This is a challenging moment in history, and according to columnist Peter Ehrlich of Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, President Obama is a victim of it: The United States, relative to other nations, is growing comparatively weaker. And with economics rather than military prowess the modern measure of true influence, Ehrlich contends that presidents of the United States, starting with Barack Obama, will have to adjust.
I’d like to insert a personal note on this narrative to say, that what is happening today in terms of the relative drop in U.S. dominance reflects the unalloyed success of American policy since the end of World War II. We encouraged the rest of the world to embrace free markets and personal choice for their own good – and ours. Now that they have, we are relatively weaker – but by no means weak. And as Peter Ehrlich emphasizes, it is a world more characterized by economic competition than military.
For Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, Peter Ehrlich writes in part:
SEOUL: In times of peace, thankfully, there’s no need for historic battles like those of Trafalgar or Waterloo to change the balance of power in the world. These days, change happens little by little, day by day – only becoming noticeable at meetings like the G20 Summit in Seoul. What we witnessed was the end of American global dominance. The “American Century” is over.
At least since the First World War, the United States has been the most significant power both militarily and economically. Twenty years ago after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, it became the only remaining “superpower.” When then U.S. President George H.W. Bush spoke of a “new world order,” he was thinking of a Pax Americana. But from then on, it was all downhill.
Militarily, the U.S. still dominates, but today, even America can no longer afford to go it alone as it did in Iraq. Economically, it is still by far the most significant nation, but the fate of the global economy now lies in Europe and China. Barack Obama, who in contrast to Bush Jr. advocated a multilateral world order, now must bitterly experience what that means in practice. Once staunch allies like Germany now openly criticize the monetary policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
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