Innovation Amidst the Wreckage of America’s Empire?

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parag khanna steve clemons.jpg
Global futurist Parag Khanna shared the outlines and key themes of his new book, How to Run the World: Creating a Course to the Next Renaissance, at a New America Foundation event last week.
The video of the event is here — and a Q&A I did a few weeks ago with Khanna appears here on Amazon’s site.
But one of the fundamental questions I have about Khanna’s observations about a much more complex array of actors and players in international interactions, like the Gates Foundation which he mentioned frequently in his presentation, is whether he is misdiagnosing the situation.
I think that the proliferation of large scale NGOs and the surge of diplomatic activity by nations such as Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and others may not be examples of the ‘mega-diplomacy’ Khanna observes and advocates but rather examples of what happens when a hegemon collapses. All of this seemingly rich and diverse activity may be manifestations of America’s loss of control, its diminishment on the international stage — where other players fill voids, coopt parts of the sprawling infrastructure of America’s foreign policy framework, and test the reset boundaries of power in a world of US strategic contraction.
I fear that we won’t know whether the world we are moving into is more stable and better run given this flood of new institutions and states into global stewardship roles than that we had in the past — but Parag Khanna seems to embrace it. I tend to think that America has a chance to reinvent its leverage and while probably not returning to the kind of definitive control it once enjoyed can still be more definitive than most.
But the jury is out on America being able to recreate a global social contract with other nations and players in the international system — and what Parag Khanna identifies as both a diffusion of actors and speeding up of interactions in what he calls “mega-diplomacy” may just be a back door to a more anarchic, less stable global order.
In other words, we may be as Khanna believes on the way to some version of a neo-Medieval global arrangement, though the term is tough to use because it comes with so much distracting baggage, but if we get there — there’s no assurance of a Renaissance at the other end.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

10 comments on “Innovation Amidst the Wreckage of America’s Empire?

  1. observer says:

    Steve Clemens:
    the United States has shredded her domestic social contract for 25 years.
    I find it incredible and a fantasy to suggest that she be capable of creating, much less sustaining, a “global social contract”.
    Specifically in the Middle East, what is the “positive” view of the future that the United States in painting?
    All that I see points to more confrontation and more war in that part of the world.
    And if US cannot articulate and otherwise execute such a positive vision in the Middle East with her numerous allies and friends, how could she do so globally?
    I think you are wrong and are over-estimating US power and capability.

    Reply

  2. non-hater says:

    More lies.
    “Unemployment is 10% in France and has been around there forever”
    The OECD statistics database gives the following numbers for the unemployment rate in France from 2001 to 2009: 7.8, 7.9, 8.5, 8.8, 8.9, 8.8, 8.0, 7.4, 9.1.
    “which I thought central planning was supposed to prevent?”
    Quite simply ridiculous. There is no centrally-planned economy in western Europe, nor has there been for decades.
    “Europe, aside from Germany or England (perhaps I should say, formerly in England) has baked permanent high unemployment into the cake with its regulatory system and endless doles.”
    There’s no basis for that assertion. The latest quarter available for all countries, 2010Q2, shows that most countries have lower rates, and some lower than the US had even during the height of the “Bush Boom”:
    Belgium 8.4
    Denmark 7.5
    Finland 8.4
    France 9.3
    Germany 7
    Iceland 6.9
    Ireland 13.3
    Italy 8.4
    Netherlands 4.1
    Norway 3.6
    Portugal 10.9
    Spain 20
    Sweden 8.6
    Switzerland 4.1
    United Kingdom 7.8
    For comparison:
    United States 9.6
    Here’s a clue, since you seem to be short a few: Stop digging.
    (Note: OECD Stats doesn’t provide permalinks. Homepage here: stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx)
    (Note: Alternative source with slightly different adjustments: http://www.bls.gov/ilc/intl_unemployment_rates_monthly.htm)

    Reply

  3. nadine says:

    Unemployment is 10% in France and has been around there forever. EU average currently 9.7%. That’s not mentioning Ireland (13%) or Spain (20%), who had the little property bubble thing you mention, which I thought central planning was supposed to prevent? Europe, aside from Germany or England (perhaps I should say, formerly in England) has baked permanent high unemployment into the cake with its regulatory system and endless doles.

