The rise of the others

By Rufus Foshee | Jun 26, 2009

Early in Fareed Zakaria's "The Post American World," he writes, "... The Security Council exemplifies the antique structure of global governance more broadly. The G8 does not include China, already the world's fourth largest economy, or India and South Korea, the twelfth and the thirteenth."

Only 10 years ago, if one had suggested to Americans, perhaps anyone in the western world, that whether or not the United States diminishes in all things, others will rise, one would have been put in a straight jacket. I have borrowed the phrase "the rise of the others” from Zakaria, noted journalist, TV commentator and editor of Newsweek International.

As Americans we do not like "... all that goes up must also come down." We much prefer the prettier word "converge." Much less frightening. But stretching one’s imagination just a bit, and the English language, one might argue that there is not too much difference, depending on where the lines meet.

It is not such a mystery that America, perhaps the West in general, will not allow themselves to think about the Asian continent where, in the mid 20th century, the United States fought two wars. What came to be called police action in Korea cost 33,000 American lives, Vietnam 58,000 and 350,000 casualties. Worse, there were no victories for anyone to crow about. Technically, the Koreas are still at war; there was only a truce that might be withdrawn at any minute.

Perhaps worst of all and as opposed to World War I and World War II, there was no real estate to divide.

Both Korea and Vietnam were perceived as jungle nations where savages dwelled. Has this thinking changed much since? But for these two American follies, decades would pass before most Americans knew where these states were. Many young people still do not.

But American ivy tower living crashed with the World Trade Centers on 9/11. It continues to burn to ashes with no immediate probability for recovery.

So, since Bush 43 devoted eight years to assisting the United States to slip into further decline and acquire new enemies and no friends internationally, where does "... the greatest country on earth" now fit in? It has now been predicted that by 2040, just a generation ahead, a handful of Asian nations will have outgrown the economies of the G7 western powers. With what many believe is the death of the American concept of capitalism, that period may now be shorter.

It is now the rise of the others that will become the focus of internationalism, or globalization if one prefers. Rather than a convergence of both domestic and foreign policies, nationalism is on the rise. Instead there is division. President Obama’s tendency to preach and become consistently more dictatorial with every speech is not helping.

This is a different world. Late 19th century and early 20th century America were characterized by their migrant labor. A little later poor whites and poor blacks moved from the southern cotton patches to labor havens, such as New York and Detroit. That has changed. Now the United States and others export the labor to other countries, China and India as prime examples, very willingly. Then they complain that foreigners have taken U.S. jobs. Even more and more American young people are going to Asian countries to find work, especially in technology.

The "rise of the others" now means everyone but the United States. It is all about money, which some like to disguise as economics, an unpopular opinion. But try discussing economics with the average man in terms other than money. See where that discussion goes. Not long ago I had a dinner guest who is an economist, and one whom I had not met before. What a great evening. I kept insisting that it is about dollars; he resisted. In the many months since we have had great fun exchanging e-mails.

After hearing then Harvard economist Debra Sparr, now president of Barnard College, speak at the Camden Conference a few years back, I said to her that her comment made sense because it was clear that she was talking about money. Maybe Sparr was wise to leave the ivy clad towers of economic academia just when so many economists' reputations began to tarnish.

Does one still think of the G8, organized in 1975 by France, as the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, when assessing world power? If one does, consider that China is missing from the list, the world's fourth largest economy, in addition to India and South Korea, the 12th and 13th.

In 1976, the G7 or Haley Group was organized, comprising the finance ministers of the above countries. In evaluating nations, their economies are prime criteria. It seems even more ironic that China, the fourth largest world economy, is still hanging in the wind.

Getting one's mind around these statistics may better focus one to understand what Zakaria means by "the rise of the others." Zakaria writes in "The Post American World": "By tradition, the IMF is always headed by a European and the World Bank by an American. This 'tradition,' like the customs of old segregated country clubs, may be charming and amusing to insiders, but to the outsiders it is bigoted and outrageous."

The fact that the United States owes China so many billions piles irony upon irony.

While America reigned supreme for decades, many looked to it for leadership and perhaps at times even mimicked it. Now, since the United States is no longer the giant, other nations are looking to each other to join in multilateral decision making, both domestically and in foreign policy.

The fact that the president of the United States continues traveling around making speeches as if he had been appointed world adviser is wearing a bit thin. His condescending and autocratic air does not go down well despite his American cheerleaders.

But a great part of the American culture is denial, just as it has denied for decades that World War II was in great part Stalin's victory. On the east flank is where Germany lost 70 percent of its casualties, but Britain and the United States claimed all the glory.

After Bush 43 leaped into the White House in 2000, America's great reputation at all levels began to diminish. To what degree this diminishment continues depends on much. It does not matter, because other nations are rising and will continue to rise.

Late on June 12 and up to beyond midnight, the New York Times online was dominated by the sports news, as if an election in Iran had not taken place. They know what Americans' first interest is -- they sell papers.
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