code”. Who was that joker kidding?
    Tax lawyers, tax preparers, Clinton’s old IRS Commissioner, Charles Rossetti, and his wife had a non-compete contract in DC to print the 1040 forms — worth well over $100 million. What was ol’ Bill’s answer? “No conflict of interest by Rosetti…”
    Can’t sleep at night? Try some of this for instant nodding off –
    http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title26/title26.html

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  5. arthurdecco says:

    Strong original post, Mr. Clemons. With a packed house of intelligent commentary following. Where two, Paul Nordheim and Tony Foresta, stood out for me.
    And then I read Carroll’s last, just above…
    “these politicans really are nothing but the lowest class of trash on earth…scum sucking parasites. They should be disemboweled and hung from lamp posts all over DC.” Posted by Carroll
    Such is the power of truth. And such a simple, yet appropriately brutal solution to America’s woes, don’t you think?

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  6. Carroll says:

    This is OT…. but someone tell me if I am reading this right. In the rebate scheme, the old folks living on SS will NOT get a rebate but incomes up to $150,000 will?
    If this is true I am going to back to my Burn Washington to the Ground campaign..this is just sickening.
    Rebates could be in your hands by May
    By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer Sat Jan 26, 3:07 PM ET
    WASHINGTON – Most taxpayers could expect a rebate of up to $600 starting in mid-May under the economic aid plan set to go through Congress within weeks.
    Couples could get twice as much, with even more for most families with children. All that, however, depends on smooth sailing at the Internal Revenue Service, and the agency already is up to its eyeballs in filings and refunds.
    The Treasury Department says that despite the strains of tax filing season, the IRS will be able to begin delivering the payments within 60 days after President Bush signs the plan into law, and complete the process in approximately 10 weeks, possibly sooner. The payments would come separately from regular tax refunds.
    “The IRS has already begun trying to prepare for this,” said Andrew DeSouza, a Treasury spokesman. “They’ll be ready to go.”
    But figuring out if you qualify — and for how much — can be complicated, thanks to confusing rules designed to get the money to middle-income workers and ensure it also benefits low-income people who are most likely to spend the cash.
    “Almost everyone who earns income will receive some benefit,” said Douglas W. Elmendorf, an analyst at the Brookings Institution. “The idea is to target the money on the people who will spend a large share of it, and to target it on people who are likely to be hurt by an economic downturn.”
    People who do not make enough to pay taxes but had at least $3,000 in earned income would get $300. Those earning less than that would be disqualified, as would the wealthiest. Older people living solely off Social Security checks would not get the rebate.
    Individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000 and couples with income exceeding $150,000 would get smaller checks. Contributions to individual retirement accounts, 401(k) retirement accounts and health savings accounts would not count toward the limits.
    About three-quarters of those eligible for the checks are working people. About one-quarter would qualify solely through pension or interest income, such as retirees or people who are unemployed. Eligible people would get at least $300.
    For middle-class people, the rebates are fairly straightforward. Most individuals would get a $600 rebate, couples would get $1,200, and those amounts would rise with the size of their families. High- and low-income people, however, would get only a partial benefit.
    People with income less than $75,000 would get a rebate equal to the taxes they paid in 2007, up to $600. Couples with income less than $150,000 could get up to $1,200. Those who earned more than $3,000 but owed little or no taxes would get a flat $300, or $600 per couple.
    So a low-income family of four — with $35,000 in income and virtually no tax liability — would get $1,200. That includes the flat $600 per couple and $300 for each child.
    A single person earning minimum wage would receive the lower rebate, $300.
    A single parent of two with income of $38,000 and a tax bill of $433 would get $1,033 — a $433 tax rebate plus $300 per child.
    To focus the payments on middle-class people, the plan includes rules that reduce the rebates for those with higher incomes. For each dollar over the limits, the payment goes down by 5 percent.
    That means that while a family of four with income of $95,000 would get $1,800 — $1,200 for the couple and $300 for each child — a family of four with income of $160,000 would get less, and the same family making $200,000 would get nothing.
    Income of $160,000 would put a family $10,000 above the income threshold, reducing the benefit by $500 for a rebate of $1,300. The wealthier family, which falls $50,000 above the threshold, would see its rebate vanish under the formula.
    Similarly, a single person with no children who had $16,000 in income would get $600, while the same person making $85,000 — $10,000 above the limit — would get just $100.
    People would not have to work to receive a rebate. A retired couple owing $4,000 in taxes would get the full $1,200; if they owed no taxes, they would receive only half that. If the couple earned less than $3,000, however, they would be ineligible. That includes 20 million older people whose only income is their Social Security checks.
    The plan would allow people who do not qualify for a rebate this year to get one in the spring of 2009 if they become eligible based on their income level or tax liability in 2008. That has been a standard feature of past rebates, although it does nothing to stimulate the economy.
    Some 40 million people who file their tax returns online could start getting payments by direct deposit in May. Congressional tax analysts say the government can send out up to 9 million paper checks a week. The IRS will have to reprogram its computers to calculate who gets the rebate and how much they will receive.
    “They sort of learned how to do this last time,” said Jason Furman, a Brookings economist, referring to the last round of rebates in 2001.
    “It’s definitely complicated if you’re trying to understand it, but it’s not actually going to be complicated for people because they’re going to get a check from the IRS without having to fill out a single form.”
    Still, the agency is already working overtime processing tax returns, and rebates will have to take a back seat come April, when it will be overwhelmed in the run-up to Tax Day.
    “The two final weeks of tax filing season are very, very high-traffic weeks for the IRS,” DeSouza said. “We’ll just have to see what capacity they can handle.”
    >>>>>>>>
    jesus christ!, this is what the politicans have reduced the public mentality to:
    “”It’s definitely complicated if you’re trying to understand it, but it’s not actually going to be complicated for people because they’re going to get a check from the IRS without having to fill out a single form.”….
    Isn’t it a touch hypocritical for all the dems to be endorsing the Obama-rama vision of “helping one another” and then coming up with this scheme? Or is it the poor don’t vote and therefore don’t deserve any consideration from the dems?
    You know these politicans really are nothing but the lowest class of trash on earth…the people could get a fairer deal from used car salesmen than they will ever get from these scum sucking parasites. They should be disemboweled and hung from lamp post all over DC.

