Clem Sunter

A post-American world

2013-11-01 12:13

Clem Sunter

I never thought I would be writing an article like this as I never believed that America would show signs of decay and decline during my lifetime. I worked on the premise that they would remain the No.1 nation for the whole of the 21st Century but now I am not so sure. Of course, they would be following a pattern established throughout the history of mankind that no nation holds the No.1 spot for too long.

Egypt was there, but no more. Greece followed but they were displaced by the Romans. China and the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, vied for pole position for centuries. Then Holland, Germany, France, Spain and that cheeky little island called Britain competed for military and industrial supremacy. Following the First World War, it was America's turn to become the superpower and for a short time after the Second World War the Soviet Union was their opponent on fairly equal terms. Towards the end of the last century, America occupied the summit alone and now it is increasingly apparent that nobody is there. We are moving into a leaderless world.

Consider the following signs of decline in the case of America:

1. Although they possess more weapons of mass destruction that any other nation except possibly for Russia, they are no longer good at fighting wars. They drew in Korea, they lost in Vietnam, they won a temporary victory in Iraq but they are about to lose in Afghanistan. They no longer possess that warrior spirit which is essential to win wars. Moreover, the battle has moved on to combating terrorism against which conventional armies, navies and air forces provide little if no protection and which sap the nation's strength while precipitating security measures which are costly and intrude on individual freedom - a fundamental building block of America's society.

2. This brings me to the second point that America's diplomatic influence in the world is waning because of questionable behaviour towards their allies in terms of phone tapping and spying on them, inconsistency in policy and behaviour on major issues like Syria and once again turning inwards to try and settle divisions on domestic economic problems rather than looking outwards as the world's foremost cop.

3. Americans have swapped dependency on Middle Eastern oil imports for dependency on China, Japan and Europe continuing to purchase their treasury bills. If those three pull the rug, interest rates will soar unless the US Fed becomes the sole purchaser of its own government's debt. The dollar will no longer be the primary reserve currency.

4. Other than around the internet, America is falling behind in the technology race. European and Japanese cars are more desirable, Samsung is inching ahead of Apple and many of the new business ideas are now originating in emerging economies which are growing at triple the speed of the US. America's share of global GDP has consistently decreased over the last 30 years and much of the industrial production of US companies takes place in countries with cheaper input costs.

You can never count Americans out and they might surprise us as they did in the 1990s with a comeback. Get ready, however, for the world to become a riskier place without America's leadership.

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