Centuries after Sir Isaac Newton discovered the laws of gravity colloquially summed up as’ what goes up, must come down’, the rise and subsequent decline of the United States stands as a poignant example. Be it intense pressure on the government to recover from the devastating recession or the political turmoil stemming from its military endeavours, today’s America is a far cry from the once unchallenged global leader it used to be. Where once the nation enjoyed diplomatic and economic leverage so great, it was naturally factored in all assumptions, the US is now not only being severely censured by its own people but also dynamically contested with in the global arena. We are slowly but surely moving from what was for long a ‘unipolar world’ to a multipolar one as countries like China and India expand their influence into domains that were once monopolized by America. Thus, with the Chinese frequently being touted as the next big financial sticklers closely followed by the rapidly growing India or even Europe, there is just one question clouding my mind, ‘why’? Why is the United States losing its footing as the world’s economic and diplomatic leader decades after firmly establishing itself as the ‘ideal’?
Post World War 2, America’s economic growth was unprecedented as it continually raised the bar in terms of trade income, employment and overall financial stability and as expected, the rest of the world scampered to follow in those footsteps. Phrases like the ‘American Dream’ and the ‘American Way of Life’ became ends unto themselves as people from all over docked to her seas to make it big. There was investment, technological innovation and as a result plenty of human capital. However, over the past decade or so, the US has faced a series of economic setbacks of which the recent depression was only the last straw. As is generally accepted, the US has never been competitive in the international market when it comes to manufacturing at low costs and although ‘Globalization’ (in terms of outsourcing, reducing trade barriers, etc) became the solution, it brought with it plenty of drawbacks too. By setting up plants in countries like China where cheap labour was available, American transnational companies exported skills as well as technology enabling the host countries to soon after run their own plants. Moreover, with the burst of the financial bubble as trillions remain unemployed, the future too isn’t very bright. Experts and analysts are now of the opinion that a stable economy is closely linked with national security and hence is all the more important. And predictably prospective economic ascendancy lies in ‘clean-energy’ products; after all, the President has also been quoted as saying “The nation that leads the clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy”. As such, once again the Chinese and countries like the UAE are also investing billions into sector research and whether or not the US can retain its technological edge remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, if it was only economics that America had to worry about, the solutions would come easier. Unfortunately though, it is not so. Military ventures like the Afghan and Iraq wars, increasingly uneasy relations with the Middle East and the Muslim world as well as unconditional American support for Israel has tremendously ruptured its once fool proof diplomacy. Losing credibility in one’s country is by far the worst crisis and in this case, the government is quickly losing its footing at home and world over. Be it the spending of billions of tax payer’s money for war, interference in the domestic affairs of allies, mulling over promises to change policies or turning a blind eye to Middle Eastern affairs in practical terms, the Obama administration is struggling to balance its own interests without losing political support and might I add, it isn’t very successful as of yet. And to make matters worse, the country’s diplomatic relations are interminably linked to its economic standing and what with the bursting of the financial bubble, trade partners are now looking elsewhere. Latin America for example, according to the New York Times has actively been working to reduce dependence on the US and build trade bridges with other countries in an attempt to decrease the level of uncertainty now associated with US finance.
History has repeatedly shown us that when a superpower no longer evokes confidence, its days as one are dangerously limited. Sadly, in this case unless the US can rely on its technological superiority to once again gain economic viability with better trade policies in hand and foster better diplomatic relations with its concerned allies, the same fate might await it. The President needs to break shackles of convention that he once promised to throw off and approach the rest of the world with understanding and genuine diplomatic camaraderie. After all, how many wars have really fostered friendships or won over enemies? If anything though, the nation has always stood for merit and now is the time for America to dig in its heels and fight back otherwise, the Iranian President- Ahmadinejad’s prescience may be lauded in the years to come. “The big powers are going down. . . .They have come to the end of their power, and the world is on the verge of entering a new promising era.”