America still needs to engage the world

By David Miliband
August 25, 2011

This is a response to Nader Mousavizadeh’s latest Reuters column,  “A smaller America could be a stronger America.”

By David Miliband
The opinions expressed are his own.

Nader’s statistics pointedly and appropriately speak to a dysfunctional political dynamic of short term promises without long term responsibilities in the U.S.  It is also striking (and worrying) that both sides of American political debate are determined to persuade voters that they won’t be too concerned by the rest of the world.

But the U.S. is doomed NOT to become the Netherlands!  U.S. GDP per head is ten times the Chinese level.   Its universities still dominate in key areas.  Its conventional military might is overwhelming.  Its entanglement with the global system – notably in economics, but today that is inseparable from politics – means that it needs a “global posture.”  So does every country, large or small.

I would say the strategic choice for the U.S. is rather different.  It is whether to try to lead the reshaping of the multilateral system, not just the UN but economic institutions like WTO, conscious that such efforts are burdensome and rarely bring quick wins; or whether to hunker down around the current system, and try to address domestic problems, from K-12 education to business innovation.

Every campaign consultant will say there are no votes in the former course.  But the truth is America has far more to lose from its neglect of global responsibilities.  It cannot bring the world to heel on its own.  But it needs to be part of a new global compact – not at the expense of jobs and housing and crime at home, but to address them.

If that means America needs an educator-in-chief as well as a commander-in-chief as its President, so be it.

11 comments

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Millipede, the country hasn’t forgotten what staggering amounts of damage your party under Bliar and Brown did with their best mate George Warmonger Bush!

The US is broke thanks to Warmonger Bush, the UK is broke thanks to Brown & Bliar, British & US kids are still dying in the filth & dust of the middle east thanks to Warmonger Bush, Bliar and Brown.

Oh yes, I hope Bliar hasn’t thought we’d forget about his revolting cosying up to Gaddafi?

So, Millipede, just go back to your little ivory tower in London and essentially “go away” – the UK has a LONG hard job to repair the god-awful damage left by the NewLieMore party!

Posted by mgb500 | Report as abusive

who could say with 100% certainty that if Bush had not invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein would not have armed terrorists with those WMD supplied to him by the “west” to make 9/11 look like a child play!!!

Posted by yooni | Report as abusive

WTF??? You have got to be kidding. For starters, there are few, other than ultraconservative Tories still having illusions of grandeur, who would invite American hegemony into their internal affairs. IF America had any respect, moral authority, or credibility, which it does not, then your suggestions might have merit, but considering the damage that the US has done not only globally but to its own citizens, no. America will not even survive as a nation until it saves itself from corporate, Christianist fascism which is sucking the life out of the country. It as nothing to offer the rest of the world, not in its current state.

Posted by Greenspan2 | Report as abusive

America is in terminal decline, much like the other Western Empires. Better to shuffle off the stage slowly and gracefully than to go down kicking and screaming with delusions. “Leading” the world through the illegal occupation of foreign countries and starting wars under false pretenses will only accelerate American decline by straining an Anglo-Saxon economic system that has gorged on debt for three decades.

Posted by K-dub | Report as abusive

There is of course things to learn from history where many “empires” has been too big to fail but still they did. The world will not fail if USA ends its imperial adventure and bring home all its troops. World did not end with the destruction of the Roman Empire, Ottoman empire, English empire or not even after the Spanish empire. The world will keep spinning and new children will be born. The only change will be that the world will adapt to pleasing new major powers and i guess thats what might hurt the most for the american ego.

Posted by Agmund | Report as abusive

America in not in decline. Our current ruling elites are. If permitted, through their One Party State (the “Bipartisan” Party), they will take the entire country with them. Generally none of them cares any more for the American public than they care about the Sahel. The question has become how much disruption the rest of the country will have to go through to completely and finally remove the current elite from power. At least here. Let them go somewhere else and own nothing here for at least 200 years. When it comes down to it, no one else wants them and our elites fear even small third world countries. But then they should not get the choice to remain. They have not earned that choice and have not sincerely tried to correct the problems they have generated here.

An odd irony: many posters here want low taxes on the elites because they generate so many jobs, yet when they opine about why the unemployed are unemployed, those unemployed people are tagged “lazy” and told to “go get a job”. I thought the jobs were falling from the sky courtesy the under-taxed rich? Hmmmm. Any bets on those folks having it 100% backwards?

