America is the most powerful nation in the world. The problem is that we act like other nations in history who have achieved this status—and those nations are long gone. Our emotional capital with the other nations of the world is at an all-time low and declining. Our economic standing is not far ahead. The American hegemon, rather than showing respect the rest of the nations of the world, has for decades dictated to the rest of the world how the game should be played. With the United States’ moral and economic capital at an all-time low, it seems that our “piper” is warming up his pipe and preparing to call in our loans.
Shortly after September 11, 2001, the French newspaper Le Monde carried the front page banner headline, “We are All Americans”. George W. Bush and the United States received at that time a great deal of emotional capital from the nations. It didn’t take long, though, for us to squander nearly all of it. Instead of realizing that America is a nation among equals, not only did we not attempt to understand the moral motives of our 9/11 enemy, we discounted the feelings and opinions of every other nation in the world—except for those that agreed with us (which were few and which have become fewer).
The Constitution of the United States was established to protect the rights of all Americans, as well as to be an example of how the rights of all mankind should be protected. The American establishment no longer stands for such protection. Rather, it now stands for the political and economic domination of the world.
Despite the inadequacies and vile corruption at the United Nations, the United States can no longer afford, as it once could have, to leave the corrupt body and form a healthy separate alliance with the nations of the world. Very few nations would want to enter such an alliance with the United States now. As a party to the United Nations, the US has thwarted or ignored UN policy so often under the Bush administration that leaving the UN would be tantamount to national suicide.
With the faux logic of protecting America against terrorism, our morally contradictory actions have actually made Americans much less safe than we were before. For no good reason, we have stated that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to some enemy combatants. With great cynicism, we have turned some of these combatants over to countries that have traditionally had no compunction against outright torture, in a veneer of an effort to pretend that we don’t subscribe to torture. Then we practice, ourselves, the torture of waterboarding (not to mention other documented forms of torture in places such as Abu Ghraib), and allow—by a vote of 2/3 of the Senate—a man who thinks that waterboarding is not torture to occupy the office of Attorney General.
Because of the go-it-alone mentality of the current Bush administration, corrupt oligarchs the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez have as much (or more) respect around the world as George W Bush.
Approximately half of America’s debt is held by foreign entities, the largest holders of which are China and Japan. There has been talk for some time that this debt may be called in favor of investment in more healthy currencies, such as the Euro. For the first time in decades, the Canadian dollar is worth more than the US dollar. The rumored diversification of investments away from the US dollar may be close upon us. America, the overstretched hegemon, bereft of moral and economic capital around the world, will have little ability to stem the tide of the dollar flight should it occur. If it does occur, the declining American standard of living (except, perhaps, for the advantaged upper crust) will become precipitous. At that point, our IPods, high-definition TVs, and GPS navigation systems probably won’t mean much to us.
Americans cannot continue to prosper unless we remember that, rather than being a self-absorbed colossus, we should consider ourselves equals among nations. If we do not soon decide the importance of this fact by learning to elect leaders who understand this vital concept, the rest of the world will decide it for us.