HOW IS THE USA DOING AS “GLOBAL LEADER”?
What assessment is due this purported planetary CEO?
It is something we’ve heard time and again over the years from U.S. presidents, that the USA has an inalienable right to its role of global leadership. In both the last administration and this there has been an emphasis on America being back… as if it had ever gone away. (For the USA to go away and stay away would arguably be a net positive in most instances.)
Trump’s Pompeo went round the world assuring allies that the USA was still engaged, still ready to interfere in their nations and commit its usual crimes there for their own good. Biden has a trickier task, to achieve withdrawal in the Middle East while re-stating the old mantra that the USA is back and here to stay. However, no matter what the U.S. tactics of the day may be, whether the USA stays or goes, the assertion that the USA has the role of global leader is certainly here to stay. (At any rate until the economic rise of others makes this assertion untenable.)
For the time being the USA retains massive power and is as ever, in a constant frame of mind to wield it. So how is it doing? How should we judge the world’s CEO?
If we look at leadership in general there are certain attributes I would claim the USA is showing a distinct lack in.
Imagine there is a king in a medieval walled city where an evil horde is approaching his city gates to demand the city’s surrender. Is the king uniting his people in readiness to oppose them? Is he deeply engaged in raising their morale and getting them prepared to work in a highly coordinated fashion to best ensure their survival? No. In fact this king is fighting his own internecine battle with certain factions within the city, berating them, acting to isolate them and in general spreading division in his ranks.
This is one analogy for the USA and how I see it performing as “global leader”. The evil horde approaching the city gates represents all the threats now facing us as a species on Planet Earth, the present and future pandemics, the increasing effects of Global Warming and all the climate changes to come. As these threats to all humanity loom ever larger in all our lives and have the potential to decimate us to untold degrees it would seem obvious that we must unify our efforts to combat these threats. Yet what does the USA constantly do rather than seek this unity of purpose? It acts like the king in my analogy, working to sow discord within, ever seeking to find grievances with others and greater divisions between nations, even to the extent of seeking to undermine them and their ability to contribute against all present and fast-emerging threats.
This is not global leadership. This is partisan in-fighting.
A true leader reconciles differences within the sphere of his or her influence to make an organization stronger and more able to function well for the benefit of all. Any leader, whether a head of state, corporation or mythical medieval city choosing instead to weaken the entity in question through internal division is not truly a leader but a liability.
The situation we now find ourselves in could hardly be clearer. Covid has decimated so many societies around the world and caused immense harm. It revealed which countries could coordinate well against it and in which the result of its efforts were chaotic. I would argue that recent history has shown that the way the USA responded to Covid was the most chaotic of all. Competing, not cooperating appears to be an irremovable part of the USA’s genetic code and cooperation appears to have become an almost unthinkable attribute.
The endlessly competitive and combative USA along with its colonialist allies with their concept of themselves as superior to others makes for an eternally divisive force separating them from those they disdain as inferior. Their attitude is that those they consider inferior should simply listen to them and obey. This is a familiar dictatorial style of management once accepted as the standard with an elite of ‘them’ deciding for a mass of ‘us’ who were only there to obey. Over recent decades it has been recognized that this style of management was ultimately detrimental to boss/worker relations and toxic when it came to the mutually cooperative ethos that was the true ideal where all thrived.
This exceptionalism at the heart of western elite beliefs is, I believe, the root cause of the enormous lack of true leadership potential within the United States and its allies. Their own attitudes make them incapable of the tolerance and mutual respect required for the kind of successful unity required. Instead of recognizing all we have in common nation to nation the USA and its allies continue obsessively to focus on all the differences they can find. This style of management is inherently corrosive, of trust, of willingness to engage and crucially of the willingness to work together.
China and Russia have made clear their wish and willingness to work in partnership with the West. But the elites of the West only see competitors, stuck fast in their mentality which demands they always retain superiority over others. In the situation we now find ourselves in as a species, with enormous threats to us quite clearly in view we cannot afford a leader that divides rather than unites us. In fact such a leader can only lead us into greater and greater vulnerability to the threats facing us and almost certain disaster.