If America keeps its current power elite, it is doomed. If it can muster the courage to depose them, it will thrive. Investors, place your bets!

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

“America” is in no position to instruct or educate the world on anything. “America” doesn’t even exist. We have a class of oligarchs who run this countryand have no moral ground to lead the world, either by example or otherwise. They have destroyed the social safety net, destroyed the environment, destroyed employment opportunities, destroyed our school system, and are in the process of destroying the last remnants of democratic voting in this country. So, please stop talking about “America” as though there was such a unified social entity–because there isn’t. What we have in this country is a war zone with two sides and two different goals–one is survival, and other is greed and power.

Posted by cautious123 | Report as abusive

I tend to disagree. The United States started down this road when our leaders got bigger than God. Government employees and politicians all looked to the government for their well being rather than to God. I think the US is like a rowdy kid that won’t stop being rowdy until the jail door clangs shut.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive

“It is whether to try to lead the reshaping of the multilateral system … like WTO”

I agree that reshaping the World Trade Organization is absolutely critical. If the WTO defies reshaping, then it’s just as critical that the U.S. withdraw. The trade regime enforced by the WTO is directly responsible for the huge global trade imbalances that collapsed the global economy in 2008. Every nation, including the U.S., must be free to set trade policy in their own best interest. With a cumulative trade deficit approaching $11 trillion since our last trade surplus in 1975, it’s in the best interest of the U.S. to restore a balance of trade. If the WTO doesn’t want to be a part of that, then it’s time for the WTO to be cast on the scrap heap of other noble but failed experiments.

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

Excellent analysis by Mr. Miliband. The solution is to embrace the global markets and be more international in the outlook which will enable the American economy to take the full advantage of the global economy. American values of freedom, individual liberty and multiculturalism are still respected and admired around the globe. Under the leadership of president Obama, America still remains that shining city on the top of the hill when it comes to advancing the cause of freedom, human rights and dignity around the world .

While its true that the rest of world is rising as can be witnessed with the rise of china and other emerging markets and there is no question that America is still the lead dog in the fight as can observed by Mr. Miliband’s point about the GDP per capita figures of America. It’s also true that the American economy is facing some short term challenges but they can be addressed by proper long term planing and building upon America’s inherent strengths such as multiculturalism and innovative thinking. The reason the conservatives want America to retreat from the rest of the world and be inward looking is because they hate multilateral ism and international cooperation due to their ideological hatred towards anything foreign. For they seek not the rise of America but the rise of a different era full of segregated schools and divided communities. Some of the current problems that are faced by American economy are due to failed conservative policies such as not supporting a universal health care system which would save billions of dollars in health care expenditure. Another GDP figure that one should focus on is the fact that America spends a higher percentage of it’s GDP on healthcare expenditures than any other industrialized nation due to not having economy of scale that comes from having a universal health care system.

The solution to America’s problems is to be more engaged with the rest of the world and maintain global leadership by building on America’s strengths such as multiculturalism and the ability attract global minds and global capital from everywhere. While it seems inevitable that rising nations like China will one day be the Global economic leader that is not set in stone. Even countries with smaller populations can have a leadership position in the global economy if they take advantage of their multicultural population and leverage that to engage the world as it can be seen in Singapore.

In the case of Singapore it has a much smaller population than its neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia yet remains a regional and global player with much bigger influence than its neighbours who have bigger populations. Same can be true for America in the future if it embraces the winning policies of left leaning presidents such as Bill Clinton. Just as Singapore does now, America will lead the future in innovation and economic competition out competing other economic giants such as China.

To quote one of the greatest leaders of our time president Bill Clinton “there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America.”

Posted by Hoperisesagain | Report as abusive

US and the Western world jointly put an end to Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid state terrorism in the name of humanity and peace to thee world.

Singapore is a success story where Eelam Tamils have joined hands with the Chinese and built the nation on equality, discipline, Rule of Law and prosperity.

The Sinhala leaders have no history of any success except they destroyed a beautiful nation due to their chauvinistic and corrupt policies.

China, Russia and India are corrupt, brutal and barbaric and it may take thousands of years before they become civilized. the US, EU and UK must play an important role in bringing peace and stability to the world.

Posted by ShivaForPeace | Report as abusive