The American moment

The US Is The World's Leader, But Does The World Want to Be Led By It Any Longer?

After: Time Magazine, European issue. August 4, 1997.

Special report "America the Brazen".

Amid mounting umbrage at American "arrogance" abroad, even some close U.S. friends complain that yankee doodle is not minding his step, or the music

It might not just be the fear of something that is commonly referred to as the "McDonaldisation" of society when political leaders around the globe start complaining about the way the United States treats them along with everyone else. Just one out of an ever-increasing row of examples for the behavior of the diplomatically ill-fated Clinton administration is what German journalists labeled "the boots fiasco". When leaders of the six most important economic powers apart from the U.S. arrived at the Denver economic summit on June 21, they found themselves exposed to humiliation, as ordered to dress up in cowboy clothing, including boots and hats, for the welcome banquet. Especially Chancellor Kohl of Germany and French president Jacques Chirac refused that kind of fancy dress for the occasion.

But not vestimentary issues alone made Clinton's partners and allies feel foolish, since not only were they given a school uniform, but lectures about a flourishing U.S. economy by a boasting teacher as well. Charts were presented, obviously showing America's top performance among the seven richest countries in concerns of job creation, thereby praising the "American model" of no-safety-net capitalism.

It's true, the New World has long gained power over the old one, plus literally every single spot on the map by invading with media arms. Hollywood supports the world with special-effect laden motion pictures, while D.C. dictates democracy and obedience to something that strikingly resembles of a modern-time Roman Empire.

"No country should seek hegemony, practice power politics, or monopolize international relations." -- Presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Jiang Zemin of China

Press voices are beginning to get rough on the U.S., French daily Le Monde ran an editorial titled "Imperial America", and even the usually more reluctant German paper Die Welt claims that "Protests about Washington throwing its weight around should be taken seriously".

What is it Washington has done to earn this kind of resentment? Basically, a collection of laws and statements that have come out recently would show the problem. The Helms-Burton Act, for example, threatens punishment for non-American companies that trade with Cuba -- a statute that is not justifyable by any international norm. Another example is the Boeing-McDonnell Douglas fusion, which many -- mostly European -- critics see as an American effort to "monopolize the aviation construction sector with the progressive elimination of the only competitor". That competitor being Europe-based Airbus Industrie.

With American troops spread over the globe, American films in theatres everywhere, with CNN and NBC available on cable television throughout the world, it truly seems like the USA runs the planet. And it does. During recent household talks at the United Nations, President Bill Clinton declared that his country would only pay the billions of dollars debt it owes the organization if certain reforms were made. Reforms in favor of America's leading role within the UN. Stranger still, that Clinton won't afford paying his dues, while constantly promoting the success and greatness of American economy. The money, it seems, even though being had, is not being given. Why, so spectators wonder, can the realm of freedom and justice for all blackmail the rest of the world in such a manner? Simply put, "If the U.S. leads, things get done. If it doesn't, then nothing gets done," as an official with the World Trade Organization in Geneva observes. Is criticizing the way the U.S. "gets things done" merely the easier way, when the rocky road would be to get down and handle international issues without American predominance? It appears like that, at least to a certain degree.

"If the U.S. leads, things get done. If it doesn't, then nothing gets done."

The twentieth century will find its place in future history books as the "American century", for no other power can even remotely challenge the position of the USA these days. However, with the Asian tiger's now audible roar, and Europe growing together more every passing year, the twenty-first one might not. But even if the American moment vanishes in the sands of time, McDonald's is likely to make a stand. And so is CNN. ¨

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