World’s Last Superpower — R.I.P

by Patrick J. Buchanan – June 6, 1998

What are we to make of all of this? Has America become the “pitiful, helpless giant” Richard Nixon predicted it would if we allowed ourselves to be defeated in Vietnam? No. America remains the first economic and military power on Earth, but U.S. influence is in steep decline. Why?…

Seven years ago this June, George Bush stood near his apogee of public approval, 91 percent, as he reviewed, on Constitution Avenue, the returning, conquering army of Desert Storm. A magnificent moment.
America was “the world’s last superpower,” and the president grandly declared that, after our Gulf War and Cold War triumphs, creation of a “new world order” was next on America’s agenda.

Pundits giddily burbled on about America’s “global hegemony,” and the Pentagon leaked an astonishing memorandum suggesting that the United States would henceforth intervene to prevent any “regional power” from rising up to challenge America’s global supremacy.

The Pax Americana was fun while it lasted, but the month of May 1998 should have dispelled any notion that the United States is directing the destiny of mankind. Consider:

India, the world’s largest consumer of international aid, misled or deceived the United States and exploded three nuclear devices. When President Clinton vented his moral outrage, New Delhi blew off two more. When the G-7 met in England and denounced the tests, India told them what they might do with their protests. Japan alone joined the United States in sanctions on India, while “Friend of Bill” Tony Blair took a pass.

Two weeks later, after a visit by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who pleaded with Pakistan not to respond to India, Pakistan responded with half a dozen atomic shots of its own. Islamabad ignored a U.S. threat of sanctions, even though sanctions would force Pakistan to default on its $32 billion in foreign debt.

The detonations on the subcontinent took off the front page the defiance of the Clintonites by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose nation has gotten 10 times the per capita foreign aid of any other. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was backhanded by Bibi, who is less concerned with antagonizing Americans than alienating Ariel Sharon.

The above is merely May’s list of defiances. In the past 18 months, France, Russia and China refused to support us in the Gulf. Our Arab allies boycotted a U.S.-sponsored conference in Qatar to attend an Islamic conference in Tehran. Several allies have announced they will not be contributing to the cost NATO expansion.

U.S. sanctions on Cuba, Libya, Iraq and Iran are being ignored not only by Russia and China but by Western Europe, where the European Union has threatened to have us sanctioned by the World Trade Organization if we don’t modify or lift them.

Though U.S.-backed IMF aid keeps Russia afloat, and most-favored-nation trade privileges underpin China’s economic growth, both nations slough off U.S. demands to stop exporting missile and nuclear technology.

What are we to make of all of this? Has America become the “pitiful, helpless giant” Richard Nixon predicted it would if we allowed ourselves to be defeated in Vietnam? No. America remains the first economic and military power on Earth, but U.S. influence is in steep decline. Why?

First, U.S. power in absolute and relative terms is declining, while that of our potential enemies is growing. Since the Gulf War, U.S. ground, naval and air forces have been slashed, as have those of our major western allies. Our rhetoric may remain as boastful and boisterous as ever, but the world knows the truth: A NATO alliance that is having a hellish time policing the Balkans is not going to police the world.

Second, the world has taken the measure of Bill Clinton. It knows that he is someone who desperately wishes to be liked and who abhors, above all else, nasty or dangerous confrontations.

Third, a West that worships at the altar of the Global Economy has become utterly materialistic and corrupt. How can an America that is terrified that Russia or China may devalue its currency be credible when it warns that we will sanction either nation? How believable is a U.S./NATO threat to go to war with Russia to protect Poland when the U.S. Treasury is warning that even a default by Moscow could crash the Global Economy? Everyone knows we’re bluffing.

Finally, when wars end and threats dissolve, allies invariably fall out and return to their own selfish pursuits and interests. The United States may have global pretensions about building a “new world order” of democracy, trade and free markets, but other nations have their own dreams — perhaps of future hegemony — that do not coincide with ours. Despite our protests, they will pursue those dreams.

In 1763, a defeated France surrendered her North American empire, and Britain became “the last remaining superpower.” Did Britain’s grateful American allies then follow its lead? Ask George III.