Friday, 10 October 2008

Is America going Bananas, as in Banana Republic?

Christopher Hitchens thinks so.

"the ongoing financial meltdown is just the latest example of a disturbing trend that threatens to... put the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave on a par with Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Equatorial Guinea."
I just dig this graphic even if I don't agree with all of Hitchen's premise!
However, over at the Council of Foreign Relations, they've recently published a paper [pdf] by Brad W. Setser aptly titled Soveriegn Wealth and Sovereign Power. In it he makes the case that "America’s indebtedness limits her ability to influence other countries’ policies, for example through sanctions and lending arrangements."
Are we seeing the beginning of the end of the American Superpower? There's one major resemblance to Britain's decline as a superpower after Suez - the main creditor (America) effectively pulled the strings.
Will China do the same? Can China effectively do this?
The paper is well worth a read (all 69 pages of it). But if you can't, here's a money quote:
"A debtor’s ability to project military power hinges on the support of its creditors….In some ways, the United States’ current financial position is more precarious than Britain’s position in the 1950s…Britain’s main source of financing was a close political ally. The United States’ main sources of funding are not allies. Without financing from China, Russia, and the Gulf states, the dollar would fall sharply, U.S. interest rates would rise, and the U.S. government would find it far more difficult to sustain its global role at an acceptable domestic cost."
Maybe Hitchen's Banana republic isn't that far off.
[Hat Tip: Steve Coll]