Thursday, October 23, 2008
Should the U.S. Feel Confident--As Asia and Europe Join Hands?
China felt it necessary, via Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, to stress "there wasn't any anti-U.S. sentiment within ASEM" since the U.S. has no representation at this meeting. Neither, for that matter, does Russia (neither a European nor an Asian country by the ASEM criteria? Is this tacit recognition that there does exist a distinct geographic, geopolitical and geoeconomic space called "Eurasia"?)
But is Washington's absence from deliberations that certainly will almost entirely be focused on the financial crisis a problem? It seems unlikely that solutions are going to be agreed upon and that the key European and Asian countries are then going to bypass the United States.
And despite problems at home, the fall in oil prices (hitting the "axis of oil" in the pocketbook) does seem to be benefiting the U.S. If America has suffered losses, Washington's attitude seems to be that no one else in the world is prepared to overtake the U.S. or rise at its expense.
So the feeling is, let them meet in Beijing, and then everyone will come to Washington in time for the U.S.-led solution.
A major factor intensifying efforts to seek new cooperative arrangements, which may indeed bypass the U.S., is a massive disintegration of respect for the wisdom of American elites. A collapse of confidence in the ability of these elites to pursue a remotely rational foreign policy has now been joined by a -- quite new -- collapse of confidence in their ability to manage capitalism.
This massive economic crisis is widely regarded throughout the world as having been made in the U.S. The spectacularly inept responses of Bernanke and Paulson are hardly encouraging anyone to assume that the least-worst remedy will necessarily come from a 'U.S.-led solution.'
There are two rays of hope I can see, for those who want to see these trends reversed. One is that the crisis seems to have put paid to the prospects of the McCain/Palin ticket -- the other, that Paul Volcker seems to be a key member of Obama's circle of advisers.
That does at least grounds for guarded about optimism that Obama may have the good sense to select people of experience, judgement, and probity for key roles in his Administration. If he does so, the patent inadequacies of his own preparation for the presidency may not matter unduly.