    Reply

  4. non-hater says:

    Nadine is spreading lies again.
    “Did you somehow fail to notice that unemployment averages 10 – 12% in most of Western Europe?”
    Unemployment in most western European countries is below 10%, with the exception of the countries that had huge property bubbles (Spain and Ireland), Greece (where the government kept fraudulent books for years) and Portugal (which is affected by heavy integration with the Spanish economy).
    epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/mapToolClosed.do;jsessionid=9ea7974b30e980fd3c24b27d4527bed9c55addf2be49.e34SbxiOchiKc40LbNmLahiKb3uRe0?tab=map&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=teilm020&toolbox=types
    “Obama has been running around taking over banks, car companies, health care, increasing regulation and forbidding drilling to the extent that he has successfully prevented economic recovery.”
    The US government took over two car companies, both of which were likely to fall into uncontrolled bankruptcies that would have crippled the entire economy and destroyed most of the value remaining in them. GM has since performed an IPO, and Chrysler is controlled by Fiat and making an operating profit. It was a very successful policy
    The US government has taken over no banks. Quite the opposite, most would argue. And the FDIC’s routine Friday operations certainly don’t count as “takeovers” as that is an established process, with over 60 years of history, for shutting down institutions that are not solvent. The result of a FDIC shutdown is usually immediate sale of the institution (minus bad assets) to another bank or bank holding company. Only rarely does the FDIC control an institution for an extended period, and that too is an accepted practice.
    “It’s 1937 again and the economy is staggering under the load of regulation and out of control government spending.”
    The economic contraction in 1937 was caused by Roosevelt’s efforts to balance the budget. That backfired – as Keynesian theory predicts – because there was insufficient private demand to use the capacity no longer busy fulfilling orders for the government.
    “The Fed is busy destroying the currency with QE2”
    The Fed isn’t destroying the US currency, which can be seen here:
    research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/DTWEXM?cid=94
    or here:
    research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?chart_type=line&s[1][id]=CPILFESL&s[1][transformation]=pc1
    “the Democratic Congress added $5 Trillion to the National Debt in four short years”
    Note the timing here. 32 of those 48 months were under budgets authorized by George Bush.
    “Government spending has climbed from 20% to 25% of GDP.”
    This is hardly a surprise when private economic output declines sharply and government spending increases to help those in need. If the government had tried to hold spending constant as a percentage of GDP, the economic contraction would have been much greater.
    Any assertion that I haven’t debunked can probably be done by a reader with about 30 seconds of searching.
    The point of all this: Nadine spreads lies. Don’t believe a word she says.
    (Note: There are several links in this post which may or may not be included when I hit submit.)

    Reply

  5. nadine says:

    drew, don’t you know that merely employing people is so bourgeois? Our true meritocrats must prove their virtue to the gatekeepers of the elite through the ultimate measure of accomplishment: words, attention, and applause from made members of the elite inside the Beltway. The bolder the better. Style counts for a lot.

    Reply

  6. drew says:

    This guy Khanna should go get a job or make payroll for a few
    years before he next emerges to suggest how “to run the world.”
    Seriously, he has a good mug shot, which should do well on
    Match.com, but what has this dude ever done to warrant 5 seconds
    of attention?

    Reply

  7. nadine says:

    “Few want to emulate a kleptocratic predator state governed by financial institutions and a fatalistic private market ethos that accepts 9.5% unemployment as just one of those things you have to live with as economic nature takes its course. ” (Dan Kervick)
    I thought you liked Europe better? Did you somehow fail to notice that unemployment averages 10 – 12% in most of Western Europe? It’s not “economic nature” whether there or here. It’s the result of government policy. When you pay for three years of unemployment, you get three years of unemployment. A simple formula that eludes socialists everywhere.
    Obama has been running around taking over banks, car companies, health care, increasing regulation and forbidding drilling to the extent that he has successfully prevented economic recovery. It’s 1937 again and the economy is staggering under the load of regulation and out of control government spending. The Fed is busy destroying the currency with QE2 and the Democratic Congress added $5 Trillion to the National Debt in four short years, while Government spending has climbed from 20% to 25% of GDP.

    Reply

  8. DonS says:

    “I don’t think the United States can reinvent any kind of leverage abroad until it re-invents itself”
    Ding, ding, ding! C’mon down . . .
    That is, the reinvention has to be along more actual beneficent lines. “Leverage” and “control” need a lot of subtext. There is a dark underbelly to the “predator state” that is quite apparent to some, although those who claim that to note this, among commenters, is really “blaming America”.
    Personally I think the road to any meaningful reinvention, along morally defensible lines, is paved with a lot fewer fucking chauvinists, jingoists, and Islamophobes.

    Reply

  9. Dan Kervick says:

    “I tend to think that America has a chance to reinvent its leverage and while probably not returning to the kind of definitive control it once enjoyed can still be more definitive than most.”
    I don’t think the United States can reinvent any kind of leverage abroad until it re-invents itself. What appeared as an attractive and victorious social model in 1991, and the foundation of US soft power, no longer appears so attractive in 2011. Few want to emulate a kleptocratic predator state governed by financial institutions and a fatalistic private market ethos that accepts 9.5% unemployment as just one of those things you have to live with as economic nature takes its course. And US “democracy” now looks like a special interest class rumble that paralyzes social choice and prevents the country from advancing its own people’s common good.
    A country that used to look very modern and advanced to people now appears backward.

    Reply

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