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  7. Ed Cogburn says:

    Dear Friends
    What is the talk of “a decade adrift”? We were begged by the Europeans to intervene in the Balkans. We did, and were, largely successful. We were stuck with the residue of the First Gulf War, but we kept Iraq from mischief without going to war. By and large our relationship with Russia was successful. The Euro was 80 cents to the dollar. We twice intervened to bail out Russia, then Mexico, both successful, in saving them and continuing our own prosperity. We removed Milosovic peacefully through democratic means. We signed NAFTA after a long period of hesitation. We began the process of trade replacing hostility with China. We established better relations with India. We expanded NATO. We did not go to war. What about this is drift?

    Reply

  8. Ed Cogburn says:

    Dear Friends
    What is the talk of “a decade adrift”? We were begged by the Europeans to intervene in the Balkans. We did, and were, largely successful. We were stuck with the residue of the First Gulf War, but we kept Iraq from mischief without going to war. By and large our relationship with Russia was successful. The Euro was 80 cents to the dollar. We twice intervened to bail out Russia, then Mexico, both successful, in saving them and continuing our own prosperity. We removed Milosovic peacefully through democratic means. We signed NAFTA after a long period of hesitation. We began the process of trade replacing hostility with China. We established better relations with India. We expanded NATO. We did not go to war. What about this is drift?

    Reply

  9. Seth B says:

    From a ground-level perspective, I have friends in Ecuador who report that the Chinese have been winning the hearts, minds, and wallets of South Americans. They’ve been living for years on empty U.S. promises and endless bait-and-switch, and the Chinese have come in and delivered exactly what they’ve promised: infrastructure, investment, and, at least so far, no outright theft of property or wealth.

    Reply

  10. pauline says:

    I’ll just add that if anyone out there does not see the DEAD seriousness of what’s happening to our elections, then they have not read (1) blackboxvoting.org and/or (2) bradblog.com
    If they have not used the internet, then I invite them to get from their library system or through amazon.com, “Hacking Democracy”, the HBO special that highlights citizen Bev Harris and her team attempting to discover the HUGE secrets behind the electronic voting machines.
    Everyone who knows little-to-nothing about the total vulnerability of our democracy from the electronic voting machines used since 2000, they need to not only view “Hacking Democracy”, they need to share it with everyone they know.
    Probably the average precinct election judge, elections inspector or poll worker is as honest as you or I no matter what their party affiliation and they all work long honest hours around election time. It’s what happens at the “tabulation” stages of gathering voting totals, when all the precincts start forwarding their particuliar totals up the line in their states that RESULTS BECOME THE MOST HACKABLE — and these trashy pieces of technology are hackable without leaving much of a trace, unless computer-wise folks know exactly where to look. At the “tabulation” stage, your vote for candidate A can be so stealthfully changed to candidate B with a mere tiny bit of computer programming added to the “tabulation” stage computers. From a few hundred thousand votes to millions of votes, who the heck is going to know the difference?
    The Statue of Liberty, George Washington’s mother and our democracy will.

