As many a conservative American commentator remains obsessed with the question as to how the United States can retain its position as the world’s preeminent power, Pankaj Mishra indicates why that question is already moot: it is a position America has already lost.
He points out:
India has many more likely and rewarding partners in booming Asia than in the recession-hit west. Politically damaged Thailand as well as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have recovered from the downturn. Last year India signed a major free-trade deal with Asean. Not surprisingly a columnist in the Star, Malaysia’s leading newspaper in English, deemed the Indian prime minister’s visit to Kuala Lumpur last week more important than the jaunt of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, to the region at the same time.
A tangle of bilateral trade agreements underpins Asia’s new economic unity. China and Asean countries already constitute the biggest free-trade zone in the world. Asian fears of China’s rise, which the United States keenly monitors, look minor beside the fact that China is now the largest export market for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, in addition to being India’s biggest trading partner.
All this sounds a planet away from those Tea-Partying Americans who think that the US can bomb its way out of any political and economic difficulties abroad. It now falls to Obama to advance their education; and he’ll most likely fail in this thankless task.