What’s happening to U.S. influence abroad, however, is bigger than Obama. Our Middle East problems further prove what Philip Stephens of the Financial Times (U.K.) calls “the great unwinding.” Stephens’ three “great unwindings” are:
1. Pax Americana.
At the turn of the millennium Washington assumed, and most experts concurred, that the sole superpower would set the terms of international relations for most of the 21st century. There would be adjustments to accommodate the new powers, but the US would continue to act as guarantor of the peace. . . the illusion was shattered. . . in Iraq. . . future presidents will be obliged to follow Barack Obama in recognizing the constraints of a multipolar world.2. Europe.
The creation of the euro was intended to complete the work of the EU’s founding fathers. . . Europe’s postwar model would be exported, first to the EU’s neighbors in the east and then as a template for the rising world. [The EU as] Venus to America’s Mars. And now?. . . governments are reluctant to pool sufficient sovereignty to assure the single currency’s long-term future. The resurgence of nationalism [with] governments slam[ing] the door against . . . globalization.3. Globalization.
[We assumed] economic interdependence would soften national competition and that global supply chains would beget more effective global governance. [M]ost of the rising. . . powers never signed up to the idea of sharing national sovereignty. The threat in the Middle East and parts of Africa comes from collapsing states; in Asia it is rooted in competition between states.Stephens concludes that “the great unwinding has created a world that is dangerously unpredictable.”
Comment: Obama’s belief in a “people of color” world displacing the old (white) Western power structure is consistent with Stephens’ “great unwindings.” And Obama's and Stephens’ shared views undermine this blog’s vision of a world instead shaped by capitalism + democracy = peace. But I do not despair. The long arc of history still bends toward freedom, toward free enterprise, and toward power to the people.