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  11. Carroll says:

    BREAKING: Hillary Clinton To Vote “No” On Cloture Tomorrow UPDATE: Barack Obama Will Be There Too
    http://firedoglake.com/2008/01/27/breaking-hillary-clinton-to-vote-no-on-cloture-tomorrow/
    Posted by pauline at January 28, 2008 11:10 AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Thanks…good update.
    This flap however is a hard one for me to get riled about….the dems are willingly to go after the intels for breaking the law the prez made them break, but won’t do anything about the prez for ordering them to break the law?
    Orwell, hypocritic, Alice down the rabbit hole…is all I see in campaigns, congress, anywhere any more.

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  12. karenk says:

    As an ER nurse in NYC for many years I’ve had to deal with some very difficult individuals in crisis. Bully, strong arm tactics rarely work with people, nor with nations. We need to reinvent ourselves to a Madonna-esque degree. Use our strengths other than military. America is still a country that supports the spirit of invention and innovation. Even simple solutions from simple people can go a long way and cost far less than military action. How about building large playgrounds on the grounds outside some of these US Embassies in hostile nations? IDK, would they attack a place where their kids are playing? would kids go to play there? What could it cost-a few thou$and? Sometimes little things mean a lot.
    As for the failing dollar, it seems related to overall fiscal irresponsibility.

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  13. pauline says:

    I’m no foreign policy expert by any means, but it sure doesn’t take much to figure out what’s happening to our economy.
    “Weak Dollar Fuels China’s Buying Spree Of U.S. Firms”
    “The U.S. dollar is getting weaker and weaker, and many medium to small U.S. companies are in economic crisis. So they need investments from China. It is very good timing,” said Yu Dan, a representative for the state of Pennsylvania in China.
    see-
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/27/AR2008012702380.html?hpid=topnews

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  14. pauline says:

    Tony:
    You’re hitting many nails on their heads, keep up the valid criticisms.
    One tiny ray of hope, to keep the bushwacker criminals still indictable, here’s Jane from firedoglake –
    BREAKING: Hillary Clinton To Vote “No” On Cloture Tomorrow UPDATE: Barack Obama Will Be There Too
    http://firedoglake.com/2008/01/27/breaking-hillary-clinton-to-vote-no-on-cloture-tomorrow/

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  15. TonyForesta says:

    The world is realigning. Having perverted and betgrayed our principles, and the rule of law, America is no longer percieved by the rest of the world as the beacon of hope for freedom, equality, and justice for all. Justice in America is nefariously shapeshifted into justus, as in just us.
    Fascists have seized control of the Ameican government, and the rest of the world has taken note, and is examining their best interests, and investments.
    The superrich in America are not patriots. Some in the Bush government are actually traitors. The superrich will not salvage what little remains of America, – nor do the superrich in America hold any qualm over shipping our jobs and resources overseas, or moving into whatever currency or investment instruments enhances or entrenches their singular wealth and power.
    Setting all the babel aside, – man – all of us – have not evolved as intelligent beings. As mechanical, scientifically industrious, and inventive engineers man has shown great promise and remarkable artistry, – but going forward, – man, nations, societies, churches, cults, klans, and as individuals – man today – is no different than our Cro Magnon cousins, settling our differences by beating each other with sticks. Our sticks are more excellent and precision guided, but our reasoned intellectual development is retarded, and we – all of us – remain essentially brutes, exceedingly cunning beasts, and far far away from anything like godliness.
    We will all get what we deserve. Americans have allowed fascists to dismember and reengineer the constitution, our democracy, and our government, – and American’s will pay dearly for this rank ignorance, apathy, and acquiesence and for our governments ruthless treasons, treacheries, and tyranny.
    America is no longer a good bet. But then,… I like the Giants and the under.

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  16. charlie says:

    Great article, thanks Steve. Don’t know if I agree with Mr. Khanna’s prescriptions for US policy, but I look forward to seeing a more flushed out argument. However, what I really enjoyed about it was the thought-provoking. One idea that I got: It really should be required reading for people at State — because it really helps to explain how OTHER countries are viewing the US and how they are trying to move. Don’t know if I agree with everything he says, but I do think it reflects some good reporting on how other countries are thinking now.

