The Reluctant Empire

Finished reading the very interesting Colossos by Niall Ferguson from 2005. As one reviewer said, he sets the US on the "psychiatrist's coach" and concludes that the US ought to act as the empire it in reality is instead of hesitating. He compares the Americans to the Brits in their empire and concludes that if the US has an enemy it will come from within. Three four years later he was proven correct due to the financial crisis. As George W. Bush said, "they got drunk on Wall Street".

Martin Wolf at the Financial Times made an analogy with the US having succumbed to a heart attack during the financial crisis this fall. I wondered at the time if he was serious with the metaphor in that there would be a scar that does not heal. Since then, I have gotten the feeling that the Financial Times actually thinks in this approximate way.

Reading Colossos in 2010 it is possible to check the health care reform that was supposed to correct for the projected deficit in health care that Ferguson brings up, although it didn't. His calculation of the costs of the Iraq war has been proven wrong by Joseph Stiglitz who claimed three trillion dollars had been the cost which is a significant part of the current debt. Ferguson was very critical to the US debt size.

What has happened since 2005 is of course the financial crisis and Barack Obama. The combination made me realize that there had been a fundamental change in the position of the US in the world. I once wrote that this change, that Obama perhaps had called for, meant that old ways had become extinct. Robert Kagan has said that he does not think so but in my mind China and India are coming up so fast that hegemony, or "hegemoney" as Ferguson calls it, is not really possible any longer. If anything, it is rather China that sits on a pile of cash which they can spend strategically.

As a Swede, ie from the perspective of citizen from a country without power, however, I don't see this as such a large problem. The US is still US even if it has rivals. Power and economy will become less important and human rights and freedom instead become paramount. In today's Financial Times there is a rosy article by Li Keqiang, the vice-premier of China, due to his current European visit. It is a little too rosy for me because even if China does not play baseball they have played hardball lately.

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