Over the last decade, the U.S. has lost political, military and international influence in the world; now it has lost its economic clout as well. The collapse of the financial system in the United States, the very linchpin of both the American and global economies, has evoked comments of gleeful retribution from some countries, and worrisome concern from others. But everywhere, now, there is a recognition that the U.S. economy is weak and vulnerable, and hardly a model for emulation by others. The collapse of this final pillar of U.S. global leadership is also encouraging other countries to assume a more assertive role.
Some of the sharpest criticism, and even sarcasm, came from the usual suspects. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez mocked Lehman Brothers
“They were always producing negative reports about Venezuela. . . .They forgot about themselves ... and 'boom!' they were bankrupt." (Toronto Star, 9/16/08)and then skipped the opening of the UN General Assembly to visit China instead, saying that Beijing was now much more relevant than New York.
At a meeting of the Nonaligned Movement in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed that
“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.” (NYT 7/30/08).
But even more moderate leaders have echoed such sentiments. The president of Argentina, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner declared that
“We are witnessing the First World, which at one point had been painted as a mecca we should strive to reach, popping like a bubble.” (NYT 10/3/08)In Latin America, according to the New York Times (10/3/08), governments “have been working for the past decade to reduce their dependence on the American economy,” have “diversified trade with the rest of the world,” and have set aside funds “for times when international conditions turn sour.”
In Moscow, both former President (now Premier) Putin and his successor, Dmitri Medvedev, have been flexing Russia’s diplomatic and military muscles for several years. The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected U.S. global dominance in a “unipolar” world, and with its landmark conflict with Georgia in August, asserted its own “privileged” sphere of influence in the world, “just like other countries in the world.”(NYT 8/31/08). With the U.S. economic crisis, Medvedev, like Kirchner, has called into question even U.S. economic leadership. He asserted last week that U.S. global economic leadership was drawing to a close. “The times when one economy and one country dominated are gone for good.” (NYT 10/3/08).
While the U.S. financial crisis has accelerated these moves away from the U.S. economy, the trend had begun years before, and is an integral part of the decline of U.S global influence more generally. Surveys in recent years by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found surprisingly little support in other countries for “the American ways of doing business.” Antipathy to the U.S. business model is particularly widespread and strong in Latin America and western Europe. In the 2007 Pew survey, in only a third of the 46 countries surveyed did a majority of respondents like the American ways of doing business. Most of those were in Africa.
For most of the postwar era, the United States has been both a political and economic model for countries and peoples around the world. This began to wane in recent years, especially in the face of the belligerent and unilateralist policies of the Bush administration. The financial collapse of the U.S. is one more nail in the coffin of U.S. supremacy and global dominance.