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  17. Delicious Pundit says:

    I haven’t finished the article…my enthusiasm waned at the short shrift given to climate change. It seems a little “if current trends continue”-ish — something climate change guarantees won’t happen.

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  18. aanna missed says:

    I thought the article itself was most interesting, but was rather floored that his remedy for our situation was for America get back to its “exceptionalist” principals. Funny, but I thought thats how we got into this mess in the first place. And that the last thing in world – that the world from us, is more of our exceptionalism.

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  19. Paul Norheim says:

    Steve Clemons,
    you are recommending an article by your New America Foundation colleague Parag Khanna, where he talks about the diminishing power of America, and where he recommends several steps for the future administration to adjust to a new geopolitical landscape with three big power centra: China, EU and USA.
    Just before that, you wrote a post where you said that Caroline Kennedy`s endorsement of Obama made you “feel very uncomfortable”. Your last sentence in that post was: “Mysticism and gut will not assure our allies, deter our foes, restore confidence among our citizens, or make America regain its unique national and international character again.”
    It looks like you and Parag Khanna agree on the central diagnosis: the “demise of American hegemony”, and the transition to a world with three dominant global players. I mention your former Kennedy/Obama comment because it demonstrates what seems to be a serious disagreements between your world view and the view of Khanna. Basically, you both seem to agree on the emerging realities, but not on how to deal with them.
    Khanna, playing “strategy czar”, trying to act like a “21 century Kissinger”, tries to “guide the next American president (and the one after that) (…) into a world of much more diffuse governance.” He starts by recommanding the future president to “channel (his) inner J.F.K. You are president, not emperor.”
    This seems to be in stark contrast to your rational skepticism and disgust regarding “mysticism and gut”. It also seems quite clear that Khanna is endorsing Obama, who is channeling his “inner J.F.K.” so convincingly that the candidate is endorsed even by the daughter of the real J.F.K.
    I sympathize very much with your rational skepticism. All in all, however, I don`t understand your clear tendency to sympathize more with Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama. She may have more knowledge and direct/indirect political experience than Obama. (The fact that you may “know what you get” if you vote for “Billary” may be decisive here too.) But, as you`ve formulated it in a couple of recent posts, the candidate (read: the president) may be seen as “franchises, or as schizophrenic enterprises, with some personalities around the candidate in the dominant position and others subordinate.” This means that the close advisors to the president may be more important than the president, and that the power of the latter, given the current media landscape, is more of a symbolic nature. If this is correct (regardless of what we may think about qualifications of a leader – and speaking for myself, “charismatic leadership” is not my cup of tea), I am surprised why your skepticism towards the presidential candidate Obama is more important to you than your sympathy for advisors like, say, Zbigniev Brzezinski, a “personality” surrounding the candidate that may play a decisive role in the foreign policy of an Obama lead administration?
    In other words: why are you frequently so impressed by the skills and knowledge of one “schizophrenic enterprise” and so skeptical towards another, if the personalities surrounding her or him matter more?
    “Mysticism and gut will not assure our allies”. Obama may not assure some of the politicians (but than again, he may assure others), but my guess is that he may convince big parts of the population (not only among “allies”, but also among “foes”) that America wants to go in a different direction after Bush/Cheney. If I`m right, this obviously also has political impact.
    Mr. Clemons, according to Wikipedia, you have once characterized yourself as a “progressive realist”. This fits perfectly with my impressions, having read your blog for a couple of years. And there is a certain ambivalence in that, isn`t there? One part of you seem to be horrified by the Bush/Cheney abuse of power (a reaction concerning the moral and legal aspects) and another part of you seem to lament the way they help undermining the US hegemony.
    Allow me to quote you again: “Mysticism and gut will not assure our allies, deter our foes, restore confidence among our citizens, or make America regain its unique national and international character again.”
    While Khanna tries to find ways for America to adjust to new geopolitical realities (and I don`t approve all of his recommendations), you talk about an America that should “regain its unique [...] international character again”. There is clearly a difference between adjusting or adapting to new realities and “regaining”, in this context.
    I don´t intend to be polemical here, but what, exactly, do you refer to when you talk about Americas “unique international character”?
    The US role in the world during the last century? Wilson in the aftermath of WWI? The Marshall Plan and the creation of thy U.N.? America in the first phase of the cold war? The Vietnam years? The Reagan years? Clinton?
    I am not sure if you refer to concrete issues here, when you express a will to “regain” the role of America in the world. Perhaps a year ago, you expressed in a comment at TWN (I`m sorry that I can`t find the post now, and don`t remember the exact formulation) a regret that by exposing the power (and the limits of that power) of the military in Iraq, George Bush had destroyed the image of that power. Your expression was “the enigma”, or the “enigmatic power” of America. With other words: a power that is more powerful when not used. More “mystical”.
    Obviously there is an ambivalence buried in the phrase “progressive realist”, but I think this ambivalence is more evident in the words I have quoted, contrasting to your strong criticism of the abuse of power of the current administration in your blog.
    My – hah! – gut feeling is that this is a real ambivalence, and that it helps to explain why you seem to have so many friends among different factions in Washington. Some times, Mr. Clemons, I must admit that I think about you in a similar way as you think about the presidential candidates – as a kind of schizophrenic enterprise. Some times it`s as if Washington DC is talking through you.

