Friday, October 17, 2008

Financial Crisis May Diminish American Sway

The dream falters on Bush's watch.

America's historic economic shock in the past month came as its ability to project influence globally was already being challenged by emerging powers such as China and India, as well as oil-producing Russia and Iran. The limits to U.S. power have become apparent in the Bush administration's final year, as it has struggled to end Tehran's nuclear program and failed to safeguard Georgian sovereignty during the Russian incursion in August.

It's the same arrogance that it wielded for six years, but its ability to pull rabbits out of the hat ended.

U.S. intelligence agencies are fine-tuning a governmentwide assessment looking at America's position in the world in the coming decades. The report is planned for public release after the November election, but the government's top intelligence analyst, Tom Fingar, previewed it in a recent speech. Intelligence analysts expect that "the U.S. will remain the pre-eminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished" between now and 2025, he said.

That seems overly optimistic. Yes, other nations are being affected as badly, if not more so, than the US by the financial crisis and loss of confidence, but the Bush arrogance, alienation of allies and others, the loss of confidence in America's abilities and strength, both externally and domestically, all will materially weaken the US.

Arab diplomats say they have already detected a falloff in American influence in their region over the past year. Israel and Syria started peace talks this year and the Lebanese government concluded power-sharing negotiations with the militant group Hezbollah, without any direct U.S. role in either case.

One thing Israel can be accused of is being realistic; it has to be.

One question is whether major powers such as China and Russia will take advantage of the U.S. crisis to adopt more aggressive foreign policies. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in an interview that Moscow could use a perceived power vacuum to expand its influence across Central and Eastern Europe.

Well, Saakashvili wants the US's support, so his opinion os tainted, yet the point stands.

Even before the current crisis, U.S. intelligence agencies had begun projecting a significant diminution of U.S. power over the next 15 years. That is a key assumption in the long-range assessment of global trends -- known as the 2025 Project -- that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been preparing for the next administration. Mr. Fingar, the intelligence analyst, said in his speech that the post-Cold War period of overwhelming U.S. dominance was "anomalous." America's elevated status on the military, political, economic and possibly cultural fronts "will erode at an accelerating pace, with the partial exception of the military," he said.

Overarching influence, to the point of dominance, could not last for too long. It wasn't just what the US did or did not do; other nations had something to say, too. Ambition is not only American.

Iran, of course, chafing under the US presence for decades, its religious extremists now revel gloating in their own ascendary and in the perceived stumble (or, they claim hopefully, the beginning of the fall) of the "Great Satan". Mosaddeq has become a marginal figure from half a century ago whom the vast majority of people have no reason knowing, or wanting to know, of; other, that is, than those for whom history matters, of whom sufficient numbers are Iranians.

The US schemed to replace the then-objectionable leftist, who now looks quite rather mild in contrast to the Ayatollahs who replaced his replacement, with the corrupt yet correctly anti-Communist (by US standards) Shah of Shahs. All the while, Iranians chafed at having their country be a dominion of external powers

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