A weak America is worthless in the eyes of the world. Whether we like to admit it or not, the U.S. is valuable to the international community as a gatekeeper because of our wealth and manufacturing might. Wealth means power and influence. When we combined an unstoppable government debt crisis, a financial crisis, and the Obama leadership crisis, we showed the world that U.S. influence could fade.
Our government debt crisis is not the real issue
Government debt is only a symptom of what ails us. The real issue is Washington’s refusal to do anything about the problem, no matter how dire the consequences. The world sees a Congress and president in deadlock over the debt crisis, a credit downgrade, the refusal of Washington to agree on spending cuts, and a last-ditch sequestration solution that will be headed off a moment before the axe falls. Our allies and enemies alike hear a president making speeches about Congress refusing to act and of stopgap executive orders that point to extreme partisan agenda, not solutions. With no end to our fiscal problems in sight and an economy that shows unrelenting weakness, America appears vulnerable.
The Obama leadership crisis creates a weaker America
The president’s aberrant take on globalization shows that things have changed in the one nation the world community knew it could count on. Suddenly we need foreign entrepreneurs to create jobs for our unemployed citizens (see: Startup Visa Act Shuns America’s Entrepreneurs). The U.S. economy cannot prosper without imported talent, so we need to nullify our immigration laws. American manufacturing is weak so the survival of our auto industry hinged on government bailouts. Our corporations and the wealth that once symbolized U.S. might and unprecedented success are now emblematic of inequality, opportunity, and greed. To a country like Iran threatening to develop nuclear weapons, leadership based on this misplaced idealism signifies weakness.
The world financial crisis is an opportunity
America may be going broke, but we are in good company. The euro zone would likely trade places with us in a heartbeat as its currency plummets and member countries threaten to dive off a fiscal cliff. Comparisons between Europe’s economic crisis, our government debt crisis, and the failure of Obama fiscal policy are apt. Financial turmoil brings weakness. Weakness is an opportunity for bad behavior.
Has the Obama leadership crisis caused the world to act up?
North Korea joined the community of nuclear weapons holders and all signs point to Iran being well on its way. Syria is melting down, and we again face the question of what to do with chemical weapons in the Middle East. Israel could become embroiled in military action in both Syria and Iran. We hear words from Washington, but the world knows that there is a lot less force behind the rhetoric than there used to be, another symptom of the Obama leadership crisis.
Diplomatic urgency or not, never apologize, never explain beats condemning U.S. policy. The president’s disagreements with George W. Bush are campaign fodder, not something to be addressed to the international community. Can anyone in the White House seriously believe that North Korea and the Muslim world respect our president’s apologies?
No matter what Mr. Obama claims about American resolve and the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the perception is that America has hung Israel out to dry and that nations who wish us harm have nothing to fear from this president. When things go wrong, perceptions can make all the difference.
How mighty America was
We like to think, or at least hope that the beneficiaries of American generosity view us as more than an upstart nation living on borrowed time. Remarks like this from our president in Cairo supporting a “new beginning” with the Islamic world do not further our cause:
Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.¹
And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.²
The Muslim Brotherhood gave Egypt its new beginning this year. If you want to know how well American leadership is reflected on the international scene, have a good look at your Secretary of State. Hilary Clinton looks tired and beat. That’s what happens when America’s force of words loses its power, and our leadership crisis at home spreads around the world.