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  20. Bill R. says:

    I recall in 1968 in a Pol. Sci. class on theory and model building. As a class project I constructed a model of a multi-polar world, in contrast with the bi-polar world I had grown up with. Our brief passage as the sole imperial super-power has been a brief one, and thankfully a short one. I look forward to a multi-polar world of balancing interests and world views. Thanks to global media and the internet we now have the possibility of people to people communications bypassing elites. So the soul-less neocons, multinational corporations, and bureaucratic elites of Beijing and the Kremlin will not have the last word on the world we live in. The New America Foundation may have its place but its elitist outlook is not the last word either.

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  21. Mr. Noah says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to be honest. This is possibly the worst essay on geopolitics that I have ever read – and I have read quite a lot. Is it possible to read lines like this:
    As the early 20th-century European scholars of geopolitics realized, because a vertically organized region contains all climatic zones year-round, each pan-region can be self-sufficient and build a power base from which to intrude in others’ terrain.
    and not realize that this “expert on geopolitics” is completely talking out of his ass? How do lines like this one not make you stare in bug-eyed shock that the New York Times Magazine ever allowed this crap onto its pages? This article sounds as if a 19th-century British imperial bureaucrat was resurrected, given a day to read Google News, and then commissioned to write an article explaining the state of the world. It is, plainly and simply, atrocious.
    And this would be true even if some of the article’s conclusions weren’t laughable. But they are. The most glaring example of this is the conclusion that European power is on an upswing. “European technologies more and more set the global standard”? Europe will “subdue Russia”? One would be hard-pressed to find an EU bureaucrat or French or German politician who believes these things. The conclusion that ethnic Chinese will draw Pacific Rim countries into China’s orbit also looks very shaky.
    If this essay is representative of Parag Khanna’s ability to analyze and forecast global trends, I am astonished that he ever managed to get some of the plum jobs listed on his resume. I hope that this essay was a fluke, written in a state of deep intoxication, and published by an editor with a very subtle sense of humor.

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  22. Carroll says:

    No matter who is elected president next…the handwritting is on the wall to me…the US has created an anti-America backlash that isn’t going to go away any time soon.
    Everywhere you look you see the push back to US and Isr’merica aggression and greed.
    Statements are being made by State and less than State powers in bold actions like the Hamas blowout of the Gaza wall blockade. Now the US Egypt relationship is in play.
    Sec of Defense Gates was literally laughed out of town at the Arab Gulf Council meeeting not long ago for saying the US was “even-handed” in the ME. Bush gazed into the Saudi King’s eyes during his plea on the oil prices and saw a big “NO’.
    The spreading US capitalism- democracy -rule chickens are coming home to roost everywhere not just in the ME.
    Egypt says will keep border open and help Gazans restock
    Sat Jan 26, 6:09 AM ET
    CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt said on Saturday it would continue to allow Gazans to cross the breached border and help them stock up on supplies on the fourth day of unfettered access, the official MENA news agency reported
    Chavez Urges Withdrawals From U.S. Banks
    Saturday, January 26, 2008
    CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged his Latin American allies on Saturday to begin withdrawing billions of dollars in international reserves from U.S. banks, warning of a looming U.S. economic crisis.
    Chavez made the suggestion as he hosted a summit aimed at boosting Latin American integration and countering U.S. influence.
    “We should start to bring our reserves here,” Chavez said. “Why does that money have to be in the north? … You can’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
    To help pool resources within the region, Chavez and other leaders launched a new development bank at the summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Nations of Our America, or ALBA.
    The left-leaning regional trade alliance supported by Chavez is intended to offer an alternative, socialist path to integration while snubbing U.S.-backed free-trade deals”
    All the old people who can’t get over themselves as players and self important representives of the world’s sole superpower will dismiss these trends as huff puff from minors and keep ignoring it, claiming the US is still in charge right down to the bitter end.

