The post cold war world experienced a paradigm shift that greatly revolutionized the world politics. The shift from geopolitics to eco-politics has seen American role in the international system diminish drastically. These changes have lead to the rise of economic power houses such as China and India. The rise of these economic powerhouses threatens the role played by United States in the world as shown by the Chinese influence in Africa. The current world competes at an economic level and if United States fails to show its economic dominance then its role at the helm of power in the world is compromised. United States plays the role of a power balancer in the current world and if they fail to control the economic dominance showed by countries such as China in Africa they could be dislodged from the helm of power. The displacement could cause in-equilibrium in the international system that may result to war as various entities try to prove their dominance. The recently concluded US-Africa Summit underlines the United States intent to control China’s influence in Africa. The decline of United States stature in the World politics led to Friedman a renowned New York Times columnist to team up with Mandelbaum a renowned American Foreign Policy professor at the John Hopkins University to write a Book titled’ That used to be us” that seeks to show the genesis of United States ailments and how they can be remedied. The following paper seeks to illustrate the various challenges their possible solutions that have rocked United States during the post cold war era hence preventing her from exerting her influence in the international system according to Friedman and Mandelbaum. It will also show the main obstacles that will prevent such recommendations from being implemented and show why these two writers are just but frustrated optimists. Lastly the paper will also speculate on how the international political System will look like between 2025-2035.
According to Friedman and Mandelbaum America is struggling with four challenges that need to be addressed without delay in order to protect the current and future stature of United States In world politics (Lac). These challenges include globalization, patterns of excessive energy consumption, the nation’s chronic deficits and the revolution of the information technology that has transformed the world into a global village. These authors posit that that after the cold war era trademarked by the fall of the soviet bloc other countries adopted capitalism hence increased competition amongst them. The adoption of capitalism by these states should have triggered America to work harder to maintain their status but instead she chose to relax. China on the other hand invested in capital development through education that has enabled her to rebuild her economy to become one of the best developing economies in the world. Globalization in China creates jobs while in America it has led to loss of jobs hence straining her economy. Her relaxation has been detrimental to her since China economic muscle threatens to dislodge United States from the helm of the power. For example, China investments in Africa currently stands at a staggering $200 billion compared to United States a meager $80 billion (Burnett, 2015). These deficits prompted the first ever US-Africa summit that was widely considered as a knee-jerk reaction towards the Forum for China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC) that had enabled China to trounce United States dominance in Africa. The failure to use its influence to win Africa has played a great role in China’s dominance in Africa. United States should seek to provide alternative forms of energy to supplement her citizens’ demands since employing tough carbon emission laws does not always work as experienced in the Netherlands. These alternatives should be environmental friendly in order to protect Mother Nature from more dereliction caused by human activities that threaten even our own survival. America can cut her chronic deficits by choosing her battles right that are of benefit to the State. For example, the Vietnam War caused the American tax payers and the federal government a lot of money that could have been saved if diplomacy was employed tactfully. The information technology menace can be solved by ensuring the citizens are well educated to enable them reap as much benefits from the revolution.
Fareed Zakaria’s “The Rise of the Rest” thesis is formed to complement his earlier book “The Post-American World” that offered insightful advice to United States to ensure that it still remains among the world elites. The “Rise of the Rest” is written in a tranquil way that seeks to reassure Americans that despite their countries diminished role in the international arena their influence is still intact. His analysis and arguments do not at all defame United States unlike arguments used by Friedman and Mangelbaum in their book “That used to be us” that are hell-bent showing United States failures. The first chapter compares how China had revolutionized a village to a state of the art destination within six months while on the other hand United States authorities cannot fails to repair a broken subway station within the same time frame (Friedman & Mandelbaum, 2011). The titles and opening statements of these two books clearly outline their author’s motives and maturity in writing. For example, Friedman and Mangelbaum introduce their book arguing it’s a book about America that must begin in China while Zakaria discusses of power shifts across the globe that he feels would be best titled as “The Rise of the Rest” the title of his book. The title of Friedman and Mangelbaum book title “That Used to be us” indicates signs of surrender while Zakaria’s book title ”The Rise of the Rest” shows acceptance and willingness to move forward. These differences show why Friedman and Mangelbaum are referred as frustrated optimists.
Friedman and Mangelbaum are frustrated optimists because they only offer smoke-screen solutions to the problems facing United States. Their argument is that Americans must be ready to take stringent measures such as working longer hours and studying harder to reinstate their country in order to enable America reclaim her position. Their belief that America could return to the great heights it had achieved by employing such stringent measures since farfetched since competition changes daily hence making it unpredictable for her to reclaim her position. The authors indicate their frustrations by the countless times they compare themselves with China. Their wishful thinking indicates why they are just are referred to as the frustrated optimists. For example, they wish United States government would not take six months to repair a subway station a time that the Chinese government takes the same time to revamp a God-forsaken village to a tourist destination and an economic hub. They are also regarded as frustrated optimists since the solutions they offer to the current menace does not fully convince the reader that United States can revamp itself and reclaim its elite position in the world politics. It only compounds their fears that United States should prepare for more dark days ahead (FRUM, 2011). Their belief that America can return to the helm of power since it had achieved such a stature before totally compounds that these authors are just but frustrated optimists.
America has been at the helm of power since the collapse of the Soviet bloc due to the less aggressive nature of Russia and China who replaced the soviet bloc after its collapse. Their behavior can be explained by the shift from geopolitics to eco-politics that is less aggressive in nature. During this time United States has been acting as the power balancer during this period by ensuring the equilibrium of the International system is not disturbed. The US-Iran Nuclear deterrence deal that is being negotiated in Switzerland in order to prevent nuclear arms race in Middle East proves her relentless efforts to maintain world peace. During these times the Eastern bloc has been regrouping as shown by China’s ever improving economy and her investments in educating her citizens. Her economy has grown over time and is attracting major industries from all over the world hence improving her economy. United States on the other hand is experiencing economic crisis due to recession. People continue losing their jobs each day all in the name of globalization in United States while in China globalization is creating more jobs. The world-political system will have China and Russia as the super powers in the world hence the dominance of the East. United States is trying to halt this power takeover bid by trying to reintroduce geopolitics in the international system as evidenced by its role in Crimea Crisis and lobbying for democracy in China (Mead, 2014). These are just but desperate attempts to destabilize these nations in order for them to maintain their position in the world politics. America should instead focus its energy in rebuilding itself rather than destabilizing its competitors. The financial, industrial and capital muscle accumulated by China over the years will ensure it rises at the helm of power before the next decade and United States at the moment cannot stop the meteoric rise of China. The current techniques employed by United States to maintain power are not working and will not work unless they change their tact and swallow their ever burgeoning ego. China and other upcoming economic powerhouses such as India and Russia will soon dislodge United States from the helm of power within the next decade.
Burnett, J. (2015, March). China Is Besting the U.S. in Africa. Retrieved May Monday, 2015, from usnews.web,
Friedman, T. L., & Mandelbaum, M. (2011). That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Print.
FRUM, D. (2011, September). Does America Have a Future? Retrieved May Monday, 2015, from nytimes.Web.
Lac, K. (n.d.). Quicklet on That Used To Be Us By Thomas Friedman And Michael Mandelbaum. Retrieved May Saturday, 2015, from hyperink.Web.
Mead, W. R. (2014, April). The Return of Geopolitics. Retrieved May Monday, 2015, from foreignaffairs.Web.