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The global power vacuum is expanding


Don't look to Washington.

The United States will remain the world's most powerful nation for years to come, but the Obama administration and U.S. lawmakers are now focused on debt, immigration, guns and growth.

A war-weary, under-employed American public wants results at home, leaving U.S. officials to look for allies willing to share costs and risks abroad.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to build and sustain alliances in a world where America can't afford its traditional share of the heavy lifting.

No wonder then that the Obama administration's greatest foreign policy successes haven't depended on such alliances.

Withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't require consensus among the world's powers. President Barack Obama's single indisputable foreign policy triumph, the killing of Osama bin Laden, needed buy-in only from the members of Seal Team 6.

Nor should we look to Europe for help. Its leaders are still hard at work duct-taping the euro zone, and cash-strapped governments consider an activist European foreign policy prohibitively expensive.

Nor will next-wave powers look to shoulder new burdens. Economic slowdowns in China, India and Brazil remind us that not every emerging market will fully emerge, much less accept the costs and risks that come with a share of global leadership.

In this G-Zero world, where no single government or alliance can lead others toward compromise, solutions to transnational problems range from ad hoc to beyond reach. United Nationsl Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the U.N.'s Conference on Sustainable Development last June with a warning: This gathering is too big to fail.

But for Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, the event was simply too big to attend. None of them has the muscle, individually or together, to force compromise on the policies that fuel climate change - and they know it.

This leadership vacuum continues to expand. The risk of confrontation in Asia has grown - between China and Japan (the world's second- and third-largest economies) in the East China Sea, and between China and several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.

Making matters even more dangerous, the U.S. transition toward a sharper foreign policy focus on Asia, progress toward a massive U.S.-led transpacific trade deal that excludes China and conflict in the under-governed expanse of cyberspace are worsening tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Fights over commercial and investment rules and the clash between the state-driven and free-market varieties of capitalism have gathered momentum. In years to come, no ties will be more important for global peace and prosperity than those that bind America and China, the world's most powerful developed and developing states, and no development would more quickly exacerbate the G-Zero dilemma than a dramatic worsening of relations between them.

In the Middle East, Syria's civil war grinds on with worrisome implications for Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and even Russia. Sectarian tensions are again stoking violence in Iraq. Attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets in Libya, Egypt and Yemen have heightened Washington's aversion to direct involvement in the region's conflicts. This is another region in which a lack of global leadership and rivalries among local heavyweights ensure that pain will get worse before real progress can be made.

Ironically, the nation most likely to fill the leadership vacuum left by America the Vulnerable is America the Resilient. A technology-driven U.S. energy boom has begun to create jobs, revitalize U.S. manufacturing and offer Washington the chance to use exports of natural gas, technology and knowhow to reverse the decline in U.S. international influence.

Over the longer term, Washington will have to address the growing imbalances on U.S. books, but as the financial crisis reminded us, when volatility and fear are the order of the day, safety becomes the world's most valuable commodity. That's why the United States remains the world's investment safe haven - and why, for better and worse, not even ratings agency downgrades can make it more difficult for America's government to borrow money, at least for the moment.

Nor is it inevitable that America and China will collide. Washington and Beijing seem at times destined for conflict, a dispute more likely to be fought in financial markets and in cyberspace than on more familiar battlegrounds. Yet heavy volumes of bilateral trade and investment ensure that neither side has much to gain from the other's weakness.

The two countries can't afford a zero-sum, Cold War-style confrontation, and both governments know it. It remains to be seen, however, if Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping have the vision and political will to build the sort of pragmatic partnership that might finally bring the G-Zero era to an end.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Excellent comment. I totally agree with you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ok, so much Anti-Americanism here. To be honest I am not the biggest fan of US policy. But to say that the US is over shows a profound lack of understanding of the global economy and the global political situation.

While China's numbers look good, her internal issues are a very serious risk. Far greater than the obvious US risks.

Bottom line, China will have great numbers, but the US will continue to pull the strings for a long time to come.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Oh bull. The US is already dead. The carcass is still walking, but no life inside. Obama ISN"T focusing on debt, unless you mean to expand it, that he is doing faster and higher than anyone in history. Jobs he is destroying with oppressive laws and taxes on companies and middle class; and war... he is expanding it. He has become a man of lies.. and it s too bad. He is a likable fellow, but clearly,he does not have the power, in large part is told what script to read and do

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Oh ! My ! How the Great Corporate American Propaganda Whore's sirens wail ! Last Quarter, China passed the U.S. in trade. China is months away from successful large scale Pebble Bed Reactor opening, China has mastered the Thorium molten salts technology and has already set forth on building same, by 2017. In the U.S., Feds - a private, secret, bankster, international gangster organization prints 85 Billions of U.S. dollars a month to keep that economy from bankruptcy, The divide: rich to poor in the U.S. has reached astronomical proportions - and even Canada, once her largest trading partner now counts China as her largest trading partner. Western Powers shaken and over-shadowed now by China's stronger advances. Since the 'Nixon Shock of 1977' the day the corporate vulture replaced the proud Eagle, the day the corpocracy replaced the Capitalist Democracy in the U.S.A., economic downward spiral, paper money depreciation, ever expanding gap between rich and poor, and loss of personal freedoms have been the hallmarks. Even Canadians fear hungry assault rifle armed mobs coming here to rob our common people to relieve their extreme poverty - already our Game Wardens catching them pillaging our wildlife resources, freezing it to return to the U.S. for food. You Google You see. not all well in the Disneyland nation, not well at all.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Of course there is a vacuum in leadership, how could it be otherwise when we never elect real leaders? Barack Obama became presedent on the force of his appearance and speaking ability, like many other polticians. What resume did he have? No professional experience, no military experience, and absolutely no leadership experience. He was a professor, and a "community organizer", whatever tha is. During his time as a senator, he didn't write or sponsor any legislation, and the majority of his votes were simply "present", not yes or no. Hardly the description of a decisive leader.

American politics is a machine which is steered by special interests, and these special interests fo not want leaders in office. Obama was "selected", just as people said Bush was selected. The people only choose between those candidates whom their parties choose for them to vote for. To be a candidate you need an Ivy League education, some greed, all of your hair, decent looks, and a record that is not too dirty to clean up. Common sense, leadership, or character are not requirements.

The fault for this system lies with the voters, who for the most part don't care who is in office, or what they do there. Need an example? A good deal of Americans do no know the name of the vice president. Do you? If so, can you also tell me the names of the 2 senators from your state? And how about the names of your local congressmen? If you can actually tell me their names, can you tell me what legislation they have written or supported? And, if you remember voting for them, did you vote because you approved of their performance in office? Or did you vote for them merely because they belonged to "your" political party? If you simply voted along party lines, you are part of the problem.

The power vacuum in America is the result of a common-sense vacuum in the American electorate.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

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