Asia Times, Nov 27, 2012
It is symptomatic of the national condition of the United States that the worst humiliation ever suffered by it as a nation, and by a US president personally, passed almost without comment last week. I refer to the November 20 announcement at a summit meeting in Phnom Penh that 15 Asian nations, comprising half the world’s population, would form a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership excluding the United States.
President Barack Obama attended the summit to sell a US-based Trans-Pacific Partnership excluding China. He didn’t. The American led-partnership became a party to which no-one came.
Instead, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, will form a club and leave out the United States. As 3 billion Asians become prosperous, interest fades in the prospective contribution of 300 million Americans – especially when those Americans decline to take risks on new technologies. America’s great economic strength, namely its capacity to innovate, exists mainly in memory four years after the 2008 economic crisis.
A minor issue in the election campaign, the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative was the object of enormous hype on the policy circuit. Salon.com enthused on October 23,
This agreement is a core part of the “Asia pivot” that has occupied the activities of think tanks and policymakers in Washington but remained hidden by the tinsel and confetti of the election. But more than any other policy, the trends the TPP represents could restructure American foreign relations, and potentially the economy itself.
As it happened, this grand, game-changing vision mattered only to the sad, strange people who concoct policy in the bowels of the Obama administration. America’s relative importance is fading.
To put these matters in context: the exports of Asian countries have risen more than 20% from their peak before the 2008 economic crisis, while Europe’s exports have fallen by more than 20%. American exports have risen marginally (by about 4%) from their pre-2008 peak.
Washington might want to pivot towards Asia. At Phnom Penh, though, Asian leaders in effect invited Obama to pivot the full 360 degrees and go home.
Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World – It’s Just the End of You, also appeared last fall, from Van Praag Press.
ROBERT STEELE: Smart ethical people, loyal to the Republic, have sought to speak truth to power for centuries, and in my direct experience, for decades. The sad thing about power, even transient power, is that it makes people ignorant and arrogant — I like to point to Dr. Loch Johnson’s Seven Sins of American Foreign Policy where ignorance is the first of the seven sins and arrogance the last — and repeat my favorite observation from the serving Chairman of Satchi & Satchi in NYC, Bob Seelert: When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it.
As I look back on decades of truth-telling by others, and my own several decades of being in absolute service to the truth in the public interest, I can only marvel at the persistent obliviousness of those in power. Of course they are substantially aided in their blessed ignorance by their lack of ethics–as Daniel Ellsberg lectured Henry Kissinger so pointedly: The danger is, you’ll become like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours” [because of your blind faith in the value of your narrow and often incorrect secret information].
What has changed–and the change has occurred faster in Asia than elsewhere, is that globalization has out-paced “old” governance, and the Internet has empowered all forms of organization to meet or exceed the abilities of “old” government. This is why I am focusing on redirecting the discipline of public “administration” — a complacent accepting discipline — toward becoming a discipline of public (hybrid) “governance” where bottom-up truth instead of top-down dictat, serves the public interest.
The US is being shut out of the new world economic governance for good reason — it cannot be trusted to act with informed wisdom or even moderate ethics. The information reaching the President of the United States is incomplete at best, and total falsehood at worst. The US Intelligence Community is not intelligent, not a community, not relevant, and certainly not worth the $70 billion or more that is being wasted on corporate vaporware and butts in seats that produce nothing of direct value is setting priorities, formulating policies, acquiring force structure, or applying Whole of Government capabilities.
CELAC in Latin America (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) was inspired by Cuba and funded by Venezuela after the US President refused to read and appreciate the book given to him by Hugo Chavez, Open Veins of Latin America. Anyone who cannot read and appreciate that book is not worthy of representing the USA to anyone in Latin America. The hard truth is that in Latin America especially, but to an extent everywhere everywhere else, the USA has become the face of unilateral militarism, predatory capitalism, and virtual colonialism — and it has achieved this dubious distinction at precisely the time when the world is flipping — the five billion poor with their four trillion dollar a year “small stuff” economy is now over-taking and will soon surpass in relevance and power the one billion rich with their one trillion dollar a year “big stuff” economy. I know that the most senior people is the US Government are smart — they know stuff — so I have to conclude that they are ethically challenged and playing the short game that Wall Street so loves. Newsflash: the short game is over — it is unsustainable. Only the long game is sustainable, and China, to take one example, has been playing the long game for centuries.
Where CELAC has failed — and the African Union as well — is in failing to see that shared information and the shared responsibility of sense-making is the foundation for ethical evidence-based decision-making. Asia gets that, not least because Minister-Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has almost single-handedly “case officered” the British Empire into tenant status while elevating China’s soft power across education, energy, finance, and so on. With Indonesia’s gold families and power now coming out in more interesting ways, the only question I cannot answer today is this: will India turn into the third partner with China and Indonesia, or will it make the mistake of trying to be more British than the British?
We live in interesting times. For me as a loyal US citizen, it is distressing to see that our government is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I will end this commentary with what I consider to be the most authoritative indictment of US policy making extant — and also the prescription for ethical evidence-based policy making, from Dr. Russell Ackoff:
“The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. This is very significant because almost every problem confronting our society is a result of the fact that our public policy makers are doing the wrong things and are trying to do them righter.”
Robert David STEELE Vivas