Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Global Leadership Vacuum

If American society is losing the capacity, long assumed, 
to lead the world, then who will?

A debate over the potential for U.S. collapse has intensified since the 2008 financial crisis. Some focus on the collapse of the anti-Islamic imperial project; others focus on the increasingly evident dysfunctionality of the capitalist financial system in its current form, but the negative direction in which the U.S. is headed is quickly becoming evident to almost everyone. Unfortunately, this debate centers on the wrong question.

The core question raised in this debate seems to be: Is the U.S. losing power? The issue at the core of the U.S. slide backwards over the last decade and, more accurately, since the entrance into the White House of Ronald Reagan is not the extent of U.S. power, however, but something more subtle, which one might call vision or leadership quality.

U.S. power remains overwhelming, be it military or economic or cultural or technological. Where the U.S. is slipping is in its capacity to define its place in the world and in its wisdom. The fog of confusion seems to be dimming Americans eyesight at all levels. After all, it was not just Wall St. crime or Federal regulator complicity or even fraud in the mortgage industry in your hometown that brought on the recession: many good, patriotic American citizens were knowingly playing the system as well. All were not stupid. Thousands if not millions were quite happy to buy homes they knew they could not afford in what they knew full well was a massive Ponzi scheme.

In foreign policy as well the guilt for the wave of U.S. imperial overstretch and brutality toward the Muslim world was by no means restricted to Washington politicians. Voters by the millions supported the War Party in its self-defeating hubris. Few cared about the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent  bystanders, the denial of due process to and outright torture of others generated by that wave of hubris.

It is not just the wealthy elite and their political lackeys who are irresponsible and confused but much of the U.S. population. Consensus on what America represents, the kind of society we aspire to creating, the price we are willing to pay to achieve it, and the kind of leadership we are willing to offer the rest of the world appears to be evaporating even faster than our squandered blood and treasure.

Aside from bin Laden, rejected by most Muslims long before his death, and Ahmadinejad, who is not all that popular even in his own country, where are the candidates to lead our planet if the U.S. can no longer be bothered or cant stop tripping over its own feet?

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