Global Leadership Vacuum: Europe Incapable, America Unwilling

The Exhausted Nation

In 1998, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called America the “indispensable nation.” But now, 15 years later, it is primarily an exhausted one, a global power in decline that has its gaze turned toward the domestic front rather than Afghanistan or the Middle East.

This should come as no surprise. Since the end of the Cold War, US soldiers have spent almost twice as many months at war than they had in previous decades. The country has pumped a phenomenal amount of money into its military. Indeed, in 2011, it spent more on defense than the next 19 military powers combined. And, of course, this only contributed to its record mountain of $16 trillion (€11.8 trillion) in public debt.

When Biden gets up to speak, he will relay a message from his boss, US President Barack Obama. And the message will be: “Enough!” After all, when Obama recently gave his second inaugural address, he avoided making any reference to John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural speech, in which he said that America would “pay any price, bear any burden … in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty” around the globe. Instead, the key sentence of Obama’s speech was: “A decade of war is now ending.”

Of course, this gives rise to the question: Which country could step in and replace the United States? China is panicking about whether its economy is losing steam, Russia has degenerated into a petro-dictatorship, and Brazil and India are faltering. At the same time, international institutions, such as the United Nations, NATO and the European Union, are suffering from an identity crisis about what they’re supposed to do.

As political scientist Ian Bremmer suggested in his recent book “Every Nation for Itself,” we currently find ourselves in an era marked by a global “leadership vacuum.” This could turn out to be a time of forward progress, especially for the Europeans, who may ultimately become the new global police.

The Washington Post says this isn’t an idea to be scoffed at. But it still seems more entertaining than probable. If you exclude Britain, European nations have slashed their defense budgets by an average of 15 percent since the end of the Cold War. Worse yet, as illustrated by the euro crisis and the most recent brouhaha over London’s role in the EU, diplomatic unity in Europe has yet to make the leap from paper to reality.

Indeed, rather than making progress, it is much more likely that the world will shift into reverse. Europe isn’t in a position to provide decisive leadership. And the US doesn’t want to anymore.

Full article: Global Leadership Vacuum: Europe Incapable, America Unwilling (Spiegel Online)

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