Parag Khanna, fellow at the New America Foundation and member of the Atlantic Community, projects the future for America. No matter who wins the upcoming US presidential election, Khanna argues, it won’t make much of a difference. US hegemony has come to an end and there is no reversing it. The best the United States can now hope to do is to fight for balance among the world’s other superpowers: China and the EU, together, making the new "Big Three."
"In Europe's capital, Brussels," Khanna says, "technocrats, strategists and legislators increasingly see their role as being the global balancer between America and China. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German member of the European Parliament, calls it 'European patriotism.' The Europeans play both sides, and if they do it well, they profit handsomely." This trend in Europe will only continue, despite currently American-friendly governments in France and Germany. The lack of a common EU army hardly matters at this point; Europeans are effectively using intelligence, social policy, and economic strength instead. As Khanna puts it, "[w]hat other superpower grows by an average of one country per year, with others waiting in line and begging to join?"
He continues, explaining, "[t]he whole world is abetting China's spectacular rise as evidenced by the ballooning share of trade in its gross domestic product -- and China is exporting weapons at a rate reminiscent of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, pinning America down while filling whatever power vacuums it can find. Every country in the world currently considered a rogue state by the US now enjoys a diplomatic, economic, or strategic lifeline from China, Iran being the most prominent example.
Without firing a shot, China is doing on its southern and western peripheries what Europe is achieving to its east and south. Aided by a 35 million-strong ethnic Chinese diaspora well placed around East Asia's rising economies, a Greater Chinese Co-Prosperity Sphere has emerged. Like Europeans, Asians are insulating themselves from America's economic uncertainties."
With globalization the "weapon of choice," these three superpowers will battle over "the second world," countries such as India, Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. What distinguishes these countries from the third world is their potential, and they will be the "swing states" that determine which superpower has the upper hand:
"Second-world countries are also fast becoming hubs for oil and timber, manufacturing and services, airlines and infrastructure -- all this in a geopolitical marketplace that puts their loyalty up for grabs to any of the Big Three, and increasingly to all of them at the same time. Second-world states won't be subdued: in the age of network power, they won't settle for being mere export markets. Rather, they are the places where the Big Three must invest heavily and to which they must relocate productive assets to maintain influence....
The rise of China in the East and of the European Union within the West has fundamentally altered a globe that recently appeared to have only an American gravity -- pro or anti. As Europe's and China's spirits rise with every move into new domains of influence, America's spirit is weakened. The EU may uphold the principles of the United Nations that America once dominated, but how much longer will it do so as its own social standards rise far above this lowest common denominator? And why should China or other Asian countries become 'responsible stakeholders,' in former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick's words, in an American-led international order when they had no seat at the table when the rules were drafted? Even as America stumbles back toward multilateralism, others are walking away from the American game and playing by their own rules."
So what does this mean for the United States and what can it do to, if not regain its place at the top, halt its decline before China and the EU alone become the "Big Two?" Khanna proposes five solutions:
- Move from "American interests" to "global interests." No more "us" versus "them," only "we."
- "Pentagonize the State Department." Give real power to assistant secretaries of state who can effectively manage key geographic regions, think regionally to increase cooperation, and expand diplomatic presence within regional institutions.
- Send out "marchmen." Let public diplomacy take care of itself through American volunteers and good will.
- Make the global economy work for the US. Channel global liquidity into public infrastructure, creating jobs and encouraging innovation.
- Convene a G-3 of the Big Three.
Together, these steps could not only regain America's influence in the world, but prove its purported exceptionalism as well.
Parag Khanna is Director of the Global Governance Initiative and Senior Research Fellow in the American Strategy Program at the New American Foundation. He is also a member of the Atlantic Community.
This summary is based off of a longer piece written for the New York Times Magazine. Khanna is author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (Random House, 2008).
Related Articles on Atlantic Community:
- Frédéric Bobin: India Between Superpowers: Negotiating China and the US
- Joel Achenbach: How America Will Remain "the Shining City on a Hill"
- Morton Abramowitz: The World's Most Important Trilateral Relationship