Michael Moran writes: Through the patriotic haze of an American political campaign year, it is tempting to believe our own hooey.
America is exceptional and not in decline, Barack Obama insisted in his most recent State of the Union address. Mitt Romney, his leading GOP rival, insists against the opinion of most economists that the US economy can achieve average annual growth of 4 percent a year and anyone who says otherwise is a defeatist.
In fact, both are dead wrong. Gravity does affect the US just like any other nation, and 4 percent average annual growth for a mature economy is a pipedream.
US power — measured in terms of its relative economic importance and its diplomatic influence — is slipping all over the planet. US influence was written off as irrelevant in Europe’s debt crisis, and is being chased out of the Middle East by popular consent and unhappy results on the Iraqi and Afghan battlefields. In Latin America, America’s “backyard,” Washington’s writ increasingly is displaced by Brazil, just as it has been checked by Russia in the post-Soviet “near abroad.”
The US is slipping in Asia, too, losing its position as the most important trading partner with Asian nations (we lost Australia, Japan, India and South Korea to China in that category since the Great Recession).
Yet, for all this, we insist on our exceptionally delusional self-image. With minor tweaks, the US continues to approach the world with the same basic assumption under Obama that it did under his notoriously blinkered predecessor: the belief that, in the end, Washington’s rule is law, and that a world ordered to benefit the United States will, by definition, benefit humanity. It is downright anti-American to think otherwise.