Geopolitics Is About Power And Leaders Have Little Of It
Many think of presidents and prime ministers not as mere individuals, but as powerful men and women with the ability to drive world events. In reality, leaders are granted relatively little authority when elected to office. While geopolitics may be about power, says Jacob Shapiro in Geopolitical Futures, the course of history is often set by events and not people.
For example, in response to the banking crisis crippling Italy, German Chancellor expressed a desire to bail out her neighbor. Italy is a major trading partner and seeing it collapse would not be to Germany’s benefit. But Merkel’s hands were tied by domestic politics and the will of Germans, who definitely did not want to rescue the dysfunctional Italians.
The same is true in the United States, he asserts.
“As we head into the Democratic and Republican conventions at the end of July, it will be worth remembering amid all the policy pronouncements and good intentions that U.S. presidents are weak executives. George W. Bush’s presidency was not defined by his policy goals but by 9/11. Obama’s was defined before he even got to office with the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis,” writes Jacobs.
The BRIC-wall Is Crumbling
Ten years ago, many political and economic analysts were predicting that the role of the United States would be challenged by rising powers among developing nations. The up-and-coming nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa were commonly known as the BRICs.
Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill forecast that the economies of the BRIC nations would surpass the major Western countries and even suggested the G7 be reorganized to reflect their new power. Not so quickly, says Suzanne Nossel in Foreign Policy.
In addition to failing to live up to their economic promise, she notes that many have been weakened by political scandal and government corruption.
Nationalist Surge Missed By Those Living In A Bubble
The world awoke to the shock that the citizens of Great Britain decided to Leave the European Union. Those on the Remain side were confident of victory and were equally appalled at the vote. How could this happen, asked the political elites and the younger generations who backed keeping the alliance with the EU.
It happened, says William Galston of the Brookings Institution, because many were sheltered from the change wrought by globalization and the economic downturn. They could adapt and adjust and accept the new world. Those less-educated members of the lower and middle classes were living a different reality.
“Perhaps cultural change wouldn’t be threatening for less-educated people if the economic changes of recent decades hadn’t been so devastating. There is a difference, alas, between statistics and the lived reality they represent,” posits Galston.
Citing analysis done by economist Branko Milanović, he notes that the “new economy has brought enormous benefits to populations in less-developed nations and to wealthy and upper-middle-class individuals in advanced democracies—but not to the working and lower-middle classes in these democracies.”
If globalization isn’t helping us economically but is undermining our way of life, why shouldn’t we embrace nationalism instead, he asks.