Thursday, January 24, 2008

Resource consumption and hegemony, roadblocks to the future?

The title of this post will become apparent in the final paragraph. The following links will paint a picture that calls into question the ability for any nation to independently solve the growing challenges of resource allocation and supply, as their populations, demand goods and services on par with the core industrial nations. This apparent reality acts as a major roadblock to any nation becoming or retaining total dominance over the world.

I was perusing and two posts caught my eye. The first was discussing China's recent drought and how it is effecting their economy and future.

A few days later another post appeared that told of the growing coal shortage that was causing power shortfalls.

The second post has a link to an article by Martin Wolf in Financial Times, examining how China is changing the world.

"The world is changing China. But China is also changing the world. It is the world’s fastest growing country and the biggest capital exporter; it possesses the largest foreign currency reserves and is already the world’s third-largest trading entity; it is the largest consumer of metals and the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide; and, quite soon, it will also be the world’s largest consumer of primary energy.",s01=1.html?nclick_check=1

These articles come as a harbinger of the difficulties that China and unmentioned India, share as they try and overcome the anchor that massive populations have on their future growth.

I had no sooner finished reviewing these posts and decided to publish a link to them, when several of my fellow bloggers posted a link to an article in the New York Times by Pagrag Khanna entitled, “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony” .

He teases the reader by imagining the United States world position in 2016.

"It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline."

Like many who have commented on this article. I have my reservations about it's message.
Mark at says:

"My reaction to Khanna’s essay, distilled from his upcoming book The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, are mixed. Clearly, great effort and thought that has been put into this project by the well-read Mr. Khanna and his Thomas Friedmanesque globetrotting reportage is nothing but impressive. Clearly, Parag Khanna “gets” that globalization is a dynamic and complex system with interdependent “frenemies”; which I infer that he splices liberally with geopolitics and the hard cultural conflict of Sam Huntington. A synthesis of civilizational conflict and convergence."

Khanna's article is a worthwhile read that adds to the dialog on the United States role in the 21st Century. I found that after blaming Bush, and throwing the United States on the ash-heap of fallen empires, he offers up five solutions for regaining our position as the moral beacon for the rest of the world.

"Taken together, all these moves could renew American competitiveness in the geopolitical marketplace — and maybe even prove our exceptionalism. We need pragmatic incremental steps like the above to deliver tangible gains to people beyond our shores, repair our reputation, maintain harmony among the Big Three, keep the second world stable and neutral and protect our common planet. Let’s hope whoever is sworn in as the next American president understands this."

The great strength overlooked in Khanna's piece is the resilience of the United States to change and adopt. I have written several times about my confidence in our greatest asset, our people who have come here, assimilated and given the ability to pursue their ideas, have overcome many of the scourges that have plagued mankind. To offer just an example of this innovative spirit I turn to a post by Steve DeAngelis where he writes about, Technology based reductions in energy consumption.

The post tells of Thomas Edison an American, giving the world the electric light, and about new innovations that will not only provide light, but cut consumption of the energy used to produce light.

"Technology is a wonderful thing, but as my recent post about the Japanese trying to develop robots to replace an aging workforce highlighted, you can't easily take humans out of the equation [Demographics and Robots]. Politicians in the U.S., like those in Japan in counting on technology to solve problems, rather than risking the ire of voters by asking them to change their lifestyles. The case in point is energy consumption. Stephen Mufson, writing in the Washington Post, writes about how the Energy Bill passed by Congress and signed by the President in December will change the products consumers buy in the future ["Power Switch," 20 January 2008]."

I enclosed Steve's post to offer an example of how our innovative nature can offer solutions that will continue to benefit mankind while preserving the resources to maintain that future. The problems faced by all countries will soon level the playing field. China, has a ticking demographic time bomb that has exploded periodically in the past five thousand years and reset their clock back to the starting gate. The Russian Bear has always sought it's own den and resisted becoming someones pet, IE, the EU. The EU faces the challenges of dormant nationalism that trumps Germans, Italians and Frenchman abandoning their heritage to see themselves identified as Europeans. The United States must face the reality that continued massive consumption without investment, is like eating our seed corn. The role of the Americas, led by the U.S, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and their brethren nations are removed from the linked continents of Europe and Asia and offer a unique platform to lead by example, influence and innovation.

Even I, a right of center boomer, long for a change in direction. Every horse, no matter how good burns out and you need to switch horses in order to keep going, even if it means changing horses mid-stream. How I differ from Mr. Khanna's view is in the confidence I have in the resilience of the American people to challenge the future. Every single person in the America's from Native Americans to the latest birth today, carry the genes of someone who was looking over the horizon for a better future. That fact is our greatest resource.

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