Shane J. Pantin
Is that part of the Western Hemisphere that stretches from Los Algodones, Baja California, Mexico, to Águila Islet, Diego Ramirez Islands, Chile, finally acquired the confidence to make boisterous declarations. Chavez recently made the statement that Cuba will not miss another Summit of the Americas; most of Latin America was in agreement. The United States has also had a hard time influencing States within the region to policies emanating from side. And China has been continuously pushing their way into the region for the past few years. Don’t take my word for it, read this:
U.S. commercial and political influence in the region has been in decline as China gains on the U.S. as a top trading partner, and many analysts say these summits are unwieldy and only make sense if there is serious follow-up on substantive issues. [i]
The final result is that no substantive gains had been made from the Summit; some say it is a failure.[ii] Don’t worry, there is a distraction, read the headline:
Secret Service agents accused of misconduct removed from summit[iii]
So let us look at the scenario: the USA has found itself slowly losing its influence in areas of the globe that it was once pre-eminent. Latin America is no longer its backyard; the “Middle-East” has been a quagmire, one which has brought little benefit to the United States; the “Far East” is slowly falling under the influence of Indian and Chinese hegemony; the Americans cannot act as openly in Europe as seen with the European missile defence project, and with the shadow of Russia hanging over; and Africa has been a tough call. So it looks as though Western Europe, Israel, Canada and Australia are its main allies with India perhaps in league.
So what has happened? Recently I saw a video on NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) space program where the US government is withdrawing investments on space exploration. During the 1960s, NASA’s federal budget was at 5 percent, it is now at 0.5 percent.
These space programs were reflective of a bygone era, where a clear enemy, the Soviet Union, and to a larger extent communism, was visible. It was easy to pour resources against this enemy and to compete against them. It gave the United States purpose and it gave them a reason to forge ahead. The nation was fulfilling its great power destiny. But this is naïve; a host of underlying factors were present as well. Be that as it may, the enemy is less clear and the United States is being challenged in many ways.
For one thing, America is less an inspired nation. Somehow they have become decadent and less concerned about the future. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats push visions of America if we speak of the larger nature of things. Where once they spoke of landing men on the moon, there is now talk of social programs, and where once the Americans were supporting democracy to those eager for it, the main rhetoric is about deficit spending. As one writer put it, more facebook apps or social media outlets will not cut it if you want to be a great power. You need hard technology. While some say that the oratory of the past lacked any substance and it was all rhetoric by a great power, it sure did a great deal in pushing America forward. But can such rhetoric be used in the current environment. If Barack Obama today were to say that American values is about protecting freedoms, I don’t believe that he believes that! We have learned enough about America's great rise – the good, the bad, the very bad and the ugly, to not accept that statement wholeheartedly.
2012 might perhaps go down in the history books as the year that Latin America finally becomes a united force and asserts a common front regionally and internationally. The combined statements of leaders in the region in support of Cuba and the ever beating drumbeat of the return of the Falkland Islands will inevitably rally most if not all Latin American nations. And this is backed up by great strides in economic growth largely because of Brazil.
Where does it leave the US? In a tight spot certainly. I am an admirer of the American constitution and Declaration of Independence, two documents that testify to the spirit of America. Their way of life, however, not so much, though there are still some good from their confident attitude toward endeavours they approach. So they will still have a place where they inspire a great many, but not have as much influence, they will be able to counsel, but not control. They will be able to guide but not lead. They will seep into the History books, and the age of a great nation would have come to an end.