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  23. JohnH says:

    Bush sped up time, but who would have guessed by how much? In 2000, who could have imagined what this administration has wrought?
    In a few short years, Bush made much of America’s soft and hard power simply evaporate.
    The military is now clearly a force that can destroy but cannot enforce America’s will–witness Iran, secure in its knowledge that Washington knows that any attack on it will be pyrrhic.
    America’s financial supremacy has been ceded to the holders of sovereign wealth funds to whom the US government and major corporations are now beholden. America’s moral leadership, always suspect upon close examination, has evaporated under the horror of the pointless Iraq Occupation. And the American market, the real prize for most foreign nations, is about to be severely downsized.
    When the film about this administration comes out, it will probably be called “Honey, I shrunk the country.”

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  24. Jeff Dexter says:

    Steve,
    I read his article this morning in the Times Magazine and commented on it at the Foreign Policy Association blog.
    http://diplomacy.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2008/01/27/who-needs-one-industrial-complex-when-you-can-have-two/

    Reply

  25. Carroll says:

    What I find striking is the decline of the US was foretold more than a decade ago…so Kupchan’s statement that Bush only sped it up seems accurate to me.
    About six years ago while looking for something at the Library of Congress site I came across a report to congress…which I assumes means the study/report had to have been commissioned by congress. Anyway it was a report by the military intelligence and some other experts on the US position in the 21 century. It outlined the problems we would face and predicted what would happen to our position economically and militarily due to a lot of factors like the spread of technology to third world countries, the imbalance of wealth in most countries and all the factors giving rise to more and more splits of power and sources of conflict that would challenge US supremacy.
    I have tried to find that report since but can’t remember the exact title well enough to go right to it and it would take hours and hours to locate. BTW, I also found a congress commissioned report on terrorism at the Library done long ago that was very detailed on all the terrorist groups and their motivations and even predicted airliners being used to attack buildings…so every time I hear the politicans say no one ever “anticipated” a plane being used as a bomb I think they are either lying or never read any of the reports they commission.
    But it makes one ask..did anyone in congress actually read it back then? If anyone did did they decide the way to combat the decline of the US the report outlined was to use military force
    to maintain US hegemony?

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  26. Glen says:

    I’m going to agree with Charles Kupchan, the Bush train wreck has put this process into hyperdrive. What we lost was the time to react and adjust our policies to a changing world. I would also argue that you’re overlooking the positives that happen during the Clinton years which were the start of corrections to maintain our world position. Most of these were the start of long term domestic changes required to stay on top – balancing the budget, an emphasis on high tech, and education. This was why the Clinton economy worked. These efforts were rather quickly undone by Bush, but it was the Bush disaster we laughingly call “foreign policy” that drove countries to our competitors that vastly accelerated our slide.

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  27. JamesL says:

    I’m glad you have brought attention to this article. Its aggregate contains many of the subsets I have been writing about for some time. In my opinion, the underlying causes of this are an American arrogance that Americans are superior to all other peoples, that other peoples cannot effectively compete with America’s might, that we will always be able to get other people to do our work for us, and that what has been (a surplus of oil, and America’s accumulation of wealth) will continue to be off into the glorious future. It is easy to blame Bush (too easy), or Clinton, or Mexicans or Chinese, or whatever political party one chooses. But the blame for this state of affairs ultimately belongs to the American people who, if they want to recover, are going to have to cooperate and become a lot more pragmatic and practical. In a phrase: It’s going to be an uphill battle.

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  28. DonS says:

    Anyone with an ounce of sense could have foretold that China, stoked by foreign investment, would be a leading power. And that it would be pure hubris for the U.S. to think it could guide and contain that rise, what with China’s millenia long xenophobia.
    Seems like the Washington elites had less than the required ounce, and more than enough hubris.
    Meanwhile the political machinery in Washington seems stuck in the same ponderous thinking that got us here. And the virtually non-state fat cats